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https://alphauniverseglobal.media.zestyio.com/Alpha-Universe-Alpha-Female-Grant-Winner-Melody-Paine---Conor-Canavan-Film-Title.jpeg?width=500&height=500&fit=bounds

Just The First Step, An Alpha Female Grant Project That Will Capture Your Heart

I help families preserve meaningful memories through photos and films that capture natural, authentic interactions. I work with families who believe life should be celebrated and loved ones deserve to be remembered. Whether it’s a wedding or an ordinary day at home together, I capture the little details of life that they will forever treasure.

The project that I worked on for my Alpha Female+ grant is the beginning of a new brand I’m creating with my team to help nonprofits tell stories that allow their donors and sponsors to step into the shoes of the families they impact. We started with Make-A-Wish Massachusetts & Rhode Island particularly because they gifted a playground to a family that’s local to us, the Canavan family and their son Conor, and we wanted to give back.

'Just The First Step' was a new kind of film for me

One of the biggest differences between this genre of filmmaking and my previous experience is that the primary audience in family filmmaking is only the family members. We give them a film so that they are able to relive their own memories. For the film made with the Alpha Female+ grant, our audience was different. We wanted the viewers to be introduced to the subjects through immersive conversation as though the audience and the subjects were sitting in the room together. There was a lot more pre-production and planning that went into the story before the first camera was even set up. In the past, I had mostly done things on the fly. For this film, we followed a structure that we learned through The Story First Collective by Muse Storytelling to outline all of the plot points of a strong story as the backbone of the production - hook, conflict, initiation, journey, resolution and jab. I was thrilled with the ease of this new approach and felt so much more confident throughout each step of the process.

My cameras, lenses, gear & approach for the film

In the actual production, we needed to strike a balance between the amount of cameras and lighting to capture the vision of the film, while also trying to keep things as minimalist as possible so the family could feel relaxed and share authentically. For the interview we used the following:

  • Sony Alpha 7 IV
  • (2) Sony Alpha 7 III bodies
  • Sony 35mm f1.8 lens
  • Sony 24-70mm f2.8 GM lens
  • Sony 50mm f/1.8 lens
  • Atomos Ninja V recorders to allow unlimited recording time
  • Dummy batteries
  • Continuous light with soft box for the background
  • Continuous light with 48” Octabox for the subjects
  • (2) Sennheiser lapel mics
  • Zoom H6 recorder

I’ve been a Sony shooter, using my Alpha 7 III’s, for some time, but the Alpha 7 IV I received as part of the grant was new to me and I was a little nervous to use something with different buttons, control layout and new menus. The Alpha Female team connected me with one of their tech experts, Amy Koppmann and she walked through all of the Alpha 7 IV’s key features and how I could use them for my project. The live focus tracking, where I press the screen to select the subject that I want it to track and the camera’s autofocus system will follow them without me having to do anything manually, was a game-changer for me.

I used the Alpha 7 IV for hand-held shots with the 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens, and an Alpha 7 III with the 50mm f/1.8 lens with a Ronin-SC gimbal for the images of photographs. Most of the footage on the playground was captured in natural light.

With children, there really is little control over how things will go and I find it just better to work with natural light in those situations as much as possible. We had a shot list and got everything that we needed by capturing Conor in his natural environment. It would not have gone well to force him to go where we wanted and do what was on our agenda. He was in charge and we followed!

I hope the film is as inspiring for viewers to see as it was for me to make. To donate to Make-A-Wish, click HERE.  

See more about Melody Paine and Joy & Paine Productions at her website, joyandpaine.com.

You can be a part of our Alpha Female community. Join our Facebook group HERE and follow us on Instagram HERE.

There's still time to apply for an Alpha Female+ grant – the next deadline is April 4. You can apply for the grant HERE and find all of the details of the Alpha Female+ program. See all the past grant winners and their projects HERE.

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