I’m Tory Nelson, a commercial and music video director. In the summer of 2010 I went to Kenya to shoot some short documentaries for a non-profit. Compassion for Africa is a small organization, but has had a huge impact on communities in Kenya and Uganda with their work with orphans. I went with a humanitarian team and I was the only filmmaker, so the challenge was quite daunting to be in charge of finding and capturing a story that works, especially considering I don’t share a language or culture with most of the people.
With the help of some of the locals and people within the organization we found Peterson. Peterson is a small boy of 16 who used to live on the streets. He would go for days without food, sometimes eating nothing but leaves, yet no matter how hungry he was, he would never result to stealing. His noble behavior was rewarded when he was given a home and education by Compassion for Africa. I found Peterson when he was in high school. He spoke English well and knew first hand how different his life could have been. As I heard about his experiences with hunger, violence, and homelessness, I knew the mini-doc had been formed.
Over the course of several days I filmed his story. The size and shape of the Canon 7D turned out to be a huge asset. I could leave the camera about chest level and people wouldn’t know I was filming. This gave me some great B-roll in an area where my life could be threatened for filming there. For sound I had a small lavalier, I knew before filming most of the natural sound wasn’t needed so I only used the camera on board mic when doing B-roll.
I spent a couple of days with Peterson getting to know him and hearing his story before starting filming. This time I spent gave him the freedom to open up when the camera rolled. That little extra time I spent just building a relationship with him is definitely reflected in the mini-doc.
These experiences transferred well when I moved to music videos. Being able to get to know people quickly and getting them to open up is big. My latest music “Ocean” by John Torres releases next month. The music video is where I got to put those skills to work with Bruce Weber, and Emmy-nominated choreographer Stacey Tookey and Kathryn McCormick from “Step Up Revolution”.