Courtney Hawkins comes home (view this story)

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Rep: 38
Kevin Wellenius May 16, 2010, 6:56 p.m. permalink

This is a really nice piece, and it all starts with finding a compelling story. Here you have a really engaging person (Hawkins) working hard to resolve a complication (his loss of purpose after leaving the NFL), which he does by pouring himself into reviving a formerly proud high school football program. All the elements of a classic story framework are there, and they're interesting enough to hold me for the full 9+ minutes of the piece.

The piece itself starts strong with the locker-room audio and series of stills. You follow that with an effective flashback that sets up Hawkins' need for new direction. Good choice letting Hawkins' wife Candy speak to this as well. The transition to describing the decline in Flint and the school football program is good, but glosses over the question of why coming back was the right answer for Hawkins. Presumably he could have coached at other schools, so how did that decision come ab

Starting at around 2:50 to ~4:00, things aren't as tight as the first segments. We have two clips of people speaking to Courtney's intensity and old-school values, and we probably have too many different clips of his interactions with the players during practice (e.g., you don't need 3:07-3:20). You also have a different interview take with Courtney, which is a bit disorienting at first.

From around 6:40 - 8:40, I really don't know where the narrative is going. We get more "intensity" clips, more football action, and another person talking about the positive impact Courtney is having on the kids as a role model. But you've already covered these ideas, and with better tape (other than the locker-room tirade, which is about the most passionate tape you have of Courtney as a coach). Beecher's progress to the playoffs is contained in your voice-over, not in the footage, so it should be able to tighten this up a lot. You could even cut straight from 6:40 (the end of the music montage) to 8:00 (voice-over about Beecher making playoffs).

Before the transition to Courtney reflecting on his new purpose, I'm left wanting to know what happened to Beecher in the playoffs. This is pretty major, since the premise of the whole piece is that Courtney Hawkins has returned to attempt to revive the football program, but you don't tell us how far they got.

The final wrap-up from 8:40 to 9:25 is great. It really sings, and the fact that his face goes from shadow to being in the full glow of the sun is really nice.

There are a few places where the audio cuts in somewhat abruptly (at 1:16, where the nat sound jumps in; at 6:42 where the word 'this' is cut). I would think you also need to credit the archival images used in the flashback. Some look like memorabilia that Courtney has, but others are essentially full-screen photos of photos.

When I first clicked on your piece and saw this clocked in at 9:36 I considered reviewing another story, but decided to watch the opening to see if it looked promising. The longer the piece, the more you demand of your viewer and the tighter everything has to be so that you're constantly raising questions and answering them to keep the interest going. This piece does that really well: the summary is interesting enough to make me click on the link; the first minute is good enough to make me interested to hear the setup to the story, and the setup makes me care about the main character and how he worked to find a purpose again, and before I know it, over 9 minutes have passed.

A few places could be tightened or re-crafted, but overall, it's really well done. I enjoyed it.


Rep: 48
Pat Shannahan May 16, 2010, 9:08 p.m. permalink

I really liked this story. I agree with Kevin that it could have been a little tighter. Even at 9 minutes it was good, but editing a little tighter would have made it that much better.
I love how you get right into that there is something missing from his life and end showing that he has a new purpose. Great storytelling. You can tell that you really put in the hours on this story.
This may seem like a minor thing, but I wish I could hear some nat sounds under some of the narration. Under some of the narration, you have some really nice football clips but I wish there were some nat sounds low in the background. It would have added another texture.

Cool story on a really interesting subject. Nicely done.

Rep: 444
Eric Seals May 17, 2010, 6:14 a.m. permalink

Thanks guys for the great feedback, suggestions and breaking it down. Several places you pointed out (and other places) where it could be cut back to make it a bit shorter are helpful.

It was a longer piece at 12 minutes with so much footage and story line from 3 weeks of story boarding, planning and shooting before painfully cutting it down more. The whole less is more angle :-)

When I see a piece at 4 min God forbid 9:37 or something I really stop and think that's a long time to sit and watch. Do I want to invest time to watch, something our viewers think about all the time with video on the web.
That's one reason why I wanted to intro to be as powerful or gripping as it could be to hook them in and make them want to invest the time.

I shot this 5 months into first shooting video at my newspaper and I always see my mistakes, where I need to get better at pacing, editing etc. Your suggestions help.


Rep: 2
Michael P. King May 19, 2010, 10:35 a.m. permalink

I really love the shots you used with Courtney coming back to the community that he didn't recognize.

I do wish Courtney and his mom had told that story *together*. I wanted to hear her speak. I imagine that she has a strong personality that could have contributed to the piece, but heck, I could be wrong.

I agree to an extent about 6:40 - 8:40. I think it's compelling stuff that illustrates the concept of him being a tough, driven leader, but I don't think you need all of it. I didn't emerge from that part feeling "storylost" like Kevin did. It was just maybe a bit more than I needed to get the point.

Technically, sure... there are some places where the footage could have been steadier, or the audio blended a bit better, but like you said, this was early on in your video career and you'll always see what you could have done better. We're all like that. I still think content is king and this is great stuff.

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