Inside the Cancer Video

I was asked to produce a series of videos for an upcoming breast cancer fundraiser event in September. The concept was to interview someone who is currently in the midst of breast cancer, someone who has survived breast cancer and someone who has lost someone to breast cancer.

This video is of a local women who has terminal cancer. It’s challenging and a little nerve racking to be working with such a sensitive subject. The intent is obviously to tell her story in a clear and concise way and at the same time evoke the emotion that will get people to open up their wallets.

I Have Cancer from shareski on Vimeo.

I thought I’d take some time to reveal some of the reasoning and thought behind my production/design choices. I’ve always believed and have been taught that nothing should be random so hopefully I can address those choices.



The raw interview was about 12 minutes. I had a goal of getting the interview under 5 minutes. Determing what to cut was difficult. This is where you need an unbias eye to see if you’ve captured a coherent story. I had my wife watch the first cut to see if the story was clear. This is crucial since it’s often hard to remove yourself from the knowledge you have of the entire footage.

Camera Positions

When doing interviews I prefer to have the camera slightly off centre. The interviewer in this case is sitting slightly to the left of the camera. It’s actually farther off centered that I prefer but without moving too much furniture around, it’s the best I could do. I shot the main footage with a Sony HD camera. The second camera is simply my Canon SD 780 still camera that shoots in HD. The use of a second camera is always a plus and in this case I think it helps the viewer see the setting of the interview and get a sense of being present. The split screen view makes that clear.


The transitions between shots using the flowers and backyard footage has two purposes. First you see the subject and interviewer in a casual setting which provides context and background information to the interview. I rarely show the interviewer since they aren’t really part of the story. In this case I wanted to reveal a sense of friendship. Although you never see the interviewer ask a question, I’m hoping the transition video makes that clear. I switch to using the flowers in transitions to represent the beauty of life. The whole idea of a transition between scences is done to allow the viewer time to feel the impact and emotion of the story. It seems that for me the greater the emotion, the longer the transitions. In this case I would have lengthened the transitions even more in some cases but wanted the entire project to be under 5 minutes so I had to trim some of them.


I can’t stress enough the importance of a microphone for interviews. I have a bluetooth, wireless mic that works wonders in all sorts of environments. The air conditioner was humming in the background but the quality of this mic eliminated external sounds. This also allows me to easily add background audio withouth having to a lot of tweaking. The music, which I found on Jamendo (my new favourite Creative Commons source) is used to provide a delicate, soft backdrop to the story. I sampled dozens of instrumental music but was thinking piano as the core instrument. Music can certainly be overdone and I sampled until I found the one that best fit the piece.

Special Effects

5 minutes of "talking head’ can be a bit much. I’ve rarely seen it done effectively. If I’d had more time or had more ownership of the project, I would have liked more "b-roll" footage. In order to provide interest I used the dual camera and split screens. Again, these are done with purpose. The viewer gets a sense of place and hopefully adds to the intimacy. I used a bit of slow motion on the pan of the family photos. This was done as much to cover up the use of a handheld pan. There are a number of interesting filters in Final Cut Express which may have been interesting but time and the fact they have to be rendered each time to view them made that less desirable. I will need to explore them more to understand how they might enhance future projects.

The story is still the key. However these other elements represent the design and as I’ve mentioned many times, cannot be separated from the final product. I hope these insights are useful and certainly am open to critique of my choices. I just wanted to be transparent and explicit with how and why I did what I did.