I think it’s probably safe to say that most of us mere mortals aren’t exactly comfortable being filmed, or at least not when we first try it. Especially if it consists of you talking direct to camera, acutely self-conscious, worried about how you sound, how you look (does my head look big in this?) and basically feeling like an utter fool.
I recently dipped a toe into the waters of video making – actually, it was probably more like diving in head first – but in that endeavour I had the very good company of a fellow student, which made it not only easier to give it a go but much more enjoyable. Now, I’m looking down the barrel of a video assignment that is worth a major whack of my marks for the subject. And in every way that counts, I have to go it alone. To say I am daunted by this task is an understatement; this is so far out of my comfort zone we may as well be in outer space.
Now words, words are my thing and I’m comfy there. Words don’t always come easily to me (another blog post in itself) but they do eventually and the process of wrestling the slippery little buggers into shape is familiar. So it's a logical place for me to start, to take to a blog post to work my way through this with words. But of course, I know that words alone are not going to get me through this task. A script is a good start, and part of the excellent advice we’ve been given on how best to proceed in our podcast; equally applicable to video.
So I’ve made a start. This week I got my phone and found myself a spot (bit of trivia: sitting on the floor behind our front door, actually) to video myself doing something I thought would be a fairly simple place to start: Five things about me you won’t find out from my “About.Me” page.
Only, it wasn’t that simple. I flubbed my lines, repeatedly. I delivered them with all the panache of a reanimated lightning-struck tree-stump. I closed my eyes at absurdly random moments and for really looong periods. I wriggled. I pulled weird faces.
But I learned something with every take. I learned that I was doing all those odd distracting things, which I was completely unaware I was doing. I learned how hard it is to remember a list of five things you already know about yourself when you are also talking to a camera – at that stage I was such a newbie I couldn’t even figure out exactly where I should look – as well as trying to be engaging, entertaining and avoid showing just how far out of your comfort zone you truly are.
So in this, part 1 of my video misadventures, I’m going to share with you the footage of the most important thing I discovered.
And maybe next time I’ll let you know if I ever did manage to string together 5 things about me you won’t find out from my About.Me page.
I recently read What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler, a young adult novel published under the HarperTeen imprint of HarperCollins Publishers in 2015. I’d seen this book months ago and been drawn to it, but for whatever reason on the day (quite possibly the rather mundane one that I’d maxed out my book budget already that month) I didn’t buy it. I also neglected to make a note of the exact title or author, and when I went on the hunt for it some weeks later, all I could remember was it had the word ‘Saw’ in the title. And of course, it was nowhere to be found.
So when I did come across it again, I was determined not to leave it behind a second time. The photo that accompanies this post is of the actual book I bought from a local Big W.
I started reading What We Saw when I got home that afternoon. Apart from a few short interludes (feed the dog, talk to my husband, check in on Twitter) I kept reading until I got to the end. It’s here I need to make full disclosure: I suspect another reason I may have left that book languishing unbought on a book shelf when I first came across it is the fear that the author would not deliver a satisfying payoff on the premise. I am pleased to report, that fear has proven unfounded.
It’s always difficult to talk about a book that has a ‘reveal’, or a strategic unrolling of key developments because you really don’t want to give it away to anyone eager to read the story and make that discovery for themselves. I shall tread carefully, accordingly.
In What We Saw, the main character and narrator is Kate, a 17-year-old girl whose rekindled relationship with a childhood friend, Ben, seems to be transforming into romance. This is, naturally, foremost in her thoughts when she wakes up incredibly hungover from a party held by one of her classmates the previous night. Fortunately for Kate, Ben has seen her safely home after she downed too many shots and got drunk, and apart from an unflattering photo on social media that’s quickly deleted by the BFF who took it on her phone, Kate has escaped with nothing worse than a headache. She soon learns that Stacey, the girl she was doing shots with the night before, has suffered more lasting damage to her reputation, and possibly something even more damaging.
The question of whether Stacey - a girl with a bad reputation, from a poor part of town - was raped by four stars of the basketball team as she claims, or whether she participated willingly, at least until she sobered up to regret it the next morning, soon divides Kate’s friends, the other students at the high school and the town itself. Rumours circulate of a video posted online that proves – one way or another – what really happened, and despite almost everyone in Kate’s life advising her to leave it alone, Kate feels a growing need to find out who is telling the truth.
Aaron Hartzler is a terrific writer, crafting realistic, relatable teenage characters who draw us through a compelling narrative. They aren’t always perfect, they don’t always do the smart thing, but that just adds credibility. As a reader you care what happens to them, and of course you hope for an answer to what really happened on that night.
What We Saw explores some contemporary and at times confronting territory with a deft touch, including social media use, rape culture and the thoughtless egotism of young adults. There is an excellent scene where Kate calls out her younger brother for adding a hashtag associated with the party to one of his tweets when he doesn’t know what it means (and tellingly, neither does Kate). The author also turns a spotlight on some damaging assumptions that teens may make about consent and personal responsibility.
This novel truly is contemporary, effortlessly incorporating the ubiquitous presence of camera-equipped smart phones and social media access just a swipe away as an everyday part of the life of the modern teenager. The high school students in the novel treat their phones and their online activity as casually and comfortably as a toothbrush, and so does the author.
There’s nothing new in teenagers throwing parties when their parents are out of town, and engaging in risky behaviours including under-age drinking and sexual activity, either in fiction or in reality. Now that we live in the age of digital technology and social media, how much is that changing the way teenagers see themselves and each other? Is it altering their perceptions about actions and consequences? While online profiles and social media allow people to hide their real identify, is this potentially leading people into the trap of thinking how you behave – online or for real – doesn’t matter?
These and more are the kind of questions this novel will leave you with. I define a great book as one that stays with you after the last page; one that makes you think or even invades your dreams. What We Saw is still with me, and I recommend it to you.
The reproduction of the cover artwork for What We Saw (Copyright HarperCollins Publishers) is permitted under Fair Dealing usage for the purpose of review.
I love coffee. I don't love zombies - what, are you crazy or something? However I do love The Walking Dead. That's a story for another day.
But before I get too sidetracked with zombies, back to coffee. I really, really, really do love coffee. But only good coffee. And honestly, I make the best coffee, myself, at home on my ancient Breville espresso machine. This is the best coffee not because I'm some incredibly gifted barista, I'm not (although I did work in a cafe some time back), but because I can make it exactly how I like it. Although I must give credit where it's due; my husband and my eldest stepdaughter make pretty good coffee too.
Look, the verdict seems a bit confused about whether coffee is good for you or not-too-bad if it's consumed in moderation, or utter devil-spawn poison that should never pass your lips, but I don't actually care. I enjoy drinking coffee and I don't intend to stop doing it because someone else thinks I should because it might - and I emphasise the might - be better for me. My husband suggested once we should do one of those cleansing drink-no-other-beverage-besides-water things and honestly, there was nearly a divorce. I did consider it. For about 5 seconds. The drinking only water, not the divorce.
I love coffee. I love the taste, the smell, the ritual. I love getting the perfect silken foam on the steamed milk when I make it myself; I love the indulgence of sitting and drinking an excellent cup of coffee in a favourite cafe, because someone else made it for me, and the things other people make for you are little treasures and you need to savour them.
I feel like my truest self when I drink coffee. I do drink tea, and I continue to try various blends and brands, but these are more of a flirtation. If someone asks me, 'coffee or tea?' the answer has to be coffee.
Which brings me to the zombies. Coffee contains caffeine, which is admittedly a stimulant, and one that can cause inconveniences like headaches if you suddenly cut off your supply.
And here we come to the rub: I am pretty much a coffee-operated organism. And after the zombie apocalypse, when there's no electricity and no fuel and we're fighting over cans of tinned peaches, what then? What am I going to do when the coffee runs out? The zombies will catch me for sure.
Although it is possible that as I will be moving very slowly and already biting at everyone around me, the zombies will pass me by, mistaking me for one of their own.
I'm a writer. I love words and story. I'm also rather fond of my husband and my dog.