Valuable Lesson Learned (Indonesian Bus Ride)

There was no plan except to hop on a bus and hope that an itinerant singer would get on and perform. A singer, Samsiah, did get on, and I got some cool footage. While editing my bus and interview footage, I thought about my process and learned a huge lesson.

If you haven't seen the video, I encourage you watch it here before proceeding. 

 A still image from a timelapse. I'm waiting for the bus. 

A still image from a timelapse. I'm waiting for the bus. 

 My GoPro Hero Silver 4 capturing the timelapse.

My GoPro Hero Silver 4 capturing the timelapse.

As previously mentioned, I had no idea about whether or not I would have a subject to shoot. A few minutes after sitting on the bus with my weapon ready (Nikon), Samsiah got on.

 Focusing on shooting. I had my hip jammed up against the back of a seat to try making myself more stable. 

Focusing on shooting. I had my hip jammed up against the back of a seat to try making myself more stable. 

Riding a bus in Indonesia is stressful. The drivers weave in and out of traffic like they're driving a VW Beetle, cutting people off and slamming on the brakes frequently. This makes filming a steady shot challenging. Luckily, the bus I was on was not too crowded and I was able to record Samsiah for about ten minutes. 

 A still from the video of Samsiah singing.

A still from the video of Samsiah singing.

After I filmed her performance, I told Samsiah I was making a short video about bus entertainers in Indonesia. I asked her if she would be okay being interviewed for my video. Samsiah was hesitant. She was shy and seemed to wonder why someone would be making a video like mine. I told her it would only take a few minutes and eventually she agreed.

 A still image from the video.

A still image from the video.

We got off the bus and sat down in a small eatery at which a few other bus performers were hanging out. There appears to be a small community of them there. Right after getting there, I made my biggest mistake.

I set my camera up and immediately started asking questions. Because she was initially hesitant, I felt like I should get rolling ASAP. Samsiah was answering quietly and with very short answers. Had I thought more about it, I would have ordered some coffee for Samsiah and I. I would have talked to her more without the camera rolling. I should have made her more at ease with the idea of being filmed. 

I ended the interview after five or six minutes. She did start to open up and relax a little at that point, but I was worried about taking more of her time when I said it would only be a few minutes.

Final Thoughts

Both Samsiah's experience being interviewed and my resulting footage of a more relaxed subject would have greatly improved had I taken more time to make Samsiah comfortable. This is a lesson I will never forget. I've read about it before, but I have limited experience actually doing it. Now that I've botched one, I know firsthand the importance of having a subject who's at ease. 

Do you have any similar experiences or tips? Please leave any comments, suggestions, or questions you have in the space below. I'd love to get your feedback.

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Take care and keep creating.

-Max