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Holly Metcalf: Coach, Olympian, Mother.

A short documentary, exploring the character of MIT's Women's Varsity Open Weight Crew team head coach, 1984 Olympics Gold Medalist, 1987 Women's Crew World Championship Silver Medalist, and mother, Holly Metcalf. 

Comments (10)

The story is framed around Holly with focuses on 3 different roles she plays to different people: coach, Olympian, mother. It starts off with her coaching style which you hear most about from other people. It then transitions into her own view of how she coaches. From there, she gives her perspective about her time in the Olympics. It is then a very natural segway into what rowing means to her in her personal life. It ends with her capping off how rowing has impacted her life full circle. My main ideas in structuring the a film was to start from a far picture of her and end with the closest facts. It parallels how you would get to know her in real life. From meeting her, observing her from a far in her working environment, then into learning more about her, the history of what she’s done, and then finally, knowing her very well and understanding why she does what she does- what makes her tick.

I had a couple of problems with audio in this video. All of the shots on the water were really hard to get audio with. Additionally, I chose a location to interview Holly in the boathouse, where there is always very loud music playing the background. All of the erg room peices also had really loud music playing in the background. I tried using some softer music in parts of the interview where she was more serious, but the pumping bass and other rap songs in the background were extremely obvious. Next time I’ll make sure the background noises are more tolerable. That is why in the end I decided to stay with the original song, “All of the Lights” throughout the video. I was really pleased with how well changes in the tone of the song lined up with the different segments of my video though.

Posted over 2 years by jhaskins@mit.edu

Wow! You’re camera angles were amazing! You were really creative in structuring both the shots and the overall scenes of your documentary. There were some shots (like the shot of the oars) that were simply stunning in execution.  I liked the use of the Kens Burns effect when you showed those two images from the coach’s past.  Coupled with the upbeat music and the in-depth interviews (you covered both her uniqueness as a coach and as a person), this amounted to one very professional-looking documentary. 
I can only make a couple suggestions.  First, everything about this video looked awesome…except for the title. It just looked like a template. I think choosing a simpler title would have been better because that one part was a bit distracting. It’s as if you’re watching a movie, and an alarm goes off in the movie, but the alarm sound is the same alarm sound as the iPhone. It’s generic and distracting.  Secondly, the music volume fell very quickly at the beginning, which didn’t allow for a sort-of build-up.  That’s a minor thing, but I’d like to see the build-up last longer. 
Other than that, great job!

Posted over 2 years by sguitron@mit.edu

The whole video was aesthetically pleasing. The mis-en-scene (what was included in each frame) was the central strength of your whole documentary, I thought. The positioning of camera was neatly done so that all important elements to the topic of the video were intricately included in each frame. My favorite shots were the wide-shots of the calm Charles River water. Water is a big part of rowing.

I liked the introduction to Holly. We did not see her at the beginning shots. Instead, we were given an introduction to her lifestyle as a coach while just hearing her voice talking about herself as a coach. It resulted in a build up of energy to the first time we saw her. The first shot of her coaching a group of girls was the perfect introduction because it clearly showed her main character being described in this video.

While she was speaking, the shots included in between her talk were mostly well chosen as they related to what she was saying. For example, once she was talking about movement and the clips showed her actually acting out movements to all the girls in the team. It helps audience gain a deep perception of her personality. We hear and then see.

My main issue with this documentary was regarding the character development. I understood your logic of the step by step process of getting introduced to a person, which moves from more impersonal aspects to more personal. However, I think that for a four minute video, if you had just focused on her coaching, it would have worked better. Her olympics experiment was relevant to the point it gave audience an idea of her background in rowing. But, once it got personal and describing her emotions during the time, there was a sense of disconnect for me. I think even in real life it takes a long time to get from impersonal to personal with someone and the speed of moving from one state to another was too high in your video. It would have been appropriate in a longer piece.

Posted over 2 years by sahar_h@mit.edu

Good job getting some breath-taking shots in the video. I liked circular structure, starting and ending at the same location in the boathouse with the sun at different angles in the sky. This felt like taking me through an average day at an MIT crew practice. The music meshed well with the rowing and exercising scenes to bring out the passion and energy in the sport. You had beautiful shots of your friend in headband next to the Charles River with the Boston skyline in the back. It was a great location and angle. Also, I liked the rowing scene of the Charles River just opening up across the horizon at each stroke of the oars.

The intro music had me all pumped up but took a dive as the coach’s voice came in. It felt jarring and uncomfortable while the message was clear. When the music came back up, I felt like the video just went through an emotional dip when the coach’s message is supposed to be inspirational and motivating. I think most of the problem lie in the fact that the song just doesn’t really fit the emotional speed and energy of your coach’s voice. Her slow and melifluous account of her past was beautiful but seemed really jarring and our of place with such a fast and upbeat music in the background. This was particularly glaring in the scene the coach talks about her role as a mother. She starts with “I think what I’m most proud of is [long pause] is being a mother because of those things, I learn [pause] how [pause] to [pause] love [pause] and [really long pause]…” while the fast music in the background is only highlighting all these pauses. (you get the point). You can potentially start a slow music that could be from the ’84 when she starts her historical accounts or you can edit out her pauses and speed up her speech. This is done more than you think in Documentaries.

You put in solid work for this piece and the visual shots were beautiful!

Posted over 2 years by ray_li@mit.edu

This documentary is really well done. I liked all of your shots including the camera angle, lighting, and good framing of the people being interviewed. The overall narrative was pretty coherent and, after watching the video, I feel like I know a lot more about Holly. I think you did a good job capturing the “coach” life of Holly by juxtaposing interviews of her with action shots of her on the water or in the gym.

The only narrative “funk” that I noticed was the transition from her coaching career to her final comment about what she is most proud of: her children. I think her final comments really illuminate her character well, but the timing and flow of the documentary seems a little off, as though her final comment didn’t flow with the documentary content immediately prior to that shot.

On a stylistic note: I think the intro with the music is a little short before Holly begins talking. I think you could draw the music out a little longer with further shots of the water and boat house to get the viewers more in the mood for watching the documentary about Holly and crew. Maybe the actual audio track intro just wasn’t long enough.

Overall though, the documentary was great!

Posted over 2 years by znelson@mit.edu

The technical aspects of your video are extremely well done. The composition of shots, including camera angle, subject placement, and lighting really added to the professional quality of the piece. You have several beautiful shots of Boston in particular and the spaces in which the team practices. The low camera angle shots from inside the crew boats were also very interesting. In addition, you did a fantastic job with Holly’s main interview. Her three roles as a coach, Olympian, and mother really came across from the dialogue.

I understand that you chose not to include some of the technical crew jargon, but maybe that could have given the audience a better sense of what being a rower involves. Even hearing (without necessarily understanding) the language is sometimes enough. Another way you could enhance the audience’s understanding of crew might be to include more close up shots. Also, it was difficult for me to imagine her as a mother because there weren’t any visual representations of this in the video. Something like an image of her children would have been helpful. As other people have mentioned, trying to represent Holly in three different roles may have been ambitious.

Great portrait of a very interesting person!

Posted over 2 years by ndou@mit.edu

Alright, first with the bad. I know it’s hard to capture audio while on the water. And you mask it well using the non-diegetic audio, but a couple times it feels like your timing leads me to believe you meant for that diegetic audio to be heard. Which jarred me a little bit. Really though, unless that was your intent, just a simple fix. Start audio slightly sooner. My main issue was you really only touch on a couple things with Holly. She’s such a dynamic person (rowed crew here for 2 years, so I do know her). And the documentary almost shotguns a couple things. I know it’s really difficult to do all these things in just 3-4 minutes, so I would have preferred to see you mention all the things she’s done (coach, mother, olympian) but really focus on just one.

Loved the piece. Your editing abilities are solid, the audio fade in’s (for the most part) were well timed and appropriate. I found it a great artistic choice to angle up on most shots of Holly (whether intentional or not). And completely honest, I know such small details, but thought your choice of where to interview Holly (varsity meeting room), right in the corner, was probably the best spot. Excellent choice. And I did find it interesting the short interview shot of Joanie speaking and putting away the blades.

Overall, excellent piece. Great portrait of Holly, and those shots on the water really make me miss being on it!

Posted over 2 years by rlwood@mit.edu

There are so many things in this work that work well. The music, especially in the beginning, is perfect. Also the interview footage is beautiful, I think it may have even been the strongest part of the piece. I think the structure was very well thought out and made a lot of sense as far as how we would actually get to know her, which made it feel very real and genuine. Overall there was just so much done right here that I can’t even get to it all.

There are a few things that could have made it even better. For one, it was a little hard to understand why she thought the olympics weren’t memorable the first time watching it I think because the music continued on as the upbeat happy background, confusing the mood. Switching to a more somber/subdued background track here could have really helped with that. The only other thing I could find fault with is that some of your handheld shots were a little too shaky and contrasted too much with the steady shots. Overall though, a great piece.

Posted over 2 years by zacht

You have really excellent camera work in this video, which is even more impressive considering the quality of the cameras we were given to work with. I know you mentioned problems with the audio but it was virtually undetectable. I also enjoyed the snapshots of her life and personality — I especially loved how you were able to include parts of her that weren’t immediately apparent, like her motherhood.

However, one of the biggest things that detracted slightly I felt was the audio choice, especially when it delved into her personal background. I felt like the looped background track was excellently done but the upbeat temp and booming bass detracted from her very personal story. Transitioning into softer music may have been a more appropriate choice.

Posted over 2 years by vsun@mit.edu

I liked your shots a lot and the editing of the video. I think your interviews were useful and well placed. I also think the interview with the coach was very honest and meaningful in a way that drew me in. You did a good job creating a clear story and picture of this person.
I would have liked to have seen more of a connection between the role as a mother and how it relates to her other roles. The end of the video starts to touch on something very big for her and I dont think we get to see enough.

Posted over 2 years by austing@mit.edu

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