Cambodia-based photographer Nicolas Axelrod recently completed a number of videos for the CNN-funded video outlet Great Big Story. They are presented in Great Big Story’s standard format of short, well-produced, easily digestible video tidbits covering a unique subject. This series of videos (Nicolas has completed 11 Great Big Story projects so far) began as a single assignment to film Wat Plai Laem on Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand. The Producer, Julianne Wilkinson, was pleased with Nicolas’ work on this initial story and introduced him to another producer, David Yim, who commissioned an additional 5 videos, and their relationship has continued to grow since.
Great Big Story ordinarily works with small crews on location to keep production nimble and unobtrusive. However, some of these videos did require a larger production. In the case of four videos that were produced as branded content for the Thai Tourism Authority, there was an added component of a series of short interviews, which were accomplished with the help of local fixer/translator Ryn Jirenuwat.
On the ground, I tend to work alone unless I need to do interviews, in which case I work with a local fixer called Ryn Jirenuwat who helps me with everything from getting permission to scouting to finding the characters to film with. She is of great help and most of the videos would not have been possible without her.
Great Big Story’s producers work closely to provide freelancers with detailed project information as well as their vision for each piece. At the same time, they allow freelancers to take creative liberties that align with their style, yet still fit within the larger aesthetic that’s become symbolic with the brand. This format gives the photographer room to propose interesting shots and varied techniques to satisfy their creative drive within the framework of the Great Big Story.
The creative process in trying to vary the shots and build some interesting sequences is exciting – between shooting on a tripod or gimbal, using slow-motion, time-lapse/hyper-motion, or shooting in standard 24fps there are so many options to making the video as visually interesting as possible.
Occasionally, Great Big Story will commission a video about a specific subject, like the above profile on Chef Pam, which was scheduled by the producer and assigned to Nicolas. Without the frustration of securing access and scheduling, Nicolas was able to show up on the designated day and focus on interacting with the subject – and it turned out to be one of his favorite jobs for Great Big Story!
The interview with her was very relaxed and was more of a discussion amongst friends than an interview between people who met a couple hours ago. She was kind enough to prepare food for me (the same dishes as for the guests at her chef’s table) and the food was particularly amazing.
A playlist of Nicolas’ videos for Great Big Story is available on YouTube.
Producer: Julianne Wilkinson, David Yim
Scout/fixer/translator: Ryn Jirenuwat
See more of Nicolas at nicolasaxelrod.com!