Saving Lives in Heaven (view this story)

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Rep: 38
Kevin Wellenius June 7, 2010, 8:27 a.m. permalink

I really like stories about people finding a purpose or a mission they're really dedicated to. They often lend themselves to the classic story framework of identifying a problem and working to overcome it. Willy's experience seems to fit that bill, but the aspects I'm most interested in don't really materialize in the piece.

I want to hear Willy talk about his plans for retirement in Costa Rica, what he thought it would be like, why he felt compelled to do something about the lack of lifeguards, or the impediments he faced. I want to hear about his first rescue, how he got the idea to start a lifeguard service, what reaction he got from friends, local contacts, family ... etc. The interview with him has some of this information in a factual way, but it is really noisy, robbing you of any emotional depth since he's really just working to be heard. We also don't hear any contemplation or reflection by Willy on what he has achieved, or how he feels about it.

In terms of visuals, we see a lot of travelogue type of footage, some training footage, and shots of Willy talking. More interesting would be shots that show how lifeguarding in Costa Rica differs from the way it is done in most US beaches. Details that show modest gear, home-sewn shirts, hand-made chairs ... etc. would stand out against the conventional images most viewers hold. I'd also like to see the lifeguards interacting with beachgoers and with each other. I'd like to see what kind of lifestyle a US lifeguard retires to: maybe show us Willy's home, and what he does.

Production-wise, I think it needs to start quicker. The viewer has to see about 20 seconds of pre-roll branding from the newspaper, and the piece itself starts with a full minute of shots of the beach, flowers, iguanas ...etc. These are nice enough but don't get the story going. Also, since these shots are there solely for the purpose of showing how beautiful the place is, they really need to be steadier (i.e., use a tripod). Some of them also cut out too quickly; the cross-fade isn't even over before the scene disappears (e.g., the mermaid first comes in at 1:15 and is gone by 1:16).

Finally, the credits show us an older lady, Rosemary, described as Willy's "indispensable ally," which just begs to be part of this piece.

Thanks for sharing,


Rep: 5
Brandon Ross June 8, 2010, 1:32 p.m. permalink

I agree with Kevin about the preroll branding being too long. I'd suggest 10 seconds as the max time for a preroll.

Some really beautiful shots at the beginning of this piece, but I'm not sure why they're there. Combined with the music, I think those shots take away from the subject. I'd get right into the seriousness of saving lives rather than looking at sights around the island.

I'm not sure this piece needs any music at all... the subject matter is very serious and the main character seems very charismatic.

The shaky shot at 0:52 is distracting, and Willy's audio is poor. It seems to cut in and out. I would get Willy in a spot where you could mic him and get him to take the shades off. I have trouble connecting with people if I can't see their eyes.

I'm afraid the subject of saving lives might be lost in the music and beautiful scenery. Also, the end confused me. I had no reason to care about the lifeguards and mentors.

On the bright side, LOVE the shot at 1:48. Beautiful.

In the end, I think you have a great topic that could be fine tuned a bit in production. I'd lose the music, title, beginning segment, ending segment, and clean up Willy's sots to pull the viewer in.

Just my opinion. The easiest job in the world is critiquing other people's work. Hope that helps - Keep on shooting!

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