“Mini-Documentary” Video Project Production Notes:
This is just a good old fashioned ghost story. I wanted to try my hand at every basic scare cliché I could think of… and the setting of a Victorian mansion really lends itself to that effort. Initially, I was just going to restore audio from an existing video and use my montage footage for the final, but I wasn’t excited enough about that to work like crazy for a week to get it done. I took a couple of days to think about it and in my research, I found the stories of Mary Townsend and Bessie Hillyer. I work at the site of the Townsend Mansion and had heard about strange things like John Powell’s ghost roaming the hallways, but I couldn’t find any historical evidence of it. When I came across the Dead Bell blog I just could not shake the feeling that I had to tell this story. I had a ton of b-roll and establishing shots from the three minute tour project and after doing some searches, there are a ton of free resources related to horror, Halloween (my favorite holiday) and the Victorian/Edwardian period. It felt like everything aligned. My goal was to become proficient at lighting, interviewing, sound editing and presenting a basic story in a graphic way. If I could get the basics down, it would build enough confidence to try creative editing, cuts and more in future projects.
The first interview for this project was a complete disaster. The ink was still wet on the plan, and I sent it out to friends and coworkers for volunteers. One of my “actors” said they could do it right away. I was not really prepared, but didn’t want to delay; especially on an offer of a favor. We found an empty conference room and after setting up the cameras and some lighting, I could not get the mics to work. The audio capture was poor and we had to redub the whole scene a few days later in order to salvage the footage. That was painful, but I learned a lot from all my mistakes and the rest of the interviews went much better.
It was a hectic week running around the Cosmos Club, but it was fun and laughed a lot with my coworkers as I put on some sheets and asked them to read their lines like they were trying to scare a kid. We found an empty floor used for storage in one of the adjacent buildings and I received approval to clear some space and use that for interviews. I realized quickly that it was easier to set up a makeshift studio and have actors come to me than setting up temporary shoots throughout the property. That is where we found that creepy double chair..it was just perfect. Below are some photos from the production. These projects are very collaborative and I am truly grateful that so may people stepped up and helped, it would not have happened without them. I realized that I had more resources that I thought, and more support and friends among my coworkers and peers than I imagined.
At my level, getting something like this together in a week felt like it would be almost impossible, and I was so grateful to have an extra week to really refine it. After seeking feedback from Prof. Golden I cleaned it up quite a bit and am confident that I can now plan and tell a solid story in two weeks. But hopefully, I will have more time next go around. For me, coming to the class as a video novice, posting my work is a leap and bound. Now that I have had a taste, I just want to keep filming and learning how to tell interesting, well crafted stories. It has been some ride, thanks to all my peers, coworkers, friends, family who have been beside me on this journey. Enjoy the “Horrormentary”!
If you are interested exploring the actual ghost stories and reports themselves, learn more about the history on the Dead Bell blog. Here are the links to the stories below:
Hoodoo and a Washington Mansion’s Haunted Roof. (2014, May 20). Retrieved from
A Tragic Ending To Bessie Hillyer’s Love Story (1888). (2015, June 20). Retrieved from
Shawn is an Information Technology manager in Washington D.C. and a graduate student at Quinnipiac University pursuing his masters in Interactive Media and Communications.
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