The Digital Journalist
Diary of a Platypus
June 2004

by Gina Trapani

Saturday, April 24, 2004

I don't know what to expect this week.

Arrived in Ventura, California last night for the 9-day Platypus workshop. Brooks Institute is amazing - the sound stage where Erin Brockovich was shot and the set of The Mexican are right here on campus.

I'm the only one here who's not a pro photographer. It's a bit intimidating. I should wear a nametag that reads, "Just a web programmer!"

I've never used a DV cam in my life.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Dirck, PF and Roger sure don't waste any time.

Today they handed us a Canon GL 2 and sent us out to shoot.

Interviewing a subject and operating the gear for the first time was like trying to rub my stomach, pat my head and do cartwheels at the same time.

Back in the classroom, the individual footage critiques got lively. Let's just say these guys believe in "tough love."

Kelly West and Dale Folkerts get acquainted with the Canon GL 2

Photo by Dirck Halstead
Monday, April 26, 2004

Ten minutes is a very long time when you're talking tape.

After today's lecture, shoot and critique, my head is spinning with new information. When I got back to the hotel tonight, I grabbed the remote and flipped through channels. The local news featured footage from Iraq shot by LA Times photographer Rick Loomis.

Rick is a recent Platypus graduate.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

More gear went into the arsenal for our assignment today - tripod, wireless mic and transmitter and wide angle lens.

There wasn't much going on in the early afternoon so I wound up at the Jiffy Lube, to shoot a sequence of a truck getting an oil change. Not exactly the stuff of masterpieces.

During my critique, Dirck said, "This footage has to be more interesting. I wish you could've gotten a shot from inside the engine while the oil poured into it."

Back at the hotel room tonight, I shot tape up through the bottom of a glass while I poured coffee into it. Not sure if it looks like oil, or that it will make it to the cut, but it sure was fun to try.

PF Bentley and Gina Trapani edit

Photo by Dirck Halstead
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Editing tape is like conducting an orchestra - dropping clips and sound onto the timeline, snipping and lengthening, cutting and fading. The hours fly by and you see your story in your mind, while your mouse clicks away and makes it happen just the way you envision.

It kind of makes you feel like God.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

After today's critiques, they set us Platypi loose to start our final assignments. I paired up with Kelly West, a photog from the Austin American-Statesman. We went through local newspapers looking for story ideas, and wound up at a lawn bowling green one town away. Pre-interviews are done. Hopefully we'll get good light tomorrow morning on the green.

Goofy in the lab: Roger Ressmeyer, Kelly West and Gina Trapani

Photo by Dirck Halstead
Friday, April 30, 2004

Shot all morning and logged the rest of the day.

We've got just over 60 minutes of tape to distill down to 5.

Saturday, May 1, 2004

Spent 14 hours in the edit lab today.

When I close my eyes I see my life charted on a Final Cut Pro timeline.

Sunday, May 2, 2004

We did it! We're officially Platypus grads!

While I can see our mistakes, Kelly's and my final project is beyond anything I ever thought I'd be able to produce with a camera and a computer in one short week. I've learned so much at the Platypus workshop about video storytelling, my head might explode.

Going from here, it feels like the possibilities are endless for a Platypus who used to be "just a web programmer."

Left to Right: Jon Austria, David Blumenfeld, Roger Richards, Roger Ressmeyer, Katy Newton, Kelly West, Andrea Roth, Gina Trapani, Sean Connelly, Aaron Kehoe, Dale Folkerts, PF Bentley, Dirck Halstead

Addendum, June 1, 2004

Kelly and Gina's final project was a story featuring Harry Saperstein, a 91-year-old lawn bowler from Oxnard, California.

Two weeks after the project was produced, Harry passed away of natural causes in the hospital surrounded by family. A copy of the tape arrived at his home two days later. After his funeral, his fellow bowlers held a reception at the clubhouse, where the video was played "several times."

In fond and appreciative memory of Harry Jack Saperstein, 1913-2004.

© Gina Trapani

Gina Trapani is the executive online producer and webmaster for the Digital Journalist. She writes regularly at her personal web site,