If you’re going to learn, learn from the best. And that’s what I did this past weekend when I attended the Heartland Bowhunter Film School. In a nutshell, the experience was great. I learned a lot, got some great advice on filming and editing and just plain had a good time. It’s been great getting to know the HB crew over the past couple years and this class just confirmed what I already knew. The Heartland Bowhunter team is made up of some great guys and they really know what they’re doing with a camera. That being said, I thought I’d share with you all a few highlights from the film school, as well as a handful of lessons I learned along the way.


In Class Instruction: During our in class instruction, we got great information about topics such as… Gear, manual settings, proper exposure, framing, focus, lighting, using motion and depth of field for creative shots, shot sequences, shot composition and storylining.

Video Critique Quiz: After covering all of the differnt topics in class, we watched 25 clips that HB has filmed over the years and critiqued what was wrong with each clip. We then went through all of our answers and the HB team shared with us their thoughts on each. This was definitely a great way to see the topics we discussed in action and really wrap our heads around them.

HB Episode Examples: To further illustrate the topics discussed, we watched two Heartland episodes in full. During the episodes members of the team would pause it occasionaly and describe what or why they did things, or even some times what they did wrong. We even got to watch a brand new, not yet aired episode of Mike and Shawn’s trip to Iowa.

In Field Treestand Demonstrations: After a full day in the class we headed out to Shawn Luchtels house, where the team set up a number of Muddy treestands and camera arms. They demonstrated how they set up and why they put the stands or arms in the positions they do.

Mock Short Film: Another really cool thing they did was actually film a mock short film, and explain to us as they went along what was going on, why and how they were doing things.

Lessons Learned

Shot Composition: This is a topic I’ve been exploring independently for awhile, but it was great to get some expert insight into proper shot composition. A key point for me to remember was to get a tight, mid and wide angle shot of most every situation. This transition from a wide shot (which helps you understand the scenery), down to the tight shot (which makes you feel in the moment) is something HB does really well but I never really noticed they were doing it. Now I do!

Shot Sequences: At one point in HB’s history they prepared “shot sheets” that outlined all the major shots they wanted to capture on a given day, in order to tell the story they wanted. They don’t need to do this anymore, but when they were getting started this helped them stay on track with what needed to be filmed. In my case, I often get caught up in my tasks of the day and often forget shots. I’ll be definitely be using a shot sheet in the future until I’m a little more experienced.

Exposure: I’ve been familiar with most my manual settings on my video camera and how they work, but I continue to over expose a lot of my shots. This essentially means theres too much light in the shot, and the details get washed out. When it comes to exposure you want to adjust your aperture (iris) and your shutter speed. If you’re not trying to get a really shallow depth of field shot (one thing in focus, everything else out), you should set your iris somewhere in the middle. I’ve been guilty of always setting my iris wide open at 1.8. I’ll definitely be a little more conservative with this setting moving forward. Another issue I’ve had is that I film something and it looks good on the LCD, but when I put it on the computer the video seems over exposed. To combat this, Mike recommended I adjust the brightness settings on my LCD to compensate for the difference. Voila, problem solved.

So overall, like I said, the HB Film School was a tremendous experience. Mike, Shawn and the whole team were incredibly hospitable, helpful and a lot of fun to hang with. If you’re interested in taking your filming to the next level, I’d highly recommend heading to the next Heartland Bowhunter Film School!

For more information about Heartland Bowhunter, visit their website here.