Week 4 Reading

Week 4 Reading Log

The Readings:

  • Rabiger, M. (2004) Directing the Documentary, London: Focal Press. Ch.16: Research Leading Up to the Shoot
  • Bernard, S. C. (2010) Documentary Storytelling: Creative Nonfiction on Screen, New York and London: Focal Press. 2 Story Basics

This week was the easiest workshop, at least for me, as it was about screen etiquette and the theory of editing. This was somewhat mundane for me as I have spent a considerable amount of time studying film and teaching myself editing composition and aesthetics, however this course takes all students and so I understand the need for this weeks workshop, even if I already knew. On the other hand, the readings this week focused on research and the basis of the story.

Rabiger – Research leading up to the shoot

This chapter focuses on how to research, developing your narrative and ideas and how to give yourself the most help for production before filming anything.

Research partnership

This was a difficult section for me; I love my independence, so the idea of collaboratively researching was a difficult proposition to consider. Rabiger opens the section with, “An ideal way to research is in partnership with a second person” pp.225, Right off the bat. I am not a big fan of group work because, in my experience, there is often one or many people in the group that do not desire the highest grade possible, as I do. It is often difficult to find a collection of people all with the same determination and drive to complete a project well. The group I was placed into for this particular project are amazing. Driven, keen, available, and most of all we all desire to achieve the same goal, this is the best kind of partnership, and so when it comes to research I am comfortable my group will only help me. (I will discuss the presentation of my group’s research in my next blog post.) Rabiger discusses how films are made collaboratively and that with like-minded people, partnership in research can really boost a production. Having a differing point of view may even prove as a positive as it reveals more options for the direction of a film to go, directions one person may fail to ever think of. This section has not made me change my mind fully on collaborative group work as the positives only apply if the group you are in are also productive, keen individuals, but it has opened my eyes to the opportunities considering someone else’s point of view may give.

A sample subject for discussion

“Before shooting anything, find out whether such an idea is feasible.” pp.226. This is the basic idea of this sub-heading, once you have an idea, find out if it can work and how to make it work. In my own idea, the largest stumbling block will probably be the availability of buskers to interview. I am filming on public ground, as that is where the buskers are, and so permission to film in a location should not be an issue, (I have discussed this in depth in my presentation blog post). Rabiger does raise a good point here, that one’s research will prove any logistical or monetary difficulties that may arise in filming one’s documentary.

Research relationships

This is to merely keep an open mind in listening to other’s input into your film. When describing the film idea be specific, Rabiger says, but allow room for thought, the person you are talking to may have a better idea or a different angle you had not considered. (Thanks Rabiger!) This is again an aspect I find troubling, not due to ability but due to personal lack of people skills! To openly discuss what I am doing is difficult but I understand the need for input from other people in my group or just other people n general. Rabiger spends the remainder of this sub-heading describing how to talk to a subject about your film, common knowledge to some, but I shall be sure to follow this closely.

The value of assigning metaphorical roles

This is the best section so far! In this section, Rabiger addresses the narrative side of the production by suggesting to assign roles to characters in one’s documentary. “You want your story to contain the characters, passions, atmospheres, and struggle proper to any human tale” pp.229. I have touched on this idea before in the week 3 reading log from Chapmans Issues in Contemporary Documentary, Chapter one. At the end of the day, the film is just that, a film, and thus needs engaging characters who play a role in the plot in order to keep maximum audience engagement. It is also important for the characters to portray the purpose of the film. For example, if I wanted to make the audience pity a child, I would use all aspects of cinema to make them look vulnerable and upset, through a high-angle shot to minimise the subject’s size in frame, mise-en-scene to indicate his isolation and so on… This child would play the metaphorical role I have designed for them to play at the point in the documentary where I wanted to elicit a feeling of sympathy/pity from the viewer.

How people alter in front of a camera

This was an odd sub-heading I thought on first glossing over the chapter but it is an important aspect of documentary to address. This is something we covered in a workshop during interview techniques, how to interview a subject and get the best footage from it. My documentary tutor described good posture and an open/inviting body language is the best way to make your interviewee comfortable. As Rabiger says interviewees may come across as a show-off or instead clam up from sheer nervousness.” This is obviously a big no-no. Having questions ready and being confident in asking them is not mentioned as a way to relax an interviewee, but I think these actions are integral to evoke the best interview from somebody you are able to.

The necessity of a working hypothesis

I have explicitly stated in the ‘My idea’ post that the idea for my documentary will be one that is subject to change and will be ever adapting. This could be due to new discoveries if the subject of a film is contemporary, something could affect it such as an ongoing war, a bomb could drop which could not be known beforehand by a documentary maker. Most of all a documentary and the filming f it is research into the subject itself and with new information, a filmmaker may have discovered an entirely new direction for their film previously not even considered. Rabiger does say something here that I disagree with, “write out the minimum your film must express.” pp.234. To me, this is a silly idea for the reasons I have described above. New data could drastically change your own perception of the subject you are filming and influence you to take the film in an entirely different direction! (One of the rare occasions I find myself disagreeing with Rabiger!) But I do agree with the idea of a working hypothesis.

Narrative

Rabiger then goes on to talk about narrative structure in a documentary film which I feel could be its own chapter.

The need for development, conflict and confrontation

I feel like I have discussed this in week two’s reading log, in the same book but chapter eleven, under the sub-heading, ‘Locating the story pressures and “Raising the stakes”‘, but it is a key to a narrative. In fact, it is a narrative. From Edward Branigan, Narrative Comprehension and Film, London: Routledge, 1992; p. 3

“Narrative is a way of organizing spatial and temporal data into a cause-effect chain of events with a beginning, middle and end that embodies a judgement about the nature of events as well as demonstrates how it is possible to know, and hence to narrate, the events.”

This is quite a long section but it easily summed up by the dramatic curve or through Todorov’s theory of equilibrium (as I learned previously).

The Dramatic Curve

The Dramatic Curve
As seen on page 236 in Rabiger’s (2004) ‘Directing the Documentary’

This is a simplistic diagram of the narrative arc one should hope to achieve in a documentary film, or any film for that matter. I have previously used Todorov’s theory of equilibrium which follows the pattern: Equilibrium, dis-equilibrium, realisation, restoration of equilibrium and a new/re-established equilibrium. These two are generally the same principle, however for a documentary I do prefer the dramatic curve. This is split also into three acts; act 1 the exposition to the inciting moment, act 2 the rising action and climax and act 3 the resolution and re-establishment of an equilibrium.

I feel the diagram expresses all I could explain about the theory but I shall need to consider this structure when drawing up my own narrative, this will make editing and story construction that much less taxing.

Dramas in miniature

This is a small sub-heading in the narrative section of this chapter explaining the dramatic significance of a scene. This is a concept I have been taught through my study of fiction film, that a scene must have this dramatic curve structure in order to keep viewership and entertainment at maximum. (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5V-k-p4wzxg ‘Who wins this scene’). What Rabiger is trying to communicate here is the fact of cinema, that if a scene has now dramatic curve, it has no resolution and thus has no purpose.

Looking for beats and dramatic units

Rabiger describes a beat as “when you see someone go through a moment of irreversible change of consciousness … you are seeing a beat” pp.238. A beat is a seminal moment in a film that changes the audience’s perception of the narrative or of a character. For instance in my film about a busker, the set up could be the reinforcing the belief that buskers are poor and asking for any change they can have, so a beat in my film would be to reverse this stereotype and present a busker working for the love of music, not because they have to work, but because they are following their passion for music. I could reveal this in a number of ways through a dramatic unit. Defined again by Rabiger as including:

  • The initiation of a new issue
  • Complications that escalate pressures
  • Apex of confrontation
  • The beat – a change of consciousness in one character that initiates a new issue and the onset of a new dramatic unit

pp.238

A scene can contain one or many dramatic units but I believe too many units overload the viewer with information, and force narrative upon them too quickly without an opportunity to consider the film altering information that is in front of them. This is a small dramatic curve and you wouldn’t have multiple entire dramatic curves in a film, would you? Of course not.

Exposition, facts and narration

The final sub-heading for this weeks Rabiger chapter is the conglomeration of narrative and how a film’s story and plot is built. Compiling facts about your subject: important dates, names of locations, names of important figures, ages and relationships will not only help you in pre-production to plan filming, it will also make the use of narration in a documentary void. This makes the outcome all the more professional as the information is not force fed to the viewer, they are given the opportunity to comprehend information without explicit spoon-feeding. Rabiger finishes off the entire chapter with, what I think, is the purpose of research, “Images and characters may supply all vital information that is needed”. pp.239. With the proper amount of research into a subject, one can plan, produce and edit a film with only minor hassle.

 

Sheila Curran Bernard – Story basics

This is a relatively short chapter on composing a story, the relevant information to include and how the narrative should be laid out. It goes into the history of story describing it’s Greek theatre origins as well as define some story-telling terms. (I shall try not to repeat information I have previously stated).

Exposition

Bernard describes exposition as the establishment of character and plot in a story. A lot of the information she describes I have previously stated, but one point of exposition I have not covered is the when key information should be given out which she describes, “there is an art to giving out key information at the right moment … offered at the right time, exposition enriches our understanding of characters and raises the stakes in their stories” pp.16. I will have to consider this heavily when making my film. It is only going to be around 4 minutes long, but this means I shall have to plan when I want to reveal the twist and at what point I want to establish new characters into my narrative. As Rabiger describes in the previous log the idea of beats in a production (see above).

Themes

This seems a simplistic point, even to someone who does not study film, but in fact I think it is the most important. Knowing the themes of your work, as Bernard is not speaking specifically about documentary here, is integral to any filmmaker in how a scene, a sequence and even a single shot is filmed. For example in my own work, to convey the themes of isolation a busker may have, I would need to shoot to reflect this. A single long shot to isolate my subject, a telephoto lens with a shallow focus to separate the busker from passers-by and make them stand out from everyone else etc. These are all aspects I would need to think about before going out to shoot, to make sure I had say a lens with a low f/1.8 aperture to create an extremely shallow depth of field. Knowing key thematic points in one’s documentary before shooting is the only way to plan to film these which is integral to convey your purpose as a filmmaker and get across the desired effect.

Plot and character

Bernard describes a films story as, “either plot or character driven” pp.19. Plot driven films being films in which the plot directs the story and the characters are simply there reacting to the changing circumstances, whereas a character driven film is derives action from the wants and needs of the characters. Bernard goes on to describe how documentary rides this line not favouring one or the other, so as a filmmaker I was allowed to choose and I found it a difficult choice. I feel I did not want a star busker in my film as busking is a community, anyone can busk, so I suppose my story would be pot driven, but the issue here is that, what plot. In the end I decided on character driven but the most varied characters I could find. I want to capture the variety of busking, that it is an inclusive community activity, and thus my story will be character driven, not by one person, but by many buskers.

Point of view

This is the perspective from which a story is told. This is key in directing audience interpretations, as I said in the previous paragraph, to make the audience feel a certain way is the goal of a documentary. I will need to plan and film according to the point of view I want the audience to see from, in my case seeing busking as a surviving from of entertainment and the community around busking. This is why I will shoot and edit my film from the point of view of the busker and not of the public, as the public will be watching the documentary and do not appreciate having their view forced upon them. The audience want to create their own opinions on all topics but they have not see the point of view of a busker before and this will make my film unique and hopefully re-watchable.

All aspects of filmmaking define point of view from camera angles, lens type, lighting, framing to editing and all aspects of post production. This means when filming it is integral that I know the exact point of view I need to convey in each section of the film to create my desired meaning of the film overall. I believe a good effect to establish that I want to convey the film from the point of view of a busker is to first establish the character with familiar shots, from the point of view of the public, and then transition into shots from the point of view of a busker once this character is firmly established. This shows the shift in perspectives and gives time for the audience to adjust to the new point of view, the one from the busker. I believe this will be the least jarring and most effect method to convey the purpose of my documentary film.

Detail

This is merely a section on mise-en-scéne (the process of setting a stage with regard to placement of actor, scenery, properties, etc. from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/mise-en-scene). This is how an audience understand a character purely based on scene. The props, body-language, facial expressions and clothing all signify facts about the characters in a scene/shot. This is something I have to consider less, I am not setting up any shots as I want to capture buskers as naturally as I can on the streets. Still I must be aware of what is included in each shot e.g the collection of donations, if they have any social media links, the state of their clothing, which can say a whole lot about a subject, etc.

A satisfactory ending

A lot of the rest of this chapter was either repeating what I have already discussed on this blog or only applied to stories in fiction films, but this section I feel applies to all film narratives.

“A satisfactory ending, or resolution, is often one that feels both unexpected and inevitable. It must resolve the one story you set out to tell” pp.30. This is true among all cinema I feel. The final point of the narrative curve must be satisfactory resolution, if the film went no-where then what would be the point of making it? The story must be like a conclusion to an essay, wrap up all points of the story told and pose questions the audience must consider, (a good conclusion anyway). This is perhaps different to a fiction film conclusion where an audience may what all points clarified, because a good documentary should pose questions for the audience to consider they may not have in the past. I would never argue the point that there should be no conclusion and the audience have full power to decided on all fronts what meaning they take away from the film as there is no direction here. Instead offer a conclusion to an argument while leaving questions that give further thought into your subject matter. As Bernard argues, “ending a film … does not necessitate wrapping up all loose ends or resolving things in a way that is up-beat” pp.30.

In conclusion

Follow a narrative arc, establish characters, remember point of view and always consider what you want the audience to consider at every second of your documentary film, and after. Convey the purpose you desire at every turn.

(Good readings this week!)

 

 

 

 

 

The Presentation

The presentation of my idea

I shall split this post into several sections so I ‘cover all bases’ of my idea, such as:

  • Location + access
  • Technical elements of filming + How to avoid issues
  • What the film will consist of
  • Other documentary makers work

I shall also attempt not to repeat myself from the post of my actual idea entitled, ‘My idea’, which is at the top of my homepage. (This was accompanied by a slideshow that I will not link off to as it contains all the points I shall make in this post.)

Location

The biggest issue most people faced in proposing their ideas in week two was of access to their film’s subject. For my group and I this is not a concern as buskers are on the street among the public, trying to get watched/listened to. This means filming permission is not required as the grounds are all public, and access to a busker is not difficult to attain. This is also easier for a documentary film as it’s purpose is to reflect and document and reflect reality so the mise-en-scéne will reflect this.

Technical aspects + How to avoid issues

As we are filming outside, the elements are sometimes going to be against us. Issues may arise with the weather such as rain, and we can get around this by bringing an umbrella or checking the weather before filming that day (pretty groundbreaking stuff really).

With the time of filming, Winter, days are getting shorter so we may face issues of losing light at an earlier time, people who are busking may work shorter days, or may not come out in the cold weather. We can get around the losing light by simply filming earlier on multiple days but buskers not coming out in the cold could really be a negative for our documentary as our film relies on them.

One small issue may also be if the buskers in question do not want to be filmed. This I feel will not be common as the buskers are in public performing music and so I doubt will be camera shy. However, this may be an issue that is difficult to get around.

What the film will feature

We wanted to focus on a particular busker, so the film will have an interview with him, but this will be the only interview. If we are able to locate a social media expert, we may include an interview with them, but we did not want our film to just be a lot of micro-interviews with the public. We are trying to gauge the public’s opinion on buskers and the sustainability of busking as a profession, but I feel a conglomeration of interviews would not make an interesting film to watch.

Other documentarians work

I researched three different documentarians and how their works varied.

Michael Moore

‘Bowling for Columbine’ (2002), is about the amount of gun violence and death in America, especially in relation to the Columbine school massacre. Michael Moore interviews all people around the subject, from those supporting his argument to those in opposition, the NRA in this case. I do think he doesn’t always fully listen to an opposing opinion the same way other documentarians do. He sometimes seems to have an agenda when making his documentaries, he does not remain neutral. ‘Bowling for Columbine’ does look at many aspects of gun violence in America however, from television to the police to comparisons with other countries such as Canada to understand the multiple variables affecting his subject matter.

Ava DuVernay

13th’ (2016) Talks through a history of the ill-treatment of black people in America. The documentary interviews experts on black history with inserts of news clips and from contextual film and music. The story of history is told through these experts interviews. The film is more informative than Michael Moore’s agenda filled documentaries.

George Butler and Robert Fiore’s work

Pumping iron’ (1977), follows a particular person, Arnold Schwarzenegger, through his experience at the gym, why he is a Mr. Olympia competitor and what good he does. George Butler then follows a few other competitors in the competition including Mike Katz and importantly Lou Ferrigno. Lou Ferrigno gives the docudrama a narrative. He challenges Arnold Schwarzenegger as a narrative hero almost, trying to defeat the defending champion. An underdog. George Butler and Robert Fiore do not get involved in the film the way that Michael Moore does, approaching the film as either a fly on the wall or as an interviewer.

 

Week 5 Reading

Week 5 Reading log

The Reading:

  • Rabiger, M. (2004) Directing the Documentary, London: Focal Press. Ch.20: Camera Equipment and Shooting Procedure

With information from:

This was reading week for all disciplines. There was limited reading material as there was no workshop or lecture to read on and so this week was used to get me more prepared for actually shooting the film.

Camera equipment

The chapter opens with describing that “good documentaries can still be made with modest equipment” pp.287, and this is a sentiment I have always agreed with. The most common excuse for not filming is ‘ugh my equipment can’t do X’ or ‘Isn’t good at Y’. As long as one has a device that films, one can make a film. This chapter will hopefully cover all of the technical sides to the practicality of filming and not simply the variation of equipment (as I only have access to the equipment provided to me). It is also important to note that this book was originally published in 1987, therefore some of the detail and modern advances may be out of date for 2017.

Camera Body

This section describes the shoulder mounted camera is the best for documentary shooting as most documentary films are shot hand-held, Rabiger cites the Éclair NPR film camera here, “The last models designed by Eclair in the early-1980s came too late to save the company from bankruptcy and were hardly produced” (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eclair_(company) ). This is obviously out of date but some of the ideas are still useful to note, such as the inclusion of a fold-out colour screen which can be tilted vertically to frame a subject from where ever the camera operator is. This is an aspect of the Sony xdcam pxw-x70 camcorder 1080p, the camera I am filming my documentary with. The addition of this fold out screen is perfect to frame shots in the exact way I choose.

Lens

This section is again full of interesting information about the size of a lens to remove instability, how to use focal length to a filmmakers advantage and so on, but I do not have the option to change out the lens of my camera for each scene or shot. In some ways, this makes filming easier as I do not have to worry about disorienting changes in a shot which can happen with a constantly changing lens, however it does mean that I do not have the range to get an effect I may desire. For instance, if I wanted to use a wide angle lens in a small room to show the audience as much as possible, I would not be able to do this. I understand the importance of lenses and focal lengths, but I am unable to take advantage of this feature of a camera for my documentary.

Exposure control, Gain & Colour balance

Rabiger stresses the importance of manual exposure in this section, how f-stops should be used to maintain a shot’s exposure, this is an important note for focus too. Automatic focus and automatic exposure will attempt to adapt to a shot as it changes, the example Rabiger gives is of a woman in a white dress walking through the scene. The exposure should be kept steady throughout the shot to maintain audience engagement, any noticeable change in the films exposure will take the audience right out of the film.

Rabiger notes the importance of white balancing. This is to resent the camera’s knowledge of true white in a scene as the warmth of two locations may differ, cold blue white in one location is opposite to a warm yellow white in another. He does admit automatic white balancing may be useful when tracking a subject “walking through different colour zones in, for instance, an airport.” pp.291

Gain on a camera is another way of getting light into an image. An increase in picture noise is a by-product of adding gain and so if this is not essential the feature should be avoided. This I don’t think will be an issue for me however, as I am shooting outside or in set-up indoor locations, light should never be an issue for me in my documentary.

Power supplies

The Sony xdcam pxw-x70 camcorder uses a “DC In: 8.4 V, Battery: 6.8 V / 7.2 V” according to its website. ( https://www.sony.co.uk/pro/product/broadcast-products-camcorders-xdcam/pxw-x70/ ) The shooting time for this battery I believe is around 120 minutes. As I am only allowed the camera overnight, I am not concerned with battery life.

Camera support systems

One camera support system I do have access to is a tripod, yay! This will give me the ability to film static shots, choosing the hight and angle of the camera to frame my subject how I need to exactly. I do not have any high-tech equipment such as a hydraulically damped tilt heads so tracking shots may be ‘wobbly’ as they will all be human controlled. Rabiger has tips for the budget filmmaker in here too such as using a wheelchair as a dolly or simply shooting outside of a car when a track-dolly is out of the budget. (As my film has no budget I may utilise some of these tips).

I do have a spreader or a spider which is a bracket attached to each leg of a tripod used for stabilisation and for preventing the legs spreading out or “denting an expensive floor” pp.292. I again do not have access to a wide range of equipment and have no budget to spend on the film at all. I am limited to the equipment I have and my imagination for how to use it.

Shooting logs

Rabiger gets into how to shoot effectively and get the shots you need. He lays out two types of log:

  • Camera log, to get the shots in order and ensure all the shots needed are filmed
  • and a sound log, to do the same, but for sound

Logs in action

Rabiger discusses a higher budget shoot than mine with multiple cameras. For my shoot, the log will be used to check the shots I have already filmed and those shots I still need to film as I have only one camera. The sound log will be an interesting exercise to take part in as I have not used one before, previously I have used the sound in the shot, used music over the film or recorded all ambient sound to use over what I need to. I have never used a sound log, and am excited to be so professional.

In Conclusion

A lot of this section did not apply to my film in particular as I have no budget, cannot choose my equipment and am limited in the amount of my film I can alter. However, I this section fascinated me as the procedures and choices Rabiger lays out in this section apply to professional shoots. In the future when I have more control over the technology used in my film, and a budget, I shall revisit chapter 20 of Rabiger’s Directing the Documentary. Next week is back to full reading and getting into production of my documentary film. Finally!

Week 6 Reading

Week 6 Reading Log

The Reading:

  • Rabiger, M. (2004) Directing the Documentary, London: Focal Press. Ch.9 Critical Writing

There is only one short chapter this week as presentations were set in the workshop, to see this, see my post called ‘my presentation‘. I was also told to start filming shots to be used in my final documentary film, (Very exciting) and so began doing this also this week, to see more see a future post on ‘Filming the documentary’.

Critical writing

Rabiger opens this chapter by discussing the importance of critical writing, how it makes you pay attention to all aspects of a documentary film and provides the opportunity to learn from that film, what it does well and what it does not. Critical writing should not just be reporting on the film in question, it should be to view that film again in an analytical light and to inform the person you’re addressing with new information as so they can view the film in a new way. The style should be “in clear, direct, formal, active-voice prose” pp.114.

Rabiger lays out the guidelines for critical or analytical writing on page 114, that it should;

  • “Give detailed examples from the films or texts to illustrate your views, but doesn’t assume the reader knows the films in any detail
  • Seek support for its views from other critics but take issue with aspects with which you disagree
  • Give citations, either as footnotes or endnotes, for any ideas you borrowed or any quotations you have reproduced”

Projects

The next two sections are tasks Rabiger has set for the reader to complete as an introduction to analyse documentary film. Rabiger lays out his ideal for analysing first film structure and style and then the director’s dramatic vision.

Analysing a documentary for structure and style

  1. Stop after each sequence to record the details most important to one’s analysis, such as mise-en-scène, lighting, audio etc.
  2. Define the beginning and end points of each sequence giving it a tag description and calculating its length
  3. Write a description of the documentary’s content
  4. After compiling these, the film’s structure will be an easy trend to locate. Pointing out the integral sections you can divide the film into its acts
  5. The film’s style should also be an easy trend to spot after tagging each section of the film
  6. Finally, Rabiger discuss’ mentioning “the thematic impact of the film and its overall effectiveness” pp. 114

Analysing a director’s thematic vision

This section is quite a detailed method to analyse a director’s thematic vision which I shall attempt not to simply plagiarise while describing the method Rabiger discuss’.

  1. See a wide variety of the director’s body of work, this will reveal trends the director follows
  2. Note the feeling evoked by these films
  3. Assemble relevant articles and essays on the director’s body of work
  4. Re-watch the chosen few films from the director of your study this time taking notes of each sequence (see above.)
  5. On writing this thematic case study of a director body of work, add in biographical information that may have influenced them,
    • The director’s personal and professional past
    • The director’s intended influence for the audience’s, perspective
    • The level of social awareness of the films in question
    • The degree that the films anticipate the audience’s reactions to their sequence’s and the success of the director’s use of this information
    • How successful the visual and aural aspects of the film are in conveying the director’s purpose
    • And finally, how the viewer’s (your) own attitudes to the subject matter influenced their (your) understanding of the director’s thematic vision

In Conclusion

This weeks reading was very short, for reasons laid out in the opening of this post, yet this is an important aspect of documentary filmmaking to cover, especially for someone who desires a future in film journalism. Critical writing is something I have covered in my Film analysis course and Issue in European Cinema course, but it is still something I struggle with in my film career and hope to get better at in the future. Critical analysis and critical writing are endevourse I will likely puruse going forward in film as these are the aspects of cinema that I struggle with the most. (I love a challenge.)

Week 7 Reading

Week 7 Reading log

The editor is really the second director. pp.408

Readings:

  • Rabiger, M. (2004) Directing the Documentary, London: Focal Press. 29: Post-Production begins
  • Kerrigan, S. & McIntyre, P. (2010) The ‘creative treatment of actuality’: Rationalizing and reconceptualizing the notion of creativity for documentary practice, Journal of Media Practice, 11:2, 111-130

This week was a brief workshop on getting to terms with Adobe’s ‘Premiere Pro’. This was not too difficult for me as I have used this programme for some years and am capable when it comes to editing using it. This week was a good time to storyboard and get shot-lists done.

Directing the Documentary – Postproduction begins

This chapter should address the importance of postproduction, the role of the editor and the importance of preparation.

Editing: Role and responsibilities

Rabiger begins by relating the difference between big and low-budget documentaries editing. Big budget films have the luxury to edit from the start of shooting so the film is edited while more is being shot but for low-budget documentary films as mine is, cutting the film together will all be done once all the scenes have been shot. There is a risk here that errors in the shooting are only revealed after shooting is wrapped, and thus there is no way to rectify these problems.

Rabiger stresses the importance of an editor to the technical and creative process. Editing is the final place for a project to alter before it is released and this can cause conflict if the director and editor do not understand each other’s visions. Films can be made or lost in the edit. “The good editor is articulate, patient, highly organized, willing to experiment endlessly, and diplomatic about trying to get his or her own way” pp.408.

Creative contributions

This section is quite interesting as I have never thought about it before. Rabiger says how editors can see the true potential of a cinematic piece as their ‘eyes are fresh’ to the footage, they see the film with an “unobligated and unprejudiced eye” pp.408. I have always edited films I have directed in the past. The closest I’ve come to not having total control of my own creative vision is when I have been working with one other co-editor. This documentary I am directing and editing myself so I am still not giving up directorial power, but this idea is scary to me going into more filmmaking. I like having the power!

I am working in a team for this exercise so not all of the decisions in the edit will be down to me. This is something I shall have to get used to going further into film production, as Rabiger says, “the editor is really the second director” pp.408.

Partnership

Coming straight after my inability to give up creative power, this is quite fitting! This section is an important one for me in particular as it addresses the obsessive director who watches the editors every action. Luckily I am in a small group of only 4, including me, and have good editing experience. I shall allow my team to input as I am aware my ideas are not always going to be the best, having a group of people on the edit will allow for four times the original ideas. Rabiger also discusses the nature of editing scrutinisation. “every scene, shot and even cut is scrutinised, questioned, weighed and balanced” pp.408. I feel this will only be exacerbated by having 4 group members all over the same film, but I’m glad to get a variety of input to my film.

Director-editors

This chapter now seems aimed at me. “Often the real reason is a fear of sharing control and the conviction that no unified film will be possible” pp.409. This is important to note and as I have said above in partnership I am excited to have outside input and to give control slightly to those in my group as their filmic experience has differed from mine and thus they will have different ideas to me. Rabiger has an interesting idea here, that the editor is the first proxy between director and audience.

This section highlights the importance of giving up creative power and allowing a fresh-eyed editor to make his or her mark on a piece of work, an intermediary between the director and audience. I am in a small group so I cannot simply hand over editing to someone else, however I shall be open to all of my group’s ideas for the edit as I was for filming the documentary.

Editing: Process and procedures

This sections opening is a sales pitch for ‘Avid’, a video editing software, however I am already versed in Adobe’s Premiere Pro CC and that is the software on the computers I am editing my documentary film on. As Rabiger says, Premiere Pro CC is ‘backed by a large company’ and is modestly priced to suit its low-end consumer market.

From my own experience, I would also recommend Premiere Pro for a few reasons:

  1. There are plenty of online guides that make it easier for a beginner to learn how to edit
  2. It has the functionality to be used by those starting to edit but also those well versed in editing
  3. It is in the Adobe product line so works well with other Adobe products such as ‘Illustrator’, ‘Photoshop’ and ‘After effects’

For non-linear editing (NLE) I am happy to use Adobe’s Premiere Pro.

A Postproduction Overview

This section is very detailed in its description of the post-production process. To try and summarise would be difficult without overtly plagiarising the entire thing.

The section discusses the stages of the editing process and warns of possible complications such as the difference between PAL (phase alternating line) and NTSC (National Television System Committee). Since I am filming on one type of camera there shouldn’t be a format complication. From here straight to viewing.

Viewing

It is important that the crew, director and editor all see the raw dailies. This helps all learn from their mistakes. This is also a good opportunity to sit back and try and view the footage as a first time viewer. Any little slight issues you have noticed and maybe tried to overlook, see now, as these will be the big segments of the film that stand out to an audience.

I definitely understand Rabiger here. From the filming I have been doing so far, I can see that I need to have more ambient audio. Not only does this give the shots more presence, but it gives me more options for cutting around and using the backing audio from one shot into another, creating and audio-bridge. This was only revealed to me in post on reviewing the dailies. To attempt to rectify this I have since gone back to the locations and re-shot scenes or simply recorded ambient sound audio. Upon coming to edit my film, ‘the more footage the better’ as my A-level film teacher always said.

A lot of this section is seemingly quite obvious for example taking notes and reactions. However, this is somewhat new to me. Having directed, shot and edited all of my films before, having a group of peoples input will be an interesting new experience for me. An aspect I really hate from filming may arise as quite popular, or visa-versa a shot filmed by someone else they might like but the rest of the group isn’t so fond. This is an important section to put in by Rabiger as it addresses another final aspect to filmmaking before the film is released that most audiences would not consider.

Preparing the footage

Rabiger ends this chapter by noting the importance of Logging dailiesmaking transcripts and selecting transcripts.

Logging dailies

The first of these logging dailies is a tedious job but an important one. In professional shoots, there is a clapperboard with the take number on it and the camera location from the floor plan, however for my documentary, as we are recording real life, we do not have this luxury. There are shots I want to get that I have talked more about in my post on storyboards and shot lists, but logging the dailies for me while be looking at each shot and labelling what it is of. E.g:

  1. LS Woman with headphones – 0:00:15
  2. CU Busker playing the piano – 0:00:42
  3. MCU of the main Busking interviewee – 0:14:37

and so on. This process will make editing a whole lot easier as the panic to find ‘that shot with the busker who was playing that piano’ will be logged with the type of shot, Close-up (CU), what the shot is of and the shots duration, in this case 42 seconds (0:00:42). In old footage on reels the time stamps had to follow on from the last so the section above would look like:

  1. 01:00:00 LS Woman with headphones
  2. 01:00:15 CU Busker playing the piano
  3. 01:00:57 MCU of the main busking interviewee

and so on. Nowadays, with all footage being digital, this is not necessary but the process of logging dailies is essential to a swift editing process.

Making transcripts

This is another tedious means to make the editing process faster. A transcript is a list of all that was said in an interview by the interviewee and the interviewer. Writing down everything that was said is a boring task that takes forever, but it is seminal when coming to cut the interview into sections. For example for the practise interview I did with Sam about his first days at Sussex, I did not use a transcript and simply remembered when I had asked each question. This was a brief interview and finding the correct order to give the film a better flow was not hard, but even still if the interview had been transcribed I could have created a paper edit of the interview and read it allowed to see the flow. This would have saved me a lot of time when it came to putting the interview together. For an interview that is much longer as they can be in professional films, it would be impossibly slow to edit the footage without a transcript or paper edit.

It is also important to do as trends in an interviewees speech may arise. For instance, if they discussed the same topic at two separate points in their interview, then this would be seen with a transcription and a paper edit could put them together. Then one could see where this section would best be suited in the film as a whole. This could happen without a transcription just by watching the interview over and over again in the editing software, but that would take an age! Much faster to dedicate a short time to transcribing the interviews and then making a paper edit.

Paper edit
Rabiger, M. (2004) Directing the Documentary, London: Focal Press. pp.418

The next chapter will discuss the paper edit in detail

In Conclusion

I shall give up my compulsion for power in the editing process, watch and label all the dailies and make a paper edit for my interviews and entire film. I have obviously edited before and each time I have found issues in my editing, perfect. In editing you should make each mistake once. I hope I have learnt from every bad decision I have made in editing and I intend not to make any this time around. There are a lot of aspects of this film that are more professional than films I have worked on before, such as the paper edit and so on, and I am excited and a little nervous to do things how they are done in the industry.

Editing is usually my favourite part of filmmaking. It is less stressful than the filming and pre-production idea making and its done inside where its warm. All jokes aside, The edit is where the film comes together. All the filmed scenes and b-roll is combined to make the actual film that will be seen by an audience. Getting all aspects of the edit correct may be difficult as sections can often be long and tenuous, like transcribing and logging dailies, but so far I have transcribed all the interviews I have done and logged all the footage I have filmed so far. This will hopefully make the editing process a swift and painless endevor and not a mad rush at the end. (But isn’t there always a mad rush to finish a film?)

 

 

 

Storyboard and Shot-list

As this is a documentary recording real life it would not be possible to predict exactly the shots I would be able to get. However, I did have an idea of the type of shots I wanted to get if I was able to best present the sides of busking I wanted to show.

Below are my initial shot-list and storyboard for my documentary film.

My Shot-list

  1. LS of a busker alone
  2. LS of a busker being ignored
  3. CU of a buskers social media
  4. Wide angle shot of the public walking around Brighton
  5. MCU of a busker I am interviewing
  6. Panning Mid-shots of instruments (probably guitars due to their frequency among buskers)
  7. LS of a homeless person sleeping
  8. MS of a homeless person sleeping (If possible)
  9. Long-establishing shot of exterior of the GAK building where the interview will be held with the international busker and colleague
  10. CU of busker playing instrument
  11. Mid-Shot from behind playing busker to get public reactions to the busker
  12. Mid-shot & LS of the public wearing headphones
  13. Long-shot of public tapping a foot or visually enjoying the music
  14. LS of a member of the public giving to a busker (preferably a child due to the innocent connotations they carry)
  15. CU of money in a busker’s hat/guitar case/ bucket etc.

These are the main shots I wanted to shoot that I felt would add to my documentary’s narrative. I felt these shots would humanise the buskers I filmed and present the issues of homelessness in Brighton. I also wanted to establish Brighton as a place and the GAK (guitars, amps & Keyboards) building as a new location too.

Storyboard

For a fiction film, this would be all shots in a film in order showing what will come after what. As I have said, a documentary film is a capture of reality in video, therefore it is impossible to predict what shots will be and in which order but I can present an ideal of my film.

My draft storyboard:

Storyboard

These are a few of the shots I have discussed in my shot-list.

  1. The establishing shot to begin with., it sets the place for the viewer. I have used a wide long-shot to present as much information as possible.
  2. The long-shot of the busker. This shows the topic of the film for the audience.
  3. The close-up of the instrument, this elaborates on the previous shot as an insert-shot. It gives context to the theme of the documentary and signifies music’s importance in the world of busking, not just money. This is a thematic debate, doing it for the money VS. doing it for the music, which I hope my film will address.
  4. This shot establishes the change in location to the GAK (Guitars, Amps & Keyboards) building. It is also used to establish the new character, the professional busker.
  5. The mid-shot of the main interviewee of this documentary. This shot is most common in professional documentary sitting interviews. I want to get the instruments behind him as this will reinforce the thematic significance of music in busking. This shot I feel is imperative to my documentary film. Not only because his opinion and answers will influence how I film the documentary but also because it gives the audience a still point to relax. He is a constant in the ever-moving film of people or musicians. A lot of my film will be on the street and thus this still is rarely achieved.
  6. The long-shot of a sleeping homeless person I also feel is imperative to my documentary. This shows the other side of joblessness and asking the public for money. A major plot point of my film will be the difference between busking and begging, between rewarding performance and giving from pity. This will be the twist/turning point of my documentary after the happy opening of the positives of busking and street performing.
  7. This long-shot of a member of the public tapping his/her feet in time to music was one recommended by the tutor for my film. It shows a level of engagement and enjoyment with music. This is a shot I had not considered before but I feel now it would add a level of audience connection to the film’s topic as this is a common action all people have done.
  8. The final shot is one I may not keep in the final film. It is a close-up of a buskers social media (if I am able to find one). The reason I now debate having this in the film is that the original twist of my film was supposed to be the proliferation of online medias killing live performance and busking, however after my research I have found that this is not true. Buskers and street performers are still as popular as they have been. In fact, the internet has only helped these people out to reach a wider audience. (I have actually filmed this shot just in case, so I have the option).

In Conclusion

This shot-list was helpful when it came to shooting my documentary film out in Brighton as I knew the shots I needed to get to give my film a narrative and I could see what shots I already had. It also gave me a base to work off of. Any extra shots I got whilst out filming were ideas spawned from my shot-list and storyboard.

Week 8 Reading

Week 8 Reading Log

These last three reading logs, weeks 7, 8 and 9, all cover editing. I am currently in the process of editing my film so will hopefully update these posts with screenshots where relevant, of the actual edit of my documentary film.

Readings:

  • Rabiger, M. (2004) Directing the Documentary, London: Focal Press. Ch.32 Editing: The Process of Refinement

The problem of achieving a flow

Before even reading the chapter I reckon this will be the most useful section for me. Making the paper edit after wrapping shooting when I knew all the questions and answers to my interviews and knowing all the cutaways I had too, the process was probably the hardest bit of the entire documentary making.

Paper edit
Rough Paper edit

This is the final decided order of my documentary film. It should follow the dramatic curve, discussed in week 4 Ch.16: Research Leading Up to the Shoot on page 236. This obviously is just the flow and the answer order in my film not including all the related cutaway footage which goes with each question.

As Rabiger discusses in this section, “it will increasingly strike you as chunky blocks of material having a dreadful lack of flow” pp.434, upon the first edit. This could not be truer.

The next section named ‘How editing mimics consciousness’ confuses me. Rabiger talks about observing characters in a scene and how an audience’s perspective shifts from each person to the other. This seems an odd point to put in the section on editing and refinement thereof.

Looking at and looking through

This section I disagreed with from the offset. I know, who am I to say Rabiger is wrong, but for my film, I feel this technique would turn my expository documentary into a performative or participatory documentary, with a guide. I think this as the opening to this section discusses three observational positions. One point of view (POV) from each participant and a long shot including both participants. Rabiger does say, “the audience can identify with either one of the characters” pp.435, which I require in my film, but the idea of a second perspective from another character just feels like it would not be in place in my documentary film. It is never the less an interesting idea, perhaps for another documentary film in the future I desire to make, but not for this particular film.

Editing rhythms: An analogy in music

In this section, Rabiger uses music as an analogy to relate the flow an edit should follow. The flow of conversation is similar to music. A conversation that has an “ebb and flow” speeding up, fading, slowing down, restarting and so on. This is important for my edit as I want to retain the flow of video in the interview sections. I also have music in my film, as it is about buskers performing, so I am having to think about that too. Fading in and out of music playing and interviewees talking is so far the most challenging part of my film editing so far.

Unifying material into a flow

This idea of flow is pushed in every section by Rabiger as it is the key to a good film. Keeping audience engagement should be the goal of any filmmaker and maintaining a films flow is the method to achieve this.

“you will want to combine sound and action in a form that takes advantage of counterpoint techniques” pp. 436. Basically bringing audio from one clip with the visuals from another clip. Rabiger also comes on to the point of integration of clips, “Instead of alternating the two sets of materials, it would be better to integrate them” pp.437.

I feel as if a lot of this section is rather simplistic for me. Perhaps it is because I have spent a lot of time in the past editing and have studied film flow before. This section may be more suited for a person new to film as a whole who would not know about cinema’s flow because, for me, these techniques are second nature. This gives me quite a lot of hope for the editing of my film. Rabiger goes on to discuss L and J-Cuts later so I shan’t go into those here, but he does voice the plus side to this style of editing, “The total sequence is shorter and sprightlier.” pp.437.

The audience as active participants

This style of editing “Encourages [an] active rather than passive participation” by the audience. This should be the goal of any documentary film in my opinion. If one’s film bores an audience, it is a bad film. The aim of my editing is always to keep the flow up and to maintain audience engagement as much as possible. This is something to consider when filming also, for instance, the first interview I did with the GAK (Guitars, Amps & Keyboards) employee had a bright label in the shot which drew attention away from the shot’s subject, the interviewee. Luckily in editing, I was able to zoom in on my subject and so the label was no longer in the shot as this would have disturbed my audience’s attention and broken the flow of my documentary film.

Rabiger does discuss something in this section I find myself objecting to. He talks of purposeful ironic juxtapositions using this technique of counterpoint. This, he describes, is to have conflicting audio and visuals. For my film is shall attempt the exact opposite to have b-roll and cutaways at times where my interviewees are discussing these topics, to relate the interview subject to the real world. For example, if an interviewee is discussing how hard it is to make money busking, I will use a clip of a busker being ignored for his work and not making money. To use this technique of juxtaposition in my film would be to undermine the interviewee who is supposed to be a voice of authority and knowledge.

The overlap cut: Dialogue sequences & Sequence transitions

The ‘overlap cut’ is the best way to present a documentary film. To show this I have made a quick visual representation of the L and J-cut’s.

J-Cut
J-Cut
L-Cut
L-Cut

These are from a brief period piece I made recently. The L-cut to let the audio from the clip run over the next clip. The J-cut is to have the audio a clip begin over a previous clip, then to go to the clip the audio is from. I will utilise the L-cut when showing b-roll related to an interviewee’s answer to ground what they say in actual life and I will use the J-cut when establishing a new question, a new character, or coming from b-roll back to my interviewee.

Rabiger also says these editing techniques can be used over sequences, not just dialogue.

In Conclusion

I feel for my own personal learning, this weeks reading was not best suited. As I have edited before and have experience in this field, topics such as pace, style, flow and audience intrigue are all not new to me. Editing rhythm is one of the hardest aspects to nail as a first-time editor as I feel I have learned this skill over time and experience in editing.

This chapter does not cover more of the practical sides to editing such as personal workflow and the methods editors use to edit efficiently. I suppose this is for a few reasons. Editing workflow is a very personal side to editing and it also depends on which programme an editor uses. For my film, I shall be using Adobe’s Premiere Pro as I know it well, I have used it before and it is the software I am required to use for my course. However, perhaps at the time of Rabiger writing this book, the 1980s, editing would have been a totally different affair.

At this stage in my creative process, I have almost completed editing the film, as the member of my group with the most editing experience I am doing a large portion of it whilst consulting my group members for their opinions on my work. I was also present for every filming day and shot a lot my self so I am aware of the footage that I have to work with. This gives me the ability to know what footage is best suited where but like I said I am consulting with my group throughout this process. I have about three minutes of the film together, and an extra minute and 30 seconds of footage edited together which just needs to be fitted in with the rest of the film. At this stage I am concerned my film may go over the four-minute mark, but I’d rather have too much footage than not enough. Hopefully, the final edit should be complete either tomorrow or the day after and then I get a chance to show the film to an audience! Very exciting. I shall do the next reading log after I have finished the edit so the post can be self-reflexive over the editing process.