Life @ U of T

Introduction

My Experience Filming a Documentary This Summer

My Experience Filming a Documentary This Summer

My father had videotaped my graduation from kindergarten with a brick of a video camera. It weighed more than two pounds, and had the profile of a block of mozzarella. Sometimes, he would call me into his study and play the footage for me. ‘Do you remember this?’ he would ask, zooming into my face—one of many—standing on a makeshift bleacher while doing a rehearsed cheer routine.

Had he not recorded the moment, I’d probably forgotten it. I think this is part of the allure of photographing and videotaping moments for me. The other part is the ability to share experiences. As an Asian-Canadian, I grew up with gastronomical traditions like weekend mornings spent at dim sum restaurants and New Years evenings occupied with folding dumpling wrappers. I wanted to share how COVID-19 had affected the social dimension of restricted food access. Given the closures of restaurants and decreased capacity of grocery stores, what had changed for the Asian-Canadians across Canada?

A still of the front of a dimsum crowded around by patrons restaurant in Richmond, B.C.
A still of the front of a dimsum crowded around by patrons restaurant in Richmond, B.C.

I pitched this idea to two of my friends. They agreed to make a documentary with me, so we drafted a budget and a plan in anticipation of the University of Toronto’s Student Engagement Award. When our proposal was approved, we got to work with planning the logistics of traveling to Vancouver for filming, contacting interviewees, and setting up new videography equipment. You really do miss 100% of the opportunities you don’t apply for—so give the Engagement Fund a shot next summer if you have a plan to do research or start a new initiative!

A display of the fruits sold at a market shop in Chinatown, Vacouver.
A display of the fruits sold at a market shop in Chinatown, Vacouver.

None of us have any formal videography training, but we were able to learn from articles and Youtube videos. By assigning roles in production and post-production to different members of the team, our work went smoothly on-site. I am proud to have collaborated on a project that is meaningful to me. Though we are now in the editing phase, there are already plans of showing it at an upcoming conference.

A shot of an empty dimsum table prepared with table cloth and tableware.
A shot of an empty dimsum table prepared with table cloth and tableware.

I wanted to share this experience to raise awareness of the Engagement Award, which provides teams with U of Toronto students with a $3000 budget, but also to remind you that this summer is yours to claim! Trying something new is always daunting, but we are lucky to live in an internet age where advisors and lecturers can all be found in the depths of Youtube and forums. Filming a documentary also lets me try new crafts apart from what I learn in my academic studies. For this, I am very thankful.

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