Introduction to Documentary

Introduction to Documentary

There are a number of different ways that you can choose to film a documentary. Nichols believes that they can be broken down into 6 different modes of documentary. The modes are Expository, Poetic, Observational, Participatory, Reflexive, and Performative. As I read through these various methods one really intrigued and interested me as a method I would like to experiment with in the future.

The Observational method of documentary film making can better be know as the “fly on the wall”. Differing from the other methods, in this one the film maker is taken completely out of the process.

“Social actors engage with one another, ignoring the filmmakers.” (p174)

“Almost all contemporary filmmakers who rely on interviews meet and talk to their subjects first, often pre-rehearsing what will be said on-camera to ensure, at the very least, that it is terse and coherent”. (p177)

This is one of the reasons that this method of documentary film making is so interesting to me. It allows to viewer to form their own opinions about the topic of the film. There is no narrator or outside person telling the viewer about the topic or what they want them to hear. It is more subjective and can have different effects of the different viewers who watch it.

In the editing of the process for this type of documentary there is some control for the director to guide the viewer in a direction. This may affect the perception of the viewer. The hardest part when editing is that is that it’s totally unrehearsed and you are never sure what the outcome will be. Depending on the content and context, some of what is discussed may be misinterpreted by the viewer.

There are some downfalls to this method as well. If the topic is controversial the subjects of the documentary may be painted in a bad light whether they mean to or not. The film maker is to be a bystander and not intervene but sometimes it may be necessary as you would not want anyone to be compromised or in danger though this does not always happen. Sometimes the improv of this type ends up being even more successful than you may have planned.

That is part of the reason why I think this form of documentary would be exciting. It is unpredictable in its nature and the idea that the crew may have had going into it can be changed every step of the way. The fact that a project can change and take on a mind of it own, although it may be stressful, is also really exciting. It has the potential to turn into something really great, giving the viewer the power to decide how to interpret it which can make it a more powerful piece.

-Bec

Nichols, B. (n.d.). Introduction to documentary. 1st ed. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, pp.174-177.

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Reflection

Reflection

Throughout the course of the semester I have become more confident in my decisions with each project we have done. Though I still feel that I have only just begun to scratch the surface of the things I can do, this course has helped show me the basics of shot construction, editing, camera operation, analyzing scenes, color grading and a glimpse into directing.

Each project allowed me to explore a new aspect of the film making process. Now that the course is coming to an end, I can look back and see how each project helped cover the basics.

In the interviews and vox pops I learned a lot about not only the construction but also editing. Although it was probably the most frustrating to edit, I also found that once I got something put together it was some of the most rewarding in terms of refining my skillset. Once I got into a rhythm and started to experiment with different ways of presenting the information it became fun.

Overall I have become a lot more confident in my abilities and decision making for future projects. I do wish that there would have been some more emphasis on some of the projects nearing the end of the semester as they felt a bit rushed. Looking back though, the time spent in the first half of the semester gave me the knowledge and ability to do these final projects in a shorter amount of time, while still having then be successful.

I am still a firm believer in being as well rounded as possible across roles. This course does a good job on touching the basics and setting a foundation that I can continue to build on as I continue throughout the program.

– Bec

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Forbidden Lies

Forbidden Lies

There are many different ways to build depth of sound into a film. Not all of the sounds you hear when watching a film come from the actions you see. In the case of the documentary Forbidden Lies, when you really listen you can tell various sounds that have been added along with the vocals and music tracks to the film.

In this clip, I picked up on so many different generic sounds that have been built up in post. Some of the examples include: Birds, chimes, cars, a register, a camera shutter, a rattle, rustling paper, coins, and that is just in the short three min clip. A lot of these sounds are really quite generic and could have been sourced from a website or sound bank of effects that have been collected over time.

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 9.52.51 PM

Some of the sounds that have added to the scene make a lot of sense with the image that you are seeing. For instance the birds chirping outside when they are having a picnic. There is also instances where you see typing or money and in those cases you hear the sound of a keyboard (0:57) or coins clinging together (3:00). These sounds are indicative of the imagery you see.

Other sounds, that did not necessarily go with what you were seeing, did however symbolically go with what was being said. At (2:04) the woman is talking about an indicator that something is wrong. At the same time you also hear a rattlesnakes tail which typically is used to signal that there is danger near or that something is wrong. It doesn’t seem odd or out of place when you see and hear that combination because you associate that sound with an indicator. Sounds do not always have to be used to imitate the image that you see as long as there is a reason for using it.

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 9.52.27 PM

Not all sounds are good and indicative of the sights or words that are being said.  At (0:20) the girl throws her scarf up in the air and it flows to the ground and lands behind the car. What is normally very light having little to no sound, in the film has a very heavy thud sound. I listened to it to try and figure out what it was and even tested it in my kitchen to see what it might have been. The closest thing I found to the sound was dropping a bag of rice which is definitely not at all what scarf would sound like. In this instance I think it would have been smarter to go with a different sound to use for the scarf.

If you are unable to capture sounds during the filming you can always create them in post. Just like with what I did with the bag of rice you can recreate and record sounds that will later be layered into the film. Each one of the sounds that I mentioned earlier could have been captured after the filming. The most important part when adding the sounds is post is to not make then seem out of place or cause distraction from the film itself.

– Bec

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No Direction Home

No Direction Home

After watching the opening scene of Martin Scorsese’s ‘No Direction Home’ a few times it really drives home and alludes to what this story is going to be about. It starts off with Bob Dylan in his element on stage singing his song no direction home, but quickly switches to a very dull grey image with a voice talking about the feeling of time standing still. This was my first clue to what the film was going to be about. When they paired this imagery with the narration it instantly sets a tone talking about his past.

The narrator then begins to go into the early life of Bob Dylan and his childhood home. In the house his father bought he found a guitar and an old record player that he said took him to a new place and gave him the feeling that he was born into the wrong family. You know at that point that music is going to have a huge impact on his life. It takes him out of this desolate place and that feeling of being stuck in time.

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At the age of 10 before he even knew how to play music it affected him in such a way that it made him feel as though he was someone else. Immediately it then goes into talk about the town losing its livelihood and beginning to decay. It talks about the people in the town, the ruralness of it, and that no one ever really rebels or breaks away from that routine.

I feel that it is pretty obvious in foreshadowing what the rest of the film is going to be about. You have a young boy in a town and time where no one questions or rebels; who has just come across the escape of music that takes him to another place and gives him new life. He will start to break that mold and break away from the place stuck in time to find himself through the music.

This opening scene was really creatively done and does a great job of setting up a tone for how the rest of the film will turn out. It alludes to what the story is going to be about without coming out and telling you out right. At the same time, it gives you insight to how the story of Bob Dylan all started at such a young age.

– Bec

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Interview styles

Interview styles

When doing the filming of the vox pops my group really looked for a visually interesting room with good lighting to shoot our interviews in. We ended up shooting in the rocking chair room and our footage turned out really well. They were well lit, well framed, and we were even able to blur the background slightly keeping the focus on the interviewee.

When going to cut the footage I realized that we should have tried to vary the areas a bit more to add more interest to the final video by not seeing the same room in the background the whole time. Because of that and the fact that we were only able to get a handful of interviews, I went through and chose another groups footage that has similar lighting and framing to us but in new locations.

I found that with the question prompts as well as the extra footage from the other group it was really quite fun to put together. Each person adds personality to the video so finding a good fun song really helped with the playfulness and quality of the end product.

This video has a lot going on visually having all of the different people as well as overlays and an opening tracking shot. Because of this I have chosen to keep the titling very simple to not distract or over stimulate the viewer. Even the names I chose to just do on a black background rather than overlaying it on the image. The people are not on the screen for long enough and they are constantly changing throughout which would have changed the consistency.

I actually found this part of the assessment really quite difficult. I found myself wanting to cut to a shot of listening but then there was not enough footage or the person listening would then begin to talk messing up the audio and visual. When there was a good shot with someone listening it never lasted long enough and the camera wound switch to another shot. I tried to cut it in a way that there was still some kind of story without being to jumpy or cutting someone off.

It was challenging but I suppose that was the point to learn from the process. Going through the footage again the motion from shot to shot was still very fluid. Had they been a bit quicker, it may have allowed for better footage to cut to rather than having to see the adjustments and movement.

We were working with such a large group so not everyone was really able to have a chance at getting to be a part of the process. I was the boom operator for the interview segment that I used for the clip but was not able to get behind the camera for this exercise. I realized in post that it is important to be very quick with the movements so that when you get to the editing phase you have more options.

Between the two different types of documentary/interview filming techniques I definitely enjoyed the vox pops a lot more in all aspects. That is not to say though that the other cant be fun as well. In the Vox pops having the stationary camera and the question prompts for the people it allowed for a much smoother looking end video. I think the interviews were more about the process and gaining the confidence to make those quick movements and cuts to create and interesting story.

I am happy with the outcome of both of the projects and I look forward to continuing working with these different styles and methods of filming interviews. It is always a learning process and by experimenting and taking risks I will learn what works best for me and my aesthetic that I can carry forward into future projects.

– Bec

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Color Grading

Color Grading

Color Grading is an important part taking any cinematic piece to the next level. Color can soften, harden, or intensify a feeling that you want to evoke throughout a scene. For this assessment I have chosen a few scenes from my Lenny to practice color grade.

I have chosen to take the original photo and add a cool grade, a warm grade, and then one where I focused on a different color. I did this to try and add some variation to the scene and push myself to try new things. The references I used were from the movies O Brother Where Art Thou, The Revenant, and The Matrix. All of these movies have different grades for different scenes but the overall films carry a similar scheme throughout.

images (1)O Brother Where Art Thou
images (2)The Revenant
images (3)The Matrix

I found that the best outcome for practicing the color grading was the scene in Lenny where we were able to get the best lighting on the actor from a window as well as the room light. Without having any extra lighting I found that some of the other scenes fell a bit flat. Lenny was the most complete project to work with that had a variety of shots.

The first Image is where Sharron comes in to meet Lenny. In this shot we had really good lighting making it easier to push the boundaries of the color grading. Like I said I tried to do both a warm and cool version as well as a more intense dramatic colorization. I think all of these color grades really work with this scene and give a new feel to it. Any one of these could be used to help enhance the look of the short Lenny based what look I want it to have in the end.

original.pngOriginal

I repeated this process with two other scenes from Lenny. In my opinion they were not as successful as this first scene. Due to the setting and lack of extra lighting, the color grading didn’t seem to have as much of an effect. That also could have been due to the fact that this is my first time color grading on videos in this program. The colors of the setting itself had an affect on the outcome of the look. We were in a place with a lot of grays and orange tones so it became more of a challenge to push the intensity with color grading.

Original in the top left*

I am looking forward to continue working to push the boundaries with color grading in future projects. It is important to start with good footage but that alone will not boost your film to another level. You can enhance the mood and feeling you want to convey to your audience helping to get your message across.

– Bec

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The Actor and the Director

The Actor and the Director

The actor and director should have a partnership of sorts in my opinion. The director has done a lot of work in preproduction and has envisioned what they want the film to look like. This may cause some tension if the actor is not performing to the liking of the director and what they had pictured. On the same hand the actor may have insights and experiences maybe the director hadn’t thought of. This is why, to me, they should have a partnership, collaborating and adding more dimension to a character or scene.

The actor needs to invest in a character to make them believable on screen. The actor can’t just come in recite the lines and leave, it will not make for a very good film. The director is there to coach the actor into getting what they have envisioned for the film. They have spent a lot of time with the material and know it through and through. A good actor would have also spent time with the material and understand the words as well as the subtext and emotion within a scene.

Some actors have a natural ability to add subtext to a scene without needing any additional help. Everyone reads and interprets words differently so it is important to work with each other toward the same goal. The actor may ask what the director wants exactly or the director may leave it to the actor to bring what they feel is right for the character in the moment. It is all a matter of personal preference and how you work with the other person. In the case of having multiple actors the director needs to make sure that they are all on the same page with each other.

It is also important for both partners to understand the others job. It is much easier to direct if you have an understand of acting and vice versa. Having that understanding allows for a better collaboration. It is the actors job to come and perform but in an intense emotional scene if there are distractions the director may take them away making a closed set allowing the actor to be able to get into that headspace. As a director you need to understand and adapt to these things and create a space that the actor is able to do their job in achieving the performance you desire.

Lastly, it is important to take in to account that people respond in different ways to coaching or directing. As a former college athlete having a coach yell or get in my face was counterproductive. I respond to constructive criticism and instruction. I used to feel and understand when I was making mistakes, the coach would get frustrated, but so was I. Yelling in this case would only make it worse hindering my performance. Alternatively though I know some athletes who respond better to yelling and it motivates them. It is similar on a film set the director and actors need to understand the each other as well as the material and work together toward the end result. The director should inspire the actor and vice versa not bringing the other down making it a partnership.

-Bec

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