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SEMINAR BLOG CRITIQUE – DOCO GROUP (NON-FICTION)

INDUSTRY ADVICE

  • Passion and enthusiasm are what pays
  • First step on coming up with a doco idea/concept development: Do your research on past, similar films; study the filmmaker’s past experiences/approach to the matter; study discourse surrounding the topic; study media reception
  • It’s important to find someone/thing specific, that you have a connection with; and tell it from a personal P.O.V)
  • It’s important to ask yourself these questions whenever you want to start making a film: what stories do you want to tell? why? who are you making it for? how do you intend to reach audiences?
  • ‘Conformation’ is key – for those in front of the camera they have to want to be in the film
  • In terms of documentary ethics – release forms are important; always make sure your subjects know what they are signing for; making sure to let them know if you decide to cut them out
  • Crowd funding is the way to go when it comes to budgeting
  • Connecting with the audience is key and valuable even before the film comes out

OVERALL COMMENT(S)

  • Interesting to see how each industry speaker would take on the project as if it were their own
  • Background stories were interesting – how they got started; what were their interests; how they’ve evolved from their initial interest/field

THINGS TO TAKE AWAY FROM SEMINAR (STRUCTURE/EXECUTION)

  • Light-hearted approach helped relax speakers
  • Camera positions – all the way up top, mid of stairway, diagonally in front of stage
  • Lighting positions – one of each side of stage
  • Approach to guest speakers – whether to have more than one host, etc

GRADE AWARDED AND WHY

Content was relevant and informative?

D – The seminar content was both relevant and informative. The seminar covered documentary ethics, funding, and answered the question of how to get started (which ideas to build upon, etc), all of which are areas not touched/focused on in university studies. In saying so, it was good insight into the process of documentary filmmaking and the points to consider when filming a documentary.

Approach was coherent and engaging?

 

C – Approach was coherent, but not engaging. The seminar had a good flow and/or structure to it; but I felt it was lacking in terms of audience engagement. Guest speakers seemed a bit awkward and uncomfortable and some even a little reluctant to share.

 

Theme was executed with originality and style?

 

D – Theme did not shine through. It was predictable and unoriginal and the Doco group did not really do much with the theme and what they did, did not match the theme. It was more Hollywood action than anything. But I still awarded them a D given their short time frame.

 

Staging was professional?

 

D – There wasn’t anything special in terms of aesthetics; nothing that contributed to the theme of the seminar. As for lighting and camera positions, I thought the doco group did a good job lighting the stage. Given the short time frame the doco group was given to consider the placement/setup of technical equipment (which now, I’m sure, serves as a guideline for the other seminar groups), I think they did a considerably good job.

 

Promotion was varied and timely?

 

D – Promotion was both timely and varied. The doco group executed their marketing plan, both digitally and physically, via promotional tools such as a promo trailer, posters all aroung building 9, and a chalk drawing (inclusive of the seminar details – time, place, date) along Bowen Street. Again, given the time frame, the Doco group did a good job.

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Is the ending a dream or reality? That’s the big question. Someone has finally and observantly figured out the ending to the movie and it had nothing to do with the spinning top! Feel like my mind has just been blown. Christopher Nolan is a genius! I’m so glad someone decoded this!!

Christopher Nolan’s play with mise-en-scene is unbelievable! The answer lies in Leonardo DiCaprio’s, or Cobb’s, left hand! Cobb’s left hand is almost always hidden from the audience. Every time the camera is locked on Cobb, his left hand will conveniently be caught out of frame and every time we think we’re about to see his left hand, one of two thing can happen:

  1. Nolan would cut to another scene/shot
  2. Cobb would find a way to hide it

EXCEPT… once towards the start of the film. The theory is that, because Cobb never accepted the death of his wife, Mal, he always has his wedding ring on when he’s dreaming. Towards the end of the movie, Nolan once again reveals Cobb’s left hand. This was at the airport when he handed the airport _ personnel his passport. And guess what! HE ISN’T WEARING A RING! This suggests that he is not dreaming and, is in fact, living in reality, and thus the ending to the film was a happy ending, which makes me really happy and giddy inside. Anyway, I thought it was very clever of him to do this. I would never have thought of using mise-en-scene like how he has done. Christopher Nolan is officially one of my favorite directors! 

Okay, enough babbling! Think I’m getting too excited and I just realized the amount of exclamation points I’ve typed in this post. Sort of feels like I have been shouting my entire way through.

It’s that time of the year again! Rough cut screenings are probably my favorite part of the subject. They are super fun to do and the feedback given is really constructive. But best thing about it, for me, is it’s the first time we get to see everyone else’s’ films! Everyone had such great documentary ideas, so I couldn’t wait to see what the other groups had done with them. However, it was rather disappointing that only 3 groups made it to the screening.

We did things a bit differently this time around. We were instructed to provide other groups with feedback and a grade via a form given to us at the start of the screening. I thought the questions posed in the forms were very practical and it really helped cover all examinable aspects of the documentary.

Seeing as we had a lot of extra time to kill, we gathered around and had a more extensive discussion about our documentary films. The discussion was both fun and informative. I’m glad we had the open discussion, typically because there’s only so much you can get on paper. The discussion allowed everyone to further justify or elaborate on what they had previously written on the feedback sheets. Thought the discussion was a good idea and a good end to the screening.

 

Feedback from the other two groups:

 

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Shooting Day: 4th September 2013

Location: The Greyhound Hotel

 

 

It has been a long day, so I’m going to keep this simple.

Challenge #1

Space. By the time we had set up gear, there was barely any space for anyone to walk about.

What could/should have been done

There really wasn’t much we could have done about it other than changing our shoot location and foregoing our initial idea of playing around with the mirrors in the dressing room.

Some things to consider for second shoot

Perhaps change our shoot location

 

Challenge #2

Mirrors. Mirrors, while aesthetically pleasing, are super hard to work with! Especially if you’re in a confined space. We ended up being in quite a number of the shots.

What could/should have been done

  • We should have practiced shooting some shots before conducting the interview
  • The crew should have paid more attention to where the camera was pointed and move accordingly

Some things to consider for second shoot

  • Discuss and mark the placement of bodies during the shoot
  • Forego the mirrors and change our location

 

Challenge #3

Fridge. There was a mini fridge in the tiny dressing room. We weren’t allowed to unplug it without the management’s permission.

What could/should have been done

  • We should have used lapel mics
  • Fix the problem later in post-production

Some things to consider for second shoot

  • Try using lapel mics instead
  • Conduct interview in a different location

 

Challenge #4

No prep time. We weren’t allowed in the facility without the presence of our subject. Our subject was only available a couple of hours before the show and it would take him at least an hour and a half to get ready. This gave us almost no time at all to prep and setup our equipment studiously.

What could/should have been done

Some things to consider for second shoot

 

Challenge #5

Lighting. The lighting in the dressing room was relatively good. The problem with lighting lies with the coloured spotlights that would illuminate the stage later during the show.

What could/should have been done

Fix the problem in post-production

Some things to consider for second shoot

Challenge #6

Audio. The audio mixer we got was faulty and it ended up recording from the internal mic instead. This plus the disturbance from the fridge as well as all the other electronic equipment lying around the facility, caused us to record really bad audio.

What could/should have been done

We should have tried recording using lapel mics

Some things to consider for second shoot

  • Try recording audio using lapel mics
  • Forego the mirrors and change our location

_____________________________________________________

 

Things that we could/should have been done (in general)

Check equipment beforehand

Some things to consider for the second shoot (in general)

  • Change our shoot location
  • Reshoot footage from first shoot

 

 

Earlier this week, the group got together and discussed our approach, in terms of documentary modes, to the project. Feeling unsure of my knowledge toward and memory of documentary modes, I decided to revisit some of my notes from last semester’s documentary studies subject.

Expository

  • Voiceovers addressed the audience directly
  • Voice-of-God narration
  • Use of archival footage – images, video footage, interviews
  • Filmmaker attempts to persuade audience of a particular point of view

Observational

  • No voiceovers
  • No interviews
  • Synchronous sound recording
  • Filmmaker’s presence is hidden
  • Handheld
  • Long takes dominate

Participatory

  • Filmmaker and documentary crew  intervenes and/or interacts with the subject
  • Filmmaker may include voiceovers to narrate the documentary
  • Includes interviews (on-the-run questioning)
  • Handheld
  • Long takes dominate
  • Use of archival material

Reflexive

  • Borrows techniques from fiction films
  • Use reenactments
  • Incorporates Dramatic music
  • Voiceovers are used to pose questions

Performative

  • Filmmaker and documentary crew interacts with subject
  • Filmmaker comments on the process of making the documentary
  • Discusses topics that has to do with identity rather than factual ones
  • No proper conclusion

I would like to start this off by saying, filming a documentary is not as easy as it looks! I’ve always ignorantly assumed that filming a documentary was a simple task; that all you really need is an interesting subject to follow around and everything else will naturally fall into place. Boy was I wrong! 

The task was to film our classmates as they discussed their projects. Sounds easy enough…WRONG AGAIN! I let my indecisiveness get the better of me. I couldn’t decide who to focus on, when to do it. As a result, it felt like I was always a step behind. Someone would say something noteworthy and/or interesting and by the time I pan the camera towards them, they would have been done saying what they wanted to. So, not wanting to lose another important moment again, I keep the camera locked on that same person and, of course, someone from across the room says something I wish I had filmed! Needless to say, I underestimated the level of concentration needed of me.

Here are a few things this exercise has taught:

  1. Pay great attention to how the interview is progressing
  2. Be quick and prepared to make decisions as to whether to keep the camera locked on the subject(s), pan somewhere else, etc
  3. Attempt to predict the subject’s movements or where his/her train of thought would eventually lead to