Specialist Project – Conclusion
- I’ve gone into much more detail for each key stage of this project in related Blog posts – use the links at the bottom of this post to go directly to these Blog entries.
- The Project Timeline is a weekly/daily diary of the project progress and is also available by selecting the MENU option Specialist Project Timeline option under the Specialist Project Menu.
- Research Blogs can be found under the relevant menu option Specialist Project Research.
‘Ben’ Documentary (The Final Edit)
Specialist Project – Conclusion
I spent the summer break considering my options for the 3rd year and what I was going to do for the Specialist Project. It turned out to be an easy decision to make in the end that is to continue making short films and documentary. The three films I made for the 2nd Year Professional Project influenced this decision, the first was the Long Jump video and then the two ‘Art of Sport Festival’ videos for the Inspire Programme and the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Much Ado About Nothing – Rehearsals in the Boys Brigade Halls Winton
Then during the summer break I was contacted by the Inspire Project Leader to film a documentary about the Coastal Access project. I agreed to do this and began filming for the ‘Weymouth Bay’ Coastal Access documentary for Natural England and Dorset County Council, which I completed just recently.
In my second year at University I determined that I am at my most creative when behind a camera, whether it is for taking photographs or for video so it made sense to carry this creativeness through into the third year. I decided that I wanted to make a documentary but the question was what was I going to make a documentary on? I needed a subject and so I researched this both online and in the Library for ideas but what I came up with mostly were ideas on what subjects not to make a documentary on. One book I researched ‘The Documentary Moviemaking Course’ listed the most popular subjects and also identified some subjects to avoid. For example student filmmakers tend to default to making films about the plight of the Homeless or on Rock Bands. Fortunately my recent experience of Theatre with a local group of actors and acting students came to my aid from which I had the idea to make a documentary on students studying acting or a documentary about theatre in general. I researched examples of documentaries on students generally but my research produced few such examples most of which appeared to me to have been made to promote a College or University rather than about the students themselves.
Much Ado About Nothing – The Dance Scene, Tech Rehearsals – Studio Theatre AUCB
Getting permissions and Pre production
I contacted a friend studying BA Acting, Ben O’Shea who agreed to take part on the proviso that I obtained the permission from the BA Acting course leader Doug Cockle, which I duly did by email and followed this up with a meeting to discuss what I was going to do and at the same time confirming that this would not encroach on their busy rehearsals. After getting the go ahead I thought about how I would approach this project. I had several ideas in mind but I held off on these until I had attended several rehearsals. I did this so I would get a feel for the current production ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and to work out how this would fit into the final documentary. I then discarded many of these ideas, for example one of these was to film Ben in a dark room illuminated by just a single backlight and a keylight to one side leaving one side of the face in permanent shadow in the Film Noir style. Another example was to conduct the interview at the end of a rehearsal with Ben in full costume, but I discarded this idea because my experience of theatre productions told me that the adrenaline actors experience at the end of a performance means they are too hyper to concentrate on the questions I would be asking.
The scenario I went with in the end was to film Ben as if he was in a makeup session in preparation for the show. For this to work I looked for a location where we would have access to a makeup artists studio with the typical mirror surrounded by lights but without other people in the studio as I would be recording sound directly into the camera. Surprisingly an initial search of the University makeup studios proved unsuccessful, as aesthetically I was not enamored with the fluorescent lighting now used to illuminate makeup mirrors. But during a chance visit to the studio theatre during rehearsals I discovered that the dressing rooms had their own makeup mirrors and these used the old fashioned tungsten lighting bulbs ideal for what I visualised. I obtained permission to use the dressing room for the interview but I would have to work around the actors and technical staff as they were in constant use up to the opening performance of the production and of course unavailable during the production itself.
I set about scripting some questions that I thought would be interesting and put these up for my peers to critique, which they did and after a number of changes I came up with a list of questions to put to Ben that everyone thought would be interesting to an audience. My pre-production notes were in place and I thought we were ready to go when I suddenly decided that I would need a makeup artist. My original idea was that Ben would be filmed applying his own makeup but I had second thoughts on this as I suspected that this would distract Ben too much. Therefore the responses he would give to my questions would not flow, as I would hope. There was no script, Ben would be giving his answers to my questions without seeing them first, an improv performance, which I hoped would create a better documentary. Fortunately this issue was resolved when Ben’s friend Paula, a makeup artist, came to our rescue and offered her services on the night.
Filming the Interview
Ben – The first full edit, with music and dance soundtrack/visuals
I decided that I would use my camera in full manual mode for this project, recent experience gained on a photography short course meant I was much more comfortable using a DSLR in this way. Also one of the reasons I decided to go manual was that I knew that I would have issues with exposure, filming into a mirrored surface. I expected that the camera in auto mode would adjust the exposure for the mirrors light reflections meaning that Bens face would inevitably be dark, but with manual control I would be able to expose correctly for Bens face and over expose the mirror and the surrounding lights. On the night I can honestly say that all the hard work in preproduction was worth it. Filming came down to just adjusting the lights, setting up the camera in its various positions and following the questionnaire and the shot list. Retakes were limited to those spoiled by intrusive background noise as rehearsals and technical setups were taking place in the studio theatre and of course minor technical issues with camera.
Filming for the B-Roll
Much Ado About Nothing – First Act, Technical Rehearsals, Studio Theatre AUCB
For the B-Roll I had arranged to film the first act of the Technical Rehearsals for ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ in particular I wanted to film the dance sequence as I originally intended to switch between this and the interview using the dance routine as transitions between the interview questions. In all I must have over an hour of video clips from this production, just to be certain that I had enough choice of video clips to use for the final piece.
The final documentary
I edited a number of videos trying out ideas only for these to be discarded before I was eventually happy with the final result, which turned out to be the simplest version. The idea of using extracts from the production did not work for me using these clips as transitions just unbalanced the piece and in the end I used very little from the production in the final documentary. The best edit was made from the footage taken in the dressing room of Ben responses to my questions combined with some close ups taken at the end of the interview. I also discarded the music soundtrack for the same reasons it was a distraction rather than a benefit adding nothing to the final video. I’ve put together some edits of the performance as it would have been a shame to have not done so but these will be standalone videos for my portfolio.
I concentrated my time on getting the final video sequence as visually perfect as possible, colour grading in particular took up a lot of my time, in the end I designed my own preset for this. I am really happy with the end result although a bit disappointed to have not used the hours of additional video I had taken of the performance but I will use this elsewhere and I do suspect without doing all this additional work I may not have the final piece exactly the way I wanted it.
The documentary although short has a very positive feeling to it. The performance is natural, the answers to my questions are real and reflect Ben’s personality well, on the whole just what I wanted to produce. Completing this project has enhanced my documentary filmmaking experience. I even used this new filmmaking experience to complete the ‘Weymouth Bay’ documentary by filming the final interview sequence, the missing part of the jigsaw in a single session using the same production values.
What would I do differently next time?
I’d try and remember that it is important to plan and capture the interview sequences in preference to concentrating on the B-roll, as I suspect that sometimes I place greater importance on this aspect of a documentary than I should. It is important but the clue is in the name B-roll, it is secondary to the key interview sequences, it should compliment rather than dominate the documentary.
Much Ado About Nothing – Rehearsals Studio Theatre AUCB
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