Lillian & Ian: Love Forever

On June 1st, 2013, my partner Joseph and I were part of a Videography team capturing the wedding of Lilian and Ian. It was a very beautiful and unique wedding; I am glad to have the honor to film their special day. We captured the ceremony in Dallas and captured their reception at SMU. Their wedding had both contemporary modern characteristics and traditional Kenyan culture. This is the second wedding I have worked on. It was a great learning experience working with Daniel (the leader of the team). I look forward to more opportunities to capture weddings.

View the video on Daniel’s website.

UNT College of Music | Thai, with English subtitles



Type: Video Viewbook

Role: Producer, Editor, Camera Operator, Photographer

Camera: Canon T2i

Editing: Adobe Premiere Pro CS5

Audio Narration: Audacity

Watch the video


Leacock, Maysles, and Pennebaker continues the Drew Associates filmmaking philosophy

Richard Leacock, Albert Maysles, and D.A. Pennebaker were some filmmakers who worked for Robert Drew on cinema-vérité films as part of Drew Associates. To create candid photography in motion pictures, Drew hired photographers and decided to make them edit. He wanted to “help each one of them develop as a ‘filmmaker’- a person capable of going beyond his or her specialty to also produce and manage the editing of films” (Rosenthal 286). He wanted to train his crew who could do everything during the production of the film. He founded Drew Associates, considering them as “creative ‘associates’” researching stories, developing concepts, and shooting the story (Rosenthal 288-289). Because of their experiences, they were able to take the knowledge with them and pursue their own projects.

One of the first filmmakers that Drew worked with was Richard Leacock. Drew recalled, “Leacock’s ideas and mine coincided almost perfectly” (Mamber 23). When Leacock left Drew Associates, he worked on his own cinema-vérité films. One notable film Leacock did was Happy Mother’s Day, a film about the Fisher quintuplets in Aberdeen, South Dakota (Mamber 192). In contrast to the dynamic storytelling style of Drew, Leacock’s film is different because when he sees something meaningful, he will film it for a while before moving on. For example, there was a scene where the family was in the car and as the camera panned to follow the car. When he stopped, Leacock focused on a family of ducks as if he is trying to draw parallelism between the human family and the duck family. The editing style of Happy Mother’s Day is very minimal. There were many long takes throughout the film. Mamber pointed out that “the film looks untampered with; whatever selections have been made is part of the way things are shot” (Mamber 199). The film is very close to real life in terms of shots and storytelling.

Albert Maysles worked with his brother David Maysles after leaving Drew Associates. One notable cinema-vérité style film they did was Salesman, where they followed the activities of four bible salesmen (Mamber 161). The filmmaking style used in Salesman has almost a fictional narrative feel to it. The characters in the film are shot and framed that makes it clear to see their expressions as they speak. The Maysles brothers probably did that because they wanted to maintain a personality-oriented structure instead of relying on a crisis situation (Mamber 141). According to Mamber, the Maysles’ work lacks clear resolution that is important in the storytelling dramatic structure (Mamber 141). The film style contains various shots where the camera is following and in front of the characters. According to Mamber, the editing style of the film “relies frequently on cutting among the activities of several people” (Mamber 162). The active editing and filming style of the Maysles brothers is similar to Drew’s films.

D.A. Pennebaker, according to Mamber, is probably the most well known cinema-vérité filmmaker of the time (Mamber 173). His most notable film post-Drew Associates is a cinema-vérité style film, Dont Look Back, about Bob Dylan’s music tour in London. There were some parallelism in the scenes between Dont Look Back and Primary such as the way the camera was following Dylan in the same manner as when the camera followed Kennedy to the stage. Mamber remarked how “to a surprising degree, Don’t Look Back looks like a remake of Primary” (Mamber 179). The filming style is similar to Primary because of the position of the camera; most camera shots are when he is following Dylan by foot or by taxi. The editing style tries to match with the main character’s non-conformity. Pennebaker’s editing and filming style is somewhat dynamic and character-oriented.

Leacock, Maysles, and Pennebaker were all part of Drew Associates and brought their experiences with them when pursuing other projects. Leacock produced Happy Mother’s Day, Maysles produced Salesman with his brother, and Pennebaker produced Dont Look Back. They continued the cinema-vérité convention of observational direct cinema, continuing Drew’s philosophy of documenting real life while telling a story and following characters.


Mamber, Stephen. Cinema Verite in America: Studies in Uncontrolled Documentary. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1974.

Corner, John and Rosenthal, Alan. ed. New Challenges for Documentary. 2nd ed. London: University of Manchester Press, 2005.

Rosenthal, Alan. “Don’t Look Back and Monterey Pop.” In The New Documentary in Action: A Casebook in Film Making. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971. 189-198.

Couchman, Jeffrey. “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.” American Cinematographer. 28 (December 2002) 94-100.

Robert Drew established cinema vérité film style

Robert Drew is a filmmaker who revolutionized documentary film by using the cinema vérité style method. While most documentaries at the time used narrations and interviews, Drew wanted to make documentaries that are more interesting and close to real life.

In response to the documentaries and television in the 1950s, Drew said that “television was reaching more and more people, but its documentary films were not reaching me” (Rosenthal 280). Originally a photojournalist and editor for Life magazine (Mamber 23), Drew wanted to make documentaries more fascinating for the television audience. To solve this problem, Drew went to Harvard and studied storytelling. He concluded, “most documentaries were in fact lectures…with picture illustrations” (Rosenthal 282). Drew wanted documentaries to be like candid photography that would capture the real world.

While filming Primary, Drew established rules: never make the subject repeat what they said and did, be invisible, and be purely observational. Drew’s filmmaking philosophy of storytelling was evident in Primary. The film crew followed Humphrey and Kennedy around in public areas, hotels, and taxicabs. The camera gaze merely observed the politicians’ constituents, capturing their expressions and emotions. Character development is obvious when the audience tracks Kennedy and Humphrey as they try to win the hearts of Wisconsin.

The style continues for the film Football, where two rival high school teams prepare for a game. It is similar to Primary because the audience can witness both sides of the coin. Character development is apparent for the two coaches and the football players on both teams. In the film, On the Pole, the film followed racecar driver Eddie Sachs during the 1960 Indianapolis 500 race. In one scene, a homemade scaffold collapsed while people were sitting on it watching the race. The scene was shot very briefly. The accident would’ve made an interesting story, but the film retained focus on the race. When Sachs became aware of the camera’s presence, he put on an act. The audience can see him become upset at losing the game and annoyed at the camera’s intrusion (Mamber 68).

The same issue was in the film Jane, where Jane Fonda is aware of the camera and is not entirely “natural’” (Mamber 90). Mamber concludes that the only way to stay true to Drew’s filmmaking style is to follow the characters when they are “less aware of the camera during difficult moments” (Mamber 71). Crisis in these documentaries help assist in telling the story since the characters endure rising conflict, conflict, and resolution—all elements of the dramatic structure (Mamber 71). When Fonda read negative reviews in the newspaper about her performance, she was very emotional but the audience cannot tell if she’s putting on an act for the camera. But even so, it tells the audience something about the actress as a character.

When Drew first filmed Primary, it was an experiment and several mistakes were made. Several years later, Drew filmed Kennedy again, this time as President in Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment. Crisis is better than Primary because the dramatic structure is very clear and the audience can get more absorbed in the thrilling situation. The audience gets to follow Kennedy leading up to the crisis in the beginning of the film, watch him endure the crisis as he send the National Guard to help escort the African-American students to the University, and to watch the conflict resolve as the students safely enroll in the school with no bloodshed. It is similar to Primary because the documentary follows both Kennedy and Governor Wallace.

Drew’s filmmaking philosophy is to pretty much document real life while telling a story. Drew’s camera style of observing the characters and being as invisible as possible has set the road for cinema-vérité filmmaking. Drew’s approach to filmmaking has been consistent in several of his films such as Primary, Football, On the Pole, Jane, and Crisis: A Presidential Commitment. His style set the trend that would affect photojournalism forever.


Mamber, Stephen. Cinema Verite in America: Studies in Uncontrolled Documentary. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1974.

Rosenthal, Alan. “Don’t Look Back and Monterey Pop.” In The New Documentary in Action:  A Casebook in Film Making. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971. 189-198.

Anthropology Review: “Nomads of the Rainforest”

The Waorani were doing just fine as “Nomads of the Rainforest

By Crystal Hollis | Fall 2010 | ANTH 1150 World Cultures Through Film

Nomads of the Rainforest (1984) documents the livelihood of the Waorani people, natives who live close to Ecuador in the northwestern regions of the Amazon rainforest. They are tribal, secluded, and close-bounded from the rest of the world. The Waorani possess characteristics of an ideal type folk society which is defined as non-literate, small, isolated, and homogeneous. The film takes an emic approach to understand the behavior and personality of the tribe.

The Waorani Indians have been historically isolated and hostile to outsiders. Missionaries came into contact with the Waorani only to be killed by a clan’s spears and blowguns. Other attempts were made to modernize the Waorani but this distinct group of people held strongly onto their culture.  They may not choose to assimilate to modern society but they have taken advantage of some tools such as pots, axes, and machetes that make their jobs faster and easier.

The film emphasizes how kinship is prevalent for the Waorani Indians. Everyone has a role in finding food, which is probably why men and women are of equal status. The women remain home and cultivate crops; they grow a type of Amazonian roots with the help of the men chopping down the trees in order to prepare the soil. With the chopped down trees, the men also create spears and blowguns that are used to hunt game. They wield the tools with great precision and knowledge of the rainforest that has been passed down generations. The children have the responsibility to learn that same knowledge through observation and helping the adults.

The film emphasizes that sharing is sacred.  A hunter would bring home one 60 pound monkey for dinner and it would be shared for the entire village, even though the portions are small. Sharing represents how the family cares for each other and wants each other to survive. Despite the significance of family and love, the Waorani has a history of violence among different clans. Boys were taught to be aggressive and to “ready their spears.” Kinship is dominant and there wasn’t enough women for every man. But now, while violence toward outsiders and other clans diminished, the Waorani face a new threat: violence towards their culture.

The film does an excellent job showing how the Amazon Rainforest in vital to their survival. The rainforest is the binding force that makes up the Waorani culture. They are knowledgeable of the animals, the plants, and the soil. They burn their huts when they are ready to travel but don’t feel homeless because the rainforest is ultimately their home. They are integrated with wildlife and nature, even recognizing the fearsome Jaguars as an animistic spiritual ancestor. But their way of life, their culture, is being threatened by modern society’s deforestation. So because this horticulturalist society have difficulty adapting to lineal change, the loss of the forest will devastate this tribe.

Watch the entire documentary:


Anthropology Review: “First Contact”

First Contact” on colonialism of native New Guineans

By Crystal Hollis | Fall 2010 | ANTH 1150 World Cultures Through Film

First Contact reflects on a culture clash as colonialists exert control and dominate over an indigenous population to gain control over natural resources. Colonialism is defined as the active possession of a foreign territory and the maintenance of political and economic domination over the territory. The Australian Leahy brothers’ control over the native New Guineans is an example of a classic colonialism that is made by a private, non-governmental authority.

At first the New Guineans thought that the Leahy brothers were their ancestors who came back to haunt them, a similar conclusion that the Papua New Guineans from Cannibal Tours had originally made. The native New Guineans were a non-nomadic, tribal type society located in the isolated area north of Australia. Because the tribe have never experienced lineal change, they weren’t able to cope with the new experience under the Leahy brothers’ imperialistic control. The tribes used to be harmonious until the Leahy brothers killed their leader and disturbed their balance. New authority came from the Leahy brothers in the form of fear and intimidation. The brothers exerted their control to make the tribes work as slaves in dehumanizing conditions.

The reason why the Leahy brothers explored the region was because they were looking for an economic opportunity to prospect gold. They found convenience at having the natives do labor, taking an unfair advantage over them by paying with sea shells (which can be easily picked up on the beach). The natives were intimidated by technologies they couldn’t understand such as the airplane, gramophone, and guns. The natives were so isolated from the rest of the world they had no idea that there were more people out in the world beyond them. But as time passed by and the natives observed the white men further, they realized that the white men were human just like them. Some remarked that the skin is different but they “sh*t the same” and the women knew how human they were from having sex and giving birth to mixed children.

The film First Contact shows how White Colonialism brings an emotionally traumatizing, destructive and unbalanced change to native cultures and indigenous people. The native New Guineans were unable to adapt to the new changes as the dominant Leahy brothers from a market-ruling early modern culture become the authority. Even when they realized that the Leahy brothers were exploiting them, the natives were still unable to compete and catch up with the rest of the globalized society.

Watch the entire documentary with transcript:



Occupy Denton | Video Verite

Pictures of Occupy Denton, TX

In Fall 2011, I created a few Occupy Denton cinema verite videos. Watch them on YouTube:

Pictures of Occupy Denton, TX