Learning from one’s mistakes is the only way progress is made in all walks of life. I believe this to the max, but I hate it. I’m a perfectionist and will never be happy with something I make. That said, going in to film my first documentary cutaways, I knew they would suck. I knew I would look back at them and think why did you choose documentary, you’re rubbish. So, let’s start at problems I faced.
Problems I faced and how I got around them
Knowing what to film:
As a group, we were told to film cutaways before filming the intercut interview. This meant I had no idea what Sam was going to say, what his problems at Sussex were, what he enjoyed etc… So I thought about what I struggled with, (being bored initially) and filmed according to that.
The shots of my window I hoped would signify boredom. This also gave me an opportunity to try out the equipment by myself, which I will come on to.
I also guessed what Sam would say. Like most students I observed within the first few weeks at university, I assumed Sam would say cooking and/or washing up. (Luckily I had the perfect ‘dirty kitchen’ set only next door!)
(A slight lie as the film implies the dishes and Kitchen are Sam’s but isn’t that the beauty of editing.) This comes on to my second struggle and my biggest criticism when this piece was assessed.
The equipment/my ability:
As these clips show, my white balance is all over the shop. This came about from a lack of attention to detail in filming and time constraints. Watching the footage back, I saw the issue glaring me in the face but like I said at the top of this post, we learn best through trying, f**ing up and trying differently until it works.
This I believe was the purpose of the initial interview test, to see our ability to work effectively together, film properly, edit but most importantly to get stuff wrong. That how humans learn best in my opinion.
And that’s how I overcame the issue of being bad at filming, just be bad a lot, learn from each mistake, and make sure to never make it again.
Accessibility and location:
This was an issue I did not anticipate. (What are first-year film students doing all the time?) And yet finding a good candidate to film was more difficult than I thought it would be. Finding Sam was luck of the draw. Another film studies student?! Perfect. He knew how to answer the questions, where to look to make me look professional and most of all he had a typical student room.
Editing saved me here, but you wouldn’t know. In actuality, these photo’s are not of Sam, nor are they in Sams room, they are photos in the room of my second interviewee who couldn’t make out arranged time. Of course, I had her permission to use her photos in my film, and I feel they added a personality to Sam, (who didn’t have photos from home on his walls!) The lie of editing allowed me to create a world around Sam that wasn’t, in fact, his own. And that’s how I got around that issue.
A big worry I had in interviewing a participant was if they didn’t fit a student stereotype. For me, I had to establish a character relatable to the target audience to keep them engaged, perhaps this is wrong in documentary, (could just be my feature film brain taking over). But in my mind, another plus to Sam (sorry Sam), was the state of his room.
The untidy shoes on the floor, parallel the dirt table tops perfectly, construct an image of Sam with only three shots. Without having any text inform the audience Sam may be untidy or have a different, freer, life at university, this message it coded with only these shots, (that one I just got lucky with).
These problems and overcoming them I am sure will make my final, actual documentary film, that much better! (Hopefully). Up next is the interview, filming and techniques, and how my team and I approached tackling that daunting task!