This is an overview of the process of creating a filming kit that could be used throughout the documentary production, including my choices and what worked and what didn't.

Between the scheduling of all the interviews, the physical travel from place to place, and the many flights and other trips I'd be taking, I knew that I would be doing most of the work as a single person. As it turned out, I ended doing pretty much all of the interviews as a single person. This meant that I had to be able to travel, set up a "studio" in a wide variety of locations, run this setup while conducting the interview, and then knock down quickly in preparation for the next point of travel. And do it alone.

I have serious doubts this could have been done using "regular" film, that is, one that used 16mm or 35mm film rolls going into a non-video camera. The choice of filming in the MiniDV format gave me a ton of flexibility in terms of lighting conditions, and of course cost; it cost me $3 an hour to film, where once that might have cost me $3 a minute. This gave me one less thing to worry about and the resulting image was more than adequate to tell the story. Also, the camera I used (a Canon XL-1) was light and small and gave me even less stress over time.

Airplane travel was the biggest limiting factor. The rules with planes were that I could have two carry-on bags (assuming one was a "laptop") and two pieces of luggage. This was also variant; some airlines gave me trouble about having two pieces of carry-on, while others had out-of-the-average ideas of what was considered "carry-on", in terms of size.

The configuration I started with and stayed with to the end was a combination of two bags for the entire audio-visual setup. This allowed me to have a general piece of standard "luggage", which quickly taught me how to pack appropriately and not fall for the standard "pack 10 days for 2" method I'd had for as long as I could remember.

The first bag was a long black one, about twice as long as a standard suitcase but a lot thinner. This held the boom mike stand, the camera tripod, the power strip, light stands, cables, and tapes. It also held stuff from the main camera bag as needed when driving around or doing multiple interviews in a given day.

The camera bag had two configurations, air travel and regular travel. The thinking was that if the airlines lost my luggage (which is a ton harder to do these days, since your luggage has to travel with you, lest it be a bomb or the like) I could at least keep shooting an interview until the stuff showed up. To this end, I put one of everything I'd need in the camera bag: lights, boom mike, cable, camera, tapes, and power supplies/cords. This was just for air travel, and I'd swap things down to the main black bag when I needed to. The brand name was "Porta-Brace", which is a recognized brand name for a camera bag, and I originally bought it because I got it from a local camera shop (I'd bought a lot of the other stuff in a store in Toronto, Canada) and wanted to give them some business. They were also where I paid an amazing amount for an extra camera battery, which I had gotten so that the lack of a plug wouldn't affect my recording the interview.

Basically, I planned for a range of disasters, including missing one of the bags, getting searched, not having a plug, and so on. Luckily, very few ever came to pass, so I was ultimately safe.

I came up through film school, and was trained on actual film (8mm, 16mm), so a lot of how I approached lighting came from that side of things. So I got a Tota light and an Omni light. (I bought a third light, used it for my first interview, and then never used it again; quite a waste). I found that I was generally able to get a good shot with a single bright light in a corner, although sometimes I got tricky. Also, on the 3 times that a bulb burnt out, I had another light handy. I didn't often bring spare bulbs because it wasn't easy to pack them for safety.

It is worth noting that a camera bag full of wires, electronics, weird little boxes and the like drove airport security nuts. In the first months of 2002, they were especially paranoid, having my pull my camera out and turn it on for them. Later, they merely went through it with me there. Sometimes they took everything out, but at some point, they started to really rely on that wand-swipe-for-residue thing, and then they'd just swab the inside of my bag and check it in their magic E-Z Bake Security Oven and then let me go. But I got to show a lot of people my camera. While it happened a lot, I never stopped being annoyed and pertrubed as the security people would ask me what I was doing with the nice camera. It was spectacularly none of their business.

It can't be overstated how important it was to be able to bring the whole luggage setup through an airport alone; I had no-one to help me, and so if I couldn't lift it, it wasn't coming. A few times, I overpacked the regular luggage and set up some significant sadness for myself, but usually I got it right. Once I was in my rental car, of course, I could spread things around, and have just the two bags on a trip.

Many of the interviews were up stairs, down sidewalks, inside buildings, and otherwise a significant way away from the car. As a result, it was important to be able to lift the two bags. I would use the strap on the camera bag, carry the large black bag in one hand, and this gave me the ability to open doors, move items aside, and shake hands when I first met the subjects. Some were visibly unhappy to see me working to lift so much stuff while they couldn't really help, but I quickly grew used to the weight.

A side-effect which manifested itself was that for some of the interview subjects, I was the first example of "the media" being in their homes or place of work, and so the fact I had two simple bags instead of a flood of folks and some stuff to wheel in, I think, made them more comfortable. Even when the whole studio came out of the bags, they'd adjusted to me and my style of conversation, and my putting together some stands and lights in front of them wasn't as concerning.

Problems with the specific equipment will be covered in other places, but in terms of this arrangement, I was actually comfortable with it through the whole production, front to back. Other than dumping off the third light very quickly, I never lost a piece of equipment to the moving method (although I left some parts at people's homes, occasionally), I only was miserable in terms of lifting on a few specific cases (specifically, some locations had stairs and required a lot of walking up them), and generally, I could do the work entirely by myself.

During the four years of production, cameras have gotten a bit lighter but the lights and stands are still pretty standard, and I don't think I would change how I set things up.