The Week in Photos takes a deep dive into one story or group of stories from the previous week of Missourian reporting. This week, we're looking at a micro-documentary on two MMA fighters from mid-Missouri. Minh Connors, Jacob Luebbert and Sara Williams filmed the video; Connors edited and produced. The cover photo above was made by Williams.
The first time Minh Connors and Jacob Luebbert went to the Columbia Training Academy, they didn't take any gear with them. They were scouting a location for a video project on MMA fighters, and they didn't want the camera to be a barrier on the first meeting.
JACOB LUEBBERT, videographer: We actually regretted not bringing a camera on the first trip. On that first little scout, I already knew it was going to be a good story.
MINH CONNORS, editor: Everyone was so nice, so welcoming, so open. You could tell they were very comfortable in their environment.
JL: You'd think MMA fighters would be sort of stoic and tough and not want to talk to you, but they were amazing. Every single one wanted to talk to us.
MC: My preconceptions, before I watched any MMA, was that these guys must be brutes and want to fight all the time and all they see is blood. But MMA fighters come from different backgrounds, so I kind of wanted to localize that story.
The team found two sources they wanted to focus on: Dallas Jennings and Darian Weeks. They returned to the gym a half-dozen times over the next two months, as well as locations in Columbia and Sedalia.
JL: Going there a bunch of times showed them that this isn't us just trying to get a quick story out of them. We're coming back every single week to talk to them, to film them, to really get their stories. We're not trying to misrepresent them in any way.
SARA WILLIAMS, videographer: You have to make sure that you're grabbing these people in the light they're supposed to be shown in... These people are trusting you with their stories, so I'm enthusiastic when people start to tell me things about their lives. That's what we're there for.
All three journalists come from a convergence background, meaning they've learned to work in many different mediums, from words to photos to audio and video. The choice to tell this story visually came easily to them.
SW: Video as a medium for this story was important to show how hard these fighters are training. There's sweat, there's veins bulging out, and also people see how hard you get hit. That's really telling to what these fighters go through to make themselves better.
MC: You expect fighting to be so fast-paced, and it's kind of hard to slow things down to a pace where it was easily digestible for the average viewer. But we wanted to keep the excitement in it.
With the help of supervising producers Megan Oosthuizen and Brian Kratzer, Connors spent about a month editing the six-minute micro-documentary together. Beyond forming one cohesive narrative, they also had to balance sound and lighting issues that came from recording in an active MMA gym.
MC: Putting together the bare bones was easier, but fine-tuning it was honestly the harder part. We put a lot of time into it, so we wanted the almost-perfect documentary from what we had... At one point, I had to take a step back and say, "Wait. I need to focus on my original idea because that's what I think would be the most interesting." We have all this stuff, but I think I have to keep true to my initial goal.
Between me and Brian, we went through six to 10 drafts. Some were big things, like including more context for something, and some were little things: fixing the sound in one clip, or [cutting] to black a millisecond too late.
JL: Minh would send us rough drafts, and those first two rough drafts that I saw, I was like, "We made a finished product, and it looks good. It looks like a finished micro-doc." So I was very excited.
SW: Grabbing those minute clips is so different than seeing a six-minute video all put together from work that you've done. In theory, you know what a piece of work is going to be, but once you sit down and get it all together, that's when it all becomes clear.
I posted it on my Instagram Story and tagged Darian and Dallas, and Darian reposted it, and then multiple of his teammates reposted and tagged almost everyone in the gym... I had multiple people that go to the gym reach out to me and say, "What a great video. Thank you."
MC: Not only the MMA fighters from the gym, but I think if any MMA fighters saw this documentary, they would feel proud.
The Week in Photos also highlights some of the visual team's best work that you may have missed throughout the week. This week, we established some new projects and worked within our wheelhouse.
The Method is the Columbia Missourian's photography and multimedia blog. In writing about pictures, it seeks to demystify how our journalists cover their community and place their work in the context of a larger visual world.