Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Capturing a story through a lens

By Dave Babbitt – Special to the Sydenham Current

In my column on Sunday, I left off talking about the ‘art’ of video editing and referred to my good friend Mike Primeau.

In picking up where I left off, Mike’s first opportunity as a professional video editor came about with the CBC, working on the flagship Hockey Night in Canada program.

For awhile, HNIC would do a late-night condensed version of the Leaf’s game that was featured earlier in the evening, called ‘Hockey Night Replay’.

Between periods, Mike was busy cutting the video to its most important elements for re-broadcast after the West Coast game.

Within 30 minutes of the end of the game, Mike and crew would have the games most important moments whittled down to about an hour.

Mike’s connection with the HNIC broadcast crew allowed him to get Ron MacLean and Kelly Hrudey to do an introductory video for The Great Big Music Gig (the documentary Mike made is now available for viewing on YouTube) and I can’t tell you how cool it was to hear Ron mention Wallaceburg.

Mike still works for the CBC, currently on the morning ‘CBC News Now’ program with Heather Hiscox.

He works from home, rising at 3 a.m., engaging in live chats with writers about stories they have been following.

He’s fed raw video that he cuts and puts together video that will be broadcast on the program that starts at 6 a.m.

When breaking stories happen, there is pressure to edit and get material out quickly.

When I was talking with Mike, he gave a recent example of when four people died in a horrific fire in Toronto, they had the video cut and on air within 20 minutes.

He expressed to me that his most enjoyable time to date with the CBC was the opportunity to work with Evan Solomon and Carole McNeil on ‘Sunday Morning’.

While working on that program Mike got to produce a documentary on illegal Muay Thai Boxing Rings in Thailand which was nominated for a Gemini Award with Mike as its Producer.

That is an impressive accomplishment!

While Mike’s CBC job pays the bills, his creative opportunities more often come outside of his day-to-day job. Anyone can point a video camera and press record, but a creative mind is constantly thinking about the ‘art’ behind what they are doing.

Camera angles, filters, lighting, scene transitions, audio, music, sound effects, colour correction and so on are all important artistic elements of a production but for Mike, the most important element is the story.

He quite simply won’t work on something unless there is a ‘story to tell’.

Outside of the CBC, Mike has been hired to create promotional videos for high-end golf clubs, corporate videos, retirement videos, weddings and commercial work for clients such as New Era Hats, Bell Canada, the Royal Canadian Mint and Brinks Security.

Regardless of what he takes on, he says it has to tell a story.

We’ve all been to countless weddings and been forced to watch the usual slide show of pics from birth to marriage set to awful music (I’ve even made a few myself) but Mike’s approach is completely different.

He wouldn’t consider taking on a wedding video unless again, there was a great story to tell.

Mike and his crew would spend time interviewing the couple individually then organize a few ‘date nights’ when they would take along their cameras.

He gave an example of a couple who were both very competitive so they took them mini-golfing where they trash-talked and taunted each other as they played.

The end result was an absolutely hilarious ‘wedding story’ highlighting their competitive natures.

To me, this is absolutely art and it takes a creative mind to both come up with the concept and then to put the story together.

Mike has created several senior executive retirement videos that weren’t necessarily the typical strait-laced, boring videos of employees gushing over their soon-to-be retired boss.

He gave me an example of a rather quiet, unassuming senior executive who had nothing but wonderful things to say about those who worked beneath him.

Mike and his crew taped all of the nice things he said, then went to work.

He approached the company CEO to get permission to do what he termed ‘some crazy things in the office’.

When the retiring executive was out of the office one particular day, he filmed these ‘wonderful employees’ tossing and kicking soccer balls, playing poker in his office, betting on horse races and other wild things, ending with an employee smoking a cigarette in his chair who looked at the camera and said ‘He has no idea!’

THAT is creativity.

My conversation with Mike was most interesting and I wish I had the space to tell every story he told me, including a couple dealing with the Brinks Security Company.

He told me some great stories including one where he actually had to stand on a pallet of literally ‘millions’ of dollars worth of gold ingots to get a shot!

Our conversation merely reinforced my admiration of Mike’s creativity and how he applies that to his work both as a video editor and producer.

One has to have a vision of what a final product will look like and shots aren’t necessarily made in chronological order, making the vision all the more important.

I’ve been witness (and sometimes unwilling participant) to Mike’s creativity time and time again including a very special project that I will one day tell.

While I enjoy the technical challenges of videography, I have nothing but the greatest respect behind the ‘art’ of it and people like Mike.

Just today I had the opportunity to work with a videographer and producer who are creating tourism videos for Chatham-Kent and wanted some footage of snowmobiling on the Sydenham River for the winter segment.

It was most fascinating listening to the two of them discussing shots, angles, ideas and watching a drone capture some of the footage as my son and I zipped around in the snow.

The producer was trying to explain his vision, but I’ll anxiously await to see what the final product might look like… and for the residuals to roll in!

Comments always encouraged: daveanddanwcp@gmail.com

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