This is the first in a series of posts about the feature length documentary that we are producing titled Above the Tin.
Late last year, on a whim we entered the KPBS Explore Program. This program is held annually by our local PBS station. The Explore Program is a great showcase for local production companies and their projects.
A little bit about the Explore Program:
“KPBS Explore is our content initiative launched in 2012 as a way to create more local programming. We solicit ideas through a proposal process and select one or more projects that will be on one of the KPBS platforms. We want to collaborate with local producers with ideas for programs and series that increase our sense of place, reflect our diverse and dynamic community and allow audiences to connect over shared experiences.
All applications are considered through a rigorous committee selection process, at the end of which the most promising ideas are chosen for funding. KPBS provides seed money to the producer who best demonstrates 1) an innovative idea that aligns with the RFP; 2) a grasp of how to create content using public media sensibilities; 3) a track record of executing content projects on deadline; and 4) a realistic budget and plan for raising the remaining production funds.”
Okay, but what kind of show should we produce?
Knowing this, we started to brainstorm topics for a possible entry into the program. Our first show idea was a lifestyle show centered around the City of San Diego and its rich food history. This show would have a host and would focus primarily on San Diego’s food history. If you know anything about our company, you know that we love food. We plan vacations around food and we pride ourselves on simply knowing where the best food is in the community.
We thought this was a slam dunk. So I had my orders and went off to write our entry. But, when I sat down to write it something came over me. I looked back at past winners of the Explore Program and for the majority of them were lifestyle programs.
When I sat down to fill out the required paperwork for our entry I was immediately hesitant. Something was nagging at me and the same question kept running through my mind:
Am I excited to produce another lifestyle show? No!
Was this the most compelling story that we had to tell? (I don’t think so, but if not this what would it be?)
Would this show be about story first or would it just be something to submit?
What does Story First mean?
At Infrastructure Productions we have a philosophy that we like to call story first. We adopted this philosophy because we believe that story is at the center of everything that we do. Story guides us from the beginning to the end of every project. But if you know anything about filmmakers, we all say that.
In practical terms at the beginning of any project we ask ourselves: “what story are we trying to tell in this film, commercial, marketing video, etc” and we build from there. That means taking the time in pre-production to work with our clients to make sure that we fully understand their story so that we can tell it with the precision and care that their story deserves.
From there it’s about doing what’s appropriate to tell their story. From the way we film, to the graphics we use, to the questions I ask in an interview. They are all centered on one thing: Story.
When I examined the lifestyle series through the story first lens, something didn’t feel right. I’m not saying that lifestyle shows can’t be about story first, what I’m saying is that our lifestyle show didn’t feel like the most compelling story we could tell.
That Eureka Moment-Above the Tin:
With story in mind, and with less than 3 hours before the project deadline, I decided to pivot. Or, to put it in squash terms, I planted hard and made a cut in the other direction. That new direction ended up being an old direction. There was a project that we filmed in 2012-2013 and never finished. This wasn’t due to a lack of interest, but instead due to a lack of time.
In the next entry I’ll tell you all about Above the Tin the project that ultimately became our entry into the 2017 KPBS Explore Program.