Things I Learned Filming Inside a Club With a Flip Camera
1. Film plenty of detail shots while in a dressing room.
I should've covered the dressing room in more detail. Spent 15 minutes collecting short detail shots - of the bin, of the couch, of the lightbulbs, of the stickers on the wall, etc.
2. Fanny pack for Flip Mino HDs.
I think I could move my entire operation in a fanny pack... but that may look ridiculous. It just gets so heavy lugging around a messenger bag filled with things. Plus, carrying around a messenger bag in a packed club setting is not ideal operating procedure.
3. Everybody loves glitter.
The more drunk you get, the more glitter you want. It's human nature.
4. Patience & mindfulness is key.
99% of the people were super cool, just having a good time. But there was that 1% of snotty rich kid and/or sketchy person that really requires you to let stuff roll off your back, avoid a confrontation, and move to a new location.
My entire experience was positive, however for the sake of taxonomy, I had one chick in a VIP room push me with her body aggressively. When I checked out what was going on, this drunk blonde chick scolded me, "Get your fucking ass out of my way." I just looked at her with the most blank poker face for a half second. Once I was mindful that she was just a drunk entitled rich person - I looked away and kept filming. There's a power in not engaging with stupidity.
That was the worse it got. Really no biggie. I only mention it because I've worked plenty of situations with dumb people on the crew. And I've seen these dumb people get so worked up over trivial incidents, like the one described above. They get so worked up, making all the wrong moves, saying all the wrong things, that something that could've been contained to a split-second glance quickly turns into the inferno of the entire night. Social bridges burn, creativity evaporates, time & opportunity gone. For what?
And so if any one of these dumb people were me last night, they would've likely snarked back a response at her, or try to "inform her" of what they were doing, or be offended they hurt such a pretty girl & try to rectify the situation, or whatever. No, bro. Let that shit slide & move the fuck on. Oh, and she can go fuck herself. But everybody already knew that.
I had little incidents throughout my 8+ hours shacked inside the club. Miscommunication with staff, awkward interactions while filming people, me saying ridiculous things... but whatever, again, no biggie. Everybody's intoxicated & (for the most part) having a good time.
Remember why you're there (to film good shit) & let the little things disappear into smoke.
5. I had my best luck after 7AM.
The 7AM+ club crowd was somethin' else. I think the sunlight activated everybody's pineal gland. My guess is that the rising sun made everybody double down on the intensity of their partying while simultaneously revealing to themselves how awkwardly trashed they looked. It was an oddly cinematic moment.
6. Don't drink (too much) alcohol.
I was given drink tickets, and admittingly had 2 Stellas over the course of 8 hours. But I didn't get trashed. Couldn't imagine doing a good job if I'm on the same cognitive level as the party people. But the 2 beers did help me get social.
7. Some people open up as photography subjects after you explain you're a documentary filmmaker.
I think because a lot of weirdos creep around in these spots, if somebody sees you with no obvious ID filming them from within the shadows of the club (lol) then it could cause some people to clam up or turn away from the lens.
Duh, some people love to be filmed. And they'll open up to any camera pointed at them.
But others get really in a groove, and once they spot you, they hide away or shrink in stature.
Funny enough, some dudes I think were hiding because they didn't want to be photographed inside the club. Perhaps they told somebody they'd be somewhere else that night?
8. Flip Mino might be better for a solo long-haul documentary shoot rather than Flip Ultra's.
That's because of their internal rechargeable battery, which can film for more than an hour or two. The Flip Ultra tends to chew through AA batteries, which requires having many around, which gets expensive.
However, both cameras film differently. I personally prefer the look of the Ultra HD. It responds better to attachment lenses, the lens vignetting is more punk, the bulky body gives it a weight that's easier to stabilize & gives it a hearty handheld motion. The Mino HD, however, captures a more crisp image - looks amazing on a tripod.
9. Kindly explain to the new shift who you are, if questioned.
When the new shift of bouncers & security comes in, if they don't recognize your need for full access to the place (which was granted by whoever when you first got there) then just explain to them you're a documentary filmmaker (or a photographer, whatever) and so-and-so gave you a VIP pass, or whatever it is.
I had one dude who kept pestering me during the 7AM+ shift. I won't get into detail but needless to say everything got cool once I told him who I was & why I was there. The security & and the bouncers from 1AM - 7AM remembered who I was when I arrived, because they saw me getting set up and escorted in by the top people in the place. But when the new shift arrives, they have no idea. So I'm definitely not mad that the new bouncer was aggressive toward me when he arrived.
See, the thing is, he was pestering me because he couldn't see my VIP armband, but most importantly, bouncers deals with non-stop drunk people for hours, everyday, while barely getting paid. So I'm not some fuckin' rosy intellectual struttin' by him at that moment - I'm just another drunk asshole. It doesn't benefit him, as a club bouncer, to be super cool with everybody. He has to be on guard, literally.
After a few tense interactions, I noticed when things were patiently explained, everything was fine. Had I done that on my first interaction with him, it would've prevented the several other tense exchanges we had.
10. Have fun!
I know this is the most cliche advice in the world, but in a club situation it's really the #1 word of wisdom. There's a lot of "don'ts" and "shouldn'ts" on this list, but honestly the entire shoot was amazing. I like to point out the little details that could substantially improve because I believe in constant objective improvement. But I made sure to have a lot of fun all throughout the process. Let me break down why it's important real quick:
One should have fun because the images will evoke that experience. People want to vicariously live through the party images captured. So the images must feel alive & rare. Somebody should watch it & think, "Gosh I wish I was there at that moment!"
It's one thing is to pull people away from the party experience & photograph them holding a sign or smiling or posing with their friends - which, to me, is very inauthentic. That's how to make a party seem boring - and what most club photographers do.
Another thing entirely is to get in the mix of the party, with equipment that evokes & allows one to party while filming. if you get involved & capture this energy, that's how you make movie magic.
The only way to capture these kind of images is for you, yourself, to have fun.
The other reason I'd like to point out is that there's no point in really doing it if you're not having fun also. (Unless you need to hustle to make a living & you hate clubs, but even then...)
If you're having fun, or maintain that mindset - "I'm here to have fun" - then when stupid shit happens, like new shift bouncers getting tough with you, or drunk rich girls trying to start a fight, using the bathroom while somebody vomits in the stall next to you, stepping on either dog or human feces on the sidewalk outside, dropping one of your lenses in a puddle of street sewer water, getting called out by other photographers for stealing their shot, or just sweating your ass off in a loud room while drugged up people squeeze all around you... then it's easy to take a moment & remind yourself, "I'm here because I want to be. Chaos is a part of the process, so enjoy it. This is the adventure. I'm having fun, honest!"