Courtney Spence on Social Documentary Film Production Tips

In Chapter 9 of 16 in her 2011 Capture Your Flag interview, non-profit founder and executive Courtney Spence answers how she applies her media production experience to teach students storytelling. Spence notes the importance of proper planning before the shoot and attention to detail during the shoot to ensure all shots are captured. Spence is founder and executive director of Students of the World, a non-profit that partners with passionate college students to create new media to highlight global issues and the organizations working to address them. Spence graduated with a BA in History from Duke University.


Erik Michielsen:  How has your own media production experience impacted how you teach storytelling?

Courtney Spence:  First of all, you can’t tell the stories you don’t have, I think, especially when you work in our model where, you know, you have four weeks, which is a long time, but we’re not going back to Tanzania, we’re not going back to Costano in post, and if I don’t have, you know, the foundation – the foundational pieces of the puzzle to the story, it’s gonna be really hard to go back and recreate that.  So the importance of true planning but also evaluating through the production process and not just ‘oh isn’t this is great, we had a great interview’, but actually going back and listening through it.  And did they actually say what the organization does?  They didn’t. And, you know, we need the executive director saying what the organization does, let’s go back and do a second interview because we have learned the hard way when we weren’t as thorough in sort of the evaluating through production coming back to Austin and not having what we needed to tell the story is quite frustrating.  So, you know, that’s a technical thing, but I think it goes back to being very disciplined in both pre-production planning and also disciplined in the field, and, you know, you’ll sleep later but for now you need to review tape and do that before you go to bed.