Wytse Vellinga’s mini-doc “Cleaning Up Other People’s Mess” illustrates nine easy-to-do but powerful techniques . In just under two minutes, you will see an approach that will enable you to add drama to almost any biographical featurette.
The nine classic techniques are:
- starting with a close-up (the car)
- breaking a single action into separate shots for visual variety
- holding off showing the subject to build intrigue
- using a frame-within-a-frame composition to focus on the subject (a shot in the car’s mirror)
- using many close-ups
- employing a point of view shot (showing what the subject sees through his spyglass)
- having the subject–not the filmmaker–state the theme (” I am old, but the next generations will suffer the consequences of all the plastic in the ocean. It is a lot of work and I sometimes have doubts, but I do believe it helps a little.”)
- having the subject move out of the frame to mark the ending without needing the words “the end”
- combining the interview and the images
That last device is where this mini-doc shines. Vellinga could have started out with a shot of the subject being interviewed. Instead, he first leads with more interesting visuals–showing us the man at work and letting us get used to his voice. When the interviewee does appear on screen, it’s on location rather than in a neutral place like an office.
More creative is the way that the filmmaker weaves the interview audio throughout the movie. In effect, Velliga turns the subject into the narrator, which makes the movie much more personal.
The interview audio never simply describes the visual examples (technically called “B roll”) but instead provides information that goes beyond the clips, for example, “My name is Hank Prins and I am a pensioner. I have a lot of time on my hands.”
While every mini-doc is different “Cleaning Up Other People’s Mess” can serve as a template.
You can see another example of Vellinga’s work here.
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We welcome your reactions to this piece. If you use Vellinga’s mini-doc as a template, we’d like to see the results. If you have a different structure for the mini-doc, let us know. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.