People doing the best work with the worst coffee…

Posted by on September 13, 2011

Earlier this year, parts of eastern North Carolina were decimated by powerful tornados.  Trees were downed, homes were lost, and water and power were out for days.  But the greatest example of the tornado’s power was found at Greene County Middle School in Snow Hill, NC. Even from a distance, you could see that this

Earlier this year, parts of eastern North Carolina were decimated by powerful tornados.  Trees were downed, homes were lost, and water and power were out for days.  But the greatest example of the tornado’s power was found at Greene County Middle School in Snow Hill, NC.

Even from a distance, you could see that this school was beyond all repair.  It basically looked like someone had driven a tank right down the middle of the school, lengthwise.  Most of the ceiling was gone.  Walls were completely collapsed.  The wooden gym floor had swollen from the water damage, light fixtures dangled from bare wires from the ceiling, and the basketball hoop laid on the ground.

But, as we all know, a school is more than just a building.  The tornado left 300 middle school students with no where to finish out their school year.  So Greene County School systems did the only thing they could do, put the middle school students in the high school and split the days in half.  So for the last 5 weeks of the year, the middle school students populated the halls of the high school in the mornings, and the high schoolers had the evenings. A tough change for the kids, but far tougher for the staff.

In a small underfunded, overpopulated high school, finding any corner of serenity would feel like a beach vacation.  In the high school, the closest thing the faculty had was the coffee room.  The coffee room was little more than a closet with a table, a sink, and a cabinet that houses the oldest white plastic coffee maker I’ve ever seen.  It was dark, it was dank and it was depressing.  Seattles Best Coffee new they couldn’t build a new school for the teachers of Greene County, but they could at least give them place to take a deep breath and recharge.

Seattles Best Coffee’s Brewlanthropy award is meant to go to the people who are doing the most good in their world, with the worst coffee.  So SBC designed, renovated and repainted the coffee room into something the teachers could be proud of.  As always, I can’t do the story justice, so please watch the video and see for yourself.

We shot this project on a Canon 5D and recorded audio to a zoom recorder.  This was the first time I ever shot a project where the camera and audio were never actually linked.  The interviews were only done by the sound recordist, Bill Barnes, while I continued to shoot b-roll.  I really feel like we got some sharp stuff on this project and I’m very happy with how it turned out.  It was a serious challenge to get all the b-roll we needed with the school day being compressed into 4 hours and the students leaving by noon.  But, we somehow found a way to get all our elements.  My favorite shot has to be the paper plane on the ground that catches a light breeze as the story is described with text.  That was a very very hot, still day without the slightest breeze.  And just as I’m shooting that shot that I thought would never be used, a slight gust rolls through and moves the plane just enough.  You know the saying, it’s better to be lucky than good.