SmartCuts – Documentary Production Showreel
Documentaries are always a big adventure. Whether they take you places, literally or just figuratively, they always teach you tons and leave you looking forward to the next one. At SmartCuts Creative, we both produce and participate in producing documentaries, from stories about elephants in far-away Laos to Swiss artists next door. Enjoy this showreel of our work in documentary production.
It’s not every day you get a call from National Geographic to collaborate on a documentary. It was our honor and great pleasure to work with this venerable institution on a three-day shoot in Lausanne that would provide key elements to a documentary about solar power.
Northwest Switzerland’s Cheesemakers Association
The tradition of cheesemaking, among other traditions of rural Northwest Switzerland, such as horse-rearing, were a pleasure to document, though not an easy feat. Getting a camera into the lives of farmers such as these was a challenge, but with a respectful attitude and genuine curiosity, we were soon taken into the fold, which allowed us to put together this compelling documentary, now shown daily at the Franches-Montagnes Cheese Museum.
This documentary was made on a tight budget for IUCN in Laos, where time is running out for the Mahouts. The elephant masters we interviewed are soon to be the last of their kind as the new generation has other, more cosmopolitan, ambitions. We spent weeks travelling the country, sleeping with the locals and shooting in sometimes hair-raising conditions to tell their stories. This was not the only documentary we produced thanks to the footage gathered on this mission.
Documentary Video Gallery
Documentary Production Case Study
A National Geographic Collaboration
Documentary for National Geographic
It was in the summer of 2016 that National Geographic called, out of the blue, to ask if we could provide a crew to shoot interviews, broll and scenic shots for a documentary on solar power. The first part of the collaboration would turn out to be a lot of planning and logistics to help a senior producer who knew nothing about Switzerland to line things up for the three days of shooting we would do.
We contacted the Blecherette Airport and local police in Lausanne to get permission to shoot on the tarmac. We talked to the communications team at Solar Impulse to make sure that the two main protagonists, Betrand Piccard and André Borschberg, would indeed arrive at the right place, at the right time, for us to shoot interviews with them.
The documentary in the making was about the reach and constant evolution of solar power in the world today. Clearly the quality of the footage we were to provide National Geographic with had to be irreproachable, and yet we had little time to get it right because the two leaders of the Solar Impulse project only had a short window for us.
We shot the interview with Bertrand in front of a hangar, door open, with an airplane in the background. We were then fortunate enough to have a sudden rain shower that was a blessing in disguise.
Amid the sunshine of an otherwise clear day, this squall ended up putting just the right amount of steam on the tarmac to provide a perfect dramatic setting free of charge, and at no great effort. With the camera set to a high frame rate for slow motion in post-production, we captured great hero shots of Bertrand walking along the tarmac. With André it was an indoor interview that went off without a hitch. He arrived in a helicopter and we got good shots of him using a steadicam and an airport caddy, requisitioned to create a make-shift dolly.
We also shot scenes of the Alps for this documentary and National Geographic was very pleased with the footage we delivered.
Documentary production case study
A CH Cheesemakers Association
Documentary for Northwest Switzerland’s Cheesemakers Association
This documentary was always going to be a long-winded production. We had to capture the life, traditions and challenges of cheesemakers in Northwest Switzerland all year round: spring, summer, autumn and winter. But long-winded certainly doesn’t mean boring.
Delving into the lives of these farmers was a glimpse into a walk of life we have much respect for, and know precious little about, even though, at SmartCuts, most of us eat cheese almost daily.
It was first a matter of patience and respect. To pull off this documentary, we had to gain various farmers’ trust. Trust that we would not misrepresent them; trust that we would care. We did, and they opened up and allowed us into their inner most circles.
We were there at five in the morning when they milked their cows. We were there at noon when they lunched with their families and again at night when they put their kids to bed.
But the most spectacular moments were, without a doubt, the drone flights in those golden hours, to film this peculiar landscape as the morning mists lifted on snow-clad fields, or as the wind swept through flower-flecked fields. Filming the cows trundling out to graze those flowers was also a lot of fun.
The documentary was well received by the cheesemaker’s association, which shows the film daily at the Fromagerie du Noirmont in the Franches-Montagnes.
Documentary case study
Capturing nature for IUCN
Documentary for IUCN
As the umbrella organization for nature conservation NGOs, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature is involved in many fascinating and laudable projects around the world, notably in South-East Asia. Two projects were deemed of particular importance there, in Lao PDR, also called Laos.
One was to make a documentary about the elephant masters, called Mahouts, because their tradition of capturing wild elephants as babies and raising them into domesticity is fast disappearing. The other was to do a documentary about harnessing traditional beliefs on the forest and animals to protect these.
The mission gave us an incredible opportunity to get close to people who would otherwise be very hard to reach indeed. Not to mention access to places in the jungle that offered fabulous spectacles to capture on camera.
The conditions were hard, though, with heat, mosquitoes, malaria, unsafe water and so on. A crew of two braved these conditions, slept with the locals and literally ran with the elephants to shoot exceptional footage that yielded these two documentaries. IUCN was thrilled with the results, and we had an amazing time creating them.
Q&A on Documentary Video Production
Documentary film has changed the world. Documentary filmmakers have stories they want to tell, and while they start with a general direction, the story takes shape in the editing room. A multi-camera set-up with a black backdrop and simple intimate lighting offer a clean, sophisticated, cost-effective, and time-conscious shoot option for interviews. Using specialty tech, like drone, or underwater cameras is more complicated, but they will give any video production a high-end feel and exciting dynamic scene changes. The sound quality is extremely important when shooting a documentary film in a studio or on location – you can never have enough mics. Documentary videos can be short or feature-length and cross many subject matters, from following a single person’s journey to an inside look of a corporation’s evolution. The impact of documentary film cannot be overstated. The screen is the modern-day campfire that we gather around to become enthralled with the latest great story.
Why documentary with SmartCuts?
Every documentary SmartCuts Creative has produced has been an amazingly enriching experience for the company as a whole. We have the experience, skills, and network required to meet the highest of expectations. Producing a documentary is always a big endeavor, involving lots of logistics and complex collaboration. It is a unique form of video production that requires research, extensive planning, and development. We have created for the humanitarian, environmental, technological, cultural, and political spheres. The SmartCuts Creative team has worked on many types of documentaries for clients based in Lausanne and Geneva and also for clients based abroad, such as National Geographic and Discovery Channel. We can provide knowledgeable producers and crew, who have slept in mud huts, ridden elephants, and kept the camera rolling while being eaten alive by mosquitoes. They know what it takes and they get it right.
How does it work?
Over the years, SmartCuts Creative has produced and co-produced many documentaries in various countries and on different subjects. There is no cookie-cutter plan because every project is unique. However, there are some consistencies that we pride ourselves on across all our video productions. We deliver professional service and our team is resourceful, knowledgeable, efficient, collaborative, flexible, and supportive – even in challenging circumstances. We maintain open communication with all our clients and accept feedback and are able to accommodate last-minute changes whenever possible. Working with SmartCuts Creative not only means you’ll get a final documentary film beyond your expectations, it also means you’ll have fun getting there. We love what we do and it shows when shooting and on screen. So how does it work? You’ll find out when you contact SmartCuts Creative and are met with a contagiously positive and unbending work ethic that has grown over 10 years of getting to do what we love.