This Trimester I would like to specialise in Directing and post production editing.
With a focus on these specialisations, I would like to learn/ gain:
- Specific: How to create a successful interview environment. (Directing)
Measurable: My progression in understanding the effect of an interview environment on the quality of content will be measured through a written reflection (ie. What I know now vs. what I have learnt at the end of trimester), incorporating research and interview extracts.
Attainable/Action-Oriented: To achieve this learning goal, I will research three examples of good and bad documentary interviews and compare/ contrast to determine my own ideas. Alongside this, I will speak to three industry professionals (lecturers) to gain their views on the topic based on their real-world experience. Finally, I will apply these insights to my own documentary of which I will include excerpts in my reflection.
Relevant/Realistic: This goal is relevant to me in terms of building on, not only my directing skills, but my journalistic practices.
Timely: I aim to have this reflection completed by week 10.Response:
Having never been a part of creating a documentary before, let alone directed one, I had no idea what I had signed up for. In fact, it wasn’t until our documentary got to post that I realised just how important a good interview is to the overall success of a film. While workshops definitely helped me to prepare in terms of the technical elements such as lighting, framing, camera placement and audio, I never expected the hardest part would be the interview- as naive as that sounds. With a background in the field of communication, I think I underestimated how interviewing for a written piece is different to an interview for film. By this I mean that a successful interview for film has the subject open up on camera as audiences can only see what you are able to show them. This becomes problematic when the subject struggles to open up at the best of times and you want them to do it with a camera in their face. Interviews for print, I find, are much easier to get what you need from the subject to construct the story as they tend to open up more when it is in a one on one situation. With this, you are able to describe their reactions and paraphrase things that aren’t necessarily said during the interview. With film, they can simply ask you not to record and there goes your story. This was something that I didn’t actually consider going into the production of our documentary Uncaged.Building on this, I would have gone about the interview with Jackson very differently and would have scheduled either a longer chat or a follow up interview to fill in any blanks that we had. However, the biggest downfall for me was not having a clear direction thus I failed to hone in on the certain details which lead to the lack of depth in the finish doco. It was through this small failure that I was able to achieve my goal of discovering the impact of a successful interview environment. I learnt that it is not so much the environment, but knowing your talent, your relationship with them and asking the right questions/ leading the right conversation.
- Specific: I aim to better my skills in all aspects of filmmaking to make myself a more informed director (Directing).
Measurable: I will measure the success of this goal with a reflection on my practices throughout the trimester where by I will include key findings, lecturer/ peer feedback from viewing sessions and examples of my efforts.
Attainable/Action-Oriented: This will be achieved through actively participating in workshops and completing assessment items ranging from camera operation, lighting, sound recording and directing.
Relevant/Realistic: This goal is relevant in that I will be improving my skills and knowledge on a more general basis which will only help my become a better filmmaker and director.
Timely: This will be achieved by week 7, after completing the minor doc tasks.Response:
Throughout this trimester, I was given numerous opportunities to work on a range of skills.Throughout this trimester, I was given numerous opportunities to work on a range of skills. These were developed through the audio workshop with Alicia Eames, interior and exterior interview lighting workshops with Nick Payton and Scott Hamilton, Vox pop workshop with Dr. Jody Taylor and through the individual audio and visual projects.
I found the biggest point of learning for me came from the solo projects whereby I had to take the equipment out on my own and put into practice all of the skills and knowledge I had picked up throughout the coarse. Being the editor on most projects, I have never really had to worry about camera or audio techniques as I have always had someone with me to help when I got stuck or couldn’t remember what to do next or fix the problems encountered. So as much as this was a challenge, it was a great chance for me to show that I can actually do these things and that I’m not completely useless in the areas of film production that I don’t specialise in.
The workshops were extremely helpful in my progression this trimester as I was given a refresher course on things I had previously learn but hadn’t practiced in a while and picked up some new skills, especially in the way of three point lighting setups and location sound. Having facilitators who are real industry professionals to lead these activities and mentor us is reassuring in that I know what is being taught is practical and reliant to my future endeavours.
Bellow are some examples of my efforts from this trimester.
- Specific: Can incorporating VFX in a documentary create more interest (Editing).Measurable: The attainment of this understanding will be measurable through three short test documentaries which will take place throughout the trimester whereby I aim to compare the before and after VFX pieces. To determine the success of the visual effects, I will show a number of different people the edits accompanied by a survey to gain their feedback in relation to which cut they found more interesting and why.
Attainable/Action-Oriented: To answer this question, I will use the footage from our post production editing task from week one, the short visual documentary project and the opinion project. With each of these three projects, I will create two edits, one with VFX and one without. These will be shown to people
Relevant/Realistic: This is relevant to my practice as an editor as I want to add as much value to my films as possible.
Timely: This will be achieved by week 9Response:
In pursuing an answer to this question, I learnt that there are a lot of visual effects that can be used to create more interest and larger entertainment values in documentary. For instance, the various platforms that allow for interactive and VR media or, something more attainable for myself, motion graphics and parallaxes. Motion graphics have never been my forte and a parallax was a whole new skill I had to learn, though I did enjoy it. I created two variations of a title sequence for ‘Uncaged’ and for both of these I created one with parallaxes and one without. To determine weather or not they made a difference to the audiences viewing experience I showed the non-parallax sequence against the parallax sequence. I did this twice throughout the trimester as the second variation was created after refining the first. I shared these with a selection of peers and friends outside of SAE to test both of these simulations. I started with the non-parallax versions first and on both occasions (one during week 7 and another during week 10) the viewers were more engaged with the VFX. When asked why, the common response was along the lines of “there’s just more to watch” and “the still images are a bit boring.”
To further my research on this idea that VFX can improve ones interest throughout a documentary, I compared my viewing experience from two different documentaries. A Plastic Ocean is a documentary which sheds light on the detrimental effects of the worlds plastic waste epidemic on the environment, particularly the ocean and sea life. This film is largely dependent on visual imagery though makes little to no use of visual effect elements. Making A Murderer, on the other hand- a film exposing the inner workings of convicted murderers- used a number of VFX techniques to emphasise important details, legal documentation and key events. With out these elements, the audience is left watching just images on a screen which lack purpose/ meaning and sometimes even context. By adding such effect the audience attention is captured and drawn to the specific details that make what we are seeing meaningful. This is not to say that A Plastic Ocean is an unsuccessful film, rather it lacked the same level of visual intrigue. So, it is based on these tests and comparisons that I now believe there is a large place in the documentary genre for visual effects as, if used appropriately, they do add value to the viewing experience.
- Specific: Grade footage to give the ‘raw’ feeling that is associated with doccumentary while deepening visual interest and assisting the desired angle (Editing).
Measurable: This will be measured through a small analysis comparing the three tests with their before and after shots.
Attainable/Action-Oriented: I aim to achieve this goal by completing three separate grades throughout the trimester (the visual doco, the opinion doco and the Post-only short doco edit). For each, the brief I have given myself is to create a look that is natural yet cinematic. When I have finished, I will put together three before/after samples and discuss the outcomes and success/ failure of my attempts.
Relevant/Realistic: This is relevant as colour grading has a large impact on the feel and message conveyed by a film which is something I believe an editor should succeed in.
Timely: This will be achieved by week 12.Response:
With a goal to work on my colour grading, I used my project this trimester to achieve it. From what I have discovered, there is no right or wrong way to colour a film, regardless of genre. Obviously, colours can be associated with different feeling and emotions however, this is dependent on the film and the directors vision. If anything, I think the trimester has helped me refine this idea that documentaries need to feel “raw” in order to meet the genre’s conventions. Through the analysis of several documentaries, I found that there are so many different ways to approach this style of filmmaking such as through animation, interactive platforms and even virtual reality. It was during these screenings that I realised, colour grading a documentary is not really that different to grading, say, a drama. Colour grading primarily a stylistic element which is used to help audience know how they should be reacting. For example, Bishar’s Dream used quite a dark and grim grade on the animation between act 1 and 2. This was to push the reality of the characters story- shot and in need of medical assistance in the middle of a conflict-stricken zone. The darkness represented his future. In other films like The Monolith whereby the character used her dark environment to created bright artwork- it was light therapy for her. This was also translated through the grade. The point is, you should grade to fit the story, not to fit an assumption such as the film needing to look raw in order for it to be considered “real.”
While colour grading was not a key focus throughout this trimester, I practiced where ever I could. My first practice was on the Bad Blood project. This footage was not supplied in log so the corrections were only minor to emphasise a specific style. I played around with some masks in DaVinci to give the interview a vignette effect. When I was happy with the look, I exported it back into Premiere only to find that something had gone wrong in the process and I some of the clips I graded were not the right grabs. I spent hours trying to figure it out, importing and exporting timelines over and over again to see if I had solved the issue. With no luck, I spoke to facilitators and finally got to the bottom of it. Turns out, DaVinci does not handle .AAF files that well, so I learnt the hard way that .XML files are the way to go when transferring between Premiere and DaVinci. I also graded my visual doco and the major. I found grading the major doco rather challenging, as my vision for the film became clouded by too many ideas which meant that I wasn’t able to use the colours to assist any particular angle.
- Specific: How to find and execute an appropriate pace for an unscripted film.
Measurable: This will be measured in a comparison of a project from the beginning of tri and one from the end of tri. In this comparison, I will incorporate feedback from both peers and lecturers as well as excerpts of the two edits.
Attainable/Action-Oriented: I will achieve this goal by creating two edits, one at the beginning of tri and one at the end. I hope to see an improvement in the success of the pacing between to two tests as I will have had a number of practices between them with the completion of the visual, audio and opinion documentaries.
Relevant/Realistic: This is relevant as I want to create interesting films which maintain a pace that keep audiences engaged rather than bored or distracted.
Timely: Week 12Response:
I met this goal through the process of editing both my visual documentary Training Day and Uncaged. Following multiple feedback sessions with peers and facilitators I was able to find a pace that was appropriate for the respective projects. In the case of Uncaged, I discovered that the pace of the edit was largely dependent on the interview material as there were a lot of cuts made in order for the story to flow. The B-roll was used to hide those cuts and thus set the template for the pace of the film. Through feedback sessions, it became apparent that the pace felt slower during dialogue heavy scenes. This was for a few different reasons but mostly came down to the fact that I was attempting to incorporate too much information in the screen time. To overcome this, I remover some of the dialogue that wasn’t progressing the story in any way and, in doing this, I was able to ramp up the pace a little to keep the audiences interest. I also spent a fair amount of time gathering ideas and inspiration from other sporting documentaries such as Icarus (2017) and Team Foxcatcher (2016).
Icarus followed a relatively slow pace with longer, drawn out shots. While the content was genuinely interesting, I found that the two hour film felt more like three hours which could be a result of the experimental, participatory nature. Team Foxcatcher resonated more with me, I think this is because the content- being based around wrestling, a form of martial art- aligned with what I was creating for Uncaged. This film maintained a faster pace than the other and, among other reasons, kept me more engaged. I didn’t find myself getting distracted as I did during Icarus.
I want to create films that draw the audience in and capture their interest. Obviously this comes down to a huge range of elements from content to visual style, but knowing how to pace the edit around the content to further progress the story as opposed to being guided by music cues or a set script can make a significant difference to the way an audience responds to your film.
- Specific: How to create a successful interview environment. (Directing)