How I Made my Short Documentary 'Norman Baird The Bama Digger' in 5 Days

I am a Writer/Director from Far North Queensland and I love to fossick for unique and compelling Australian stories to tell on film. I recently wrote, directed and produced a short documentary for National Indigenous Televsion (NITV) and though I can't share it right now, I look forward to the broadcast on 10 November 2015. I hope to then find a new home in the not too distant future for the film that will allow more people to watch it.

My film is called 'Norman Baird - The Bama Digger'. Bama is a word the First People of the Cape York Peninsula region use to refer to an Australian Aboriginal person, much like the First People in southern Queensland use Murri and even further south they use Koori or Koorie.

Norman Baird served on the Western Front during WWI and later a top secret mission during WWII. My film follows Norman's great-granddaughter Tamara as she goes on a mission to speak to Norman's descendants about him. 

This is a photo of Norman in his regimentals. 

 Still image of Norman taken from the documentary 'Norman Baird - the Bama Digger' directed by Caden Pearson (2015).

Still image of Norman taken from the documentary 'Norman Baird - the Bama Digger' directed by Caden Pearson (2015).

Norman was the son of Robert Baird, a Scotsman, and Dinah, an Aboriginal woman. He had a younger brother named Charles, and later a second brother named Johnny. 

I first came to know about Norman when author Kathleen Denigan published her book 'Norman Baird - a spark within', for which I provided the narration for the audio book.

I shot Norman over two and half non-consecutive days, three if you include travel. I shot the b-roll on location in Cooktown, Wujal Wujal, and Cape Tribulation in the Daintree. A region spanning 120 kilometres of beautiful coastal rainforest and rugged Australian bush.

 Still taken from the documentary 'Norman Baird - the Bama Digger' directed by Caden Pearson (2015).

Still taken from the documentary 'Norman Baird - the Bama Digger' directed by Caden Pearson (2015).

I stubbornly shot everything on my Canon XF100, though during pre-production I yearned for a full framed beauty like the C300. But I was working on a micro budget and in the end decided it was more important to get the story right. I am a big believer that as long as you have a good solid story plotted out then you can use just about any tool to capture the images you need. In the end I was over the moon with the final graded images out of XF100.

I shot my sit-down interviews in a make-shift home studio and a rented studio space. My home studio backdrop consisted of a very dark mattress and a dark coloured sheet up against the wall. I only had a couple of hours notice at the end of the day for that particular interview so it was the best I could do, and thanks to the magic of editing you can't tell the difference between the professional sound stage and my home studio.

 Author Kathleen Denigan interviewed at my home studio in Cairns.

Author Kathleen Denigan interviewed at my home studio in Cairns.

 PhD Candidate Galiina Ellwood interviewed at 'A Space to Create' studio in Cairns. 

PhD Candidate Galiina Ellwood interviewed at 'A Space to Create' studio in Cairns. 

I did my Offline Post Production using Adobe Creative Cloud and created my motion graphics elements during offline editing as well. I then took the film to Cutting Edge Post in Brisbane for Online Post Production. I'm so grateful to the artists there: Colourist Justin McDonald and Sound Engineer Ross Batten took the film to a whole new level.

I saved a third of my micro budget for this expense as I knew it would make all the difference, AND IT DID.

In total, not including scriptwriting and research, production and post took 5 days. I was keen that my production schedule would match the micro budget I was working with. Although it was a wonderful, if exhausting, experience working almost solo, I look forward to collaborating with a professional DP, sound recordist and perhaps a more organised producer on future projects.

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Read more about Norman on my step sister's blog 'Found on Denigan Street' here.