Screening Reflection

Thursday night’s screening of TV 2’s documentaries was my very last time coming into uni. Sitting in the darkness of the theatre, I felt that this might be the last time for a while that I’d be in a creative environment, as I’d gotten a job this week doing in-house marketing for a property development company – a completely different field and industry to what I thought I’d be entering after Prof Comm. As happy and grateful as I am for the job, I’m also sad to be leaving the creative side behind for the moment.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the screening a little early because I had a concert to go to but  I did manage to see quite a few films and was extremely impressed with most of them. Some of them were filmed and cut so beautifully that I could’ve sworn they’d been done by seasoned professionals.

The first one that really stood out to me was the tattoo film (I can’t remember its title) but it was just beautiful to watch. The cinematography was so professionally executed, and it was cut the way you’d expect something on a quality television show or advertisement to be cut. It also was an interesting subject – even though tattoos aren’t exactly uncommon – but there’s always a level of intrigue surrounding the permanency of tattoos, the people who get them, what they decide to carve into their skins forever and the artistry that goes into the intricate images. With little to no dialogue and rather just a flow of imagery, this film brought wordless stories of people who want to doodle on their bodies. I liked it a lot.

Another film that I liked – although wasn’t sure about in the beginning – was “After The Fall” (I think that’s what it was called). I do know that Marcin was one of the people involved in that film. They’d found a really interesting story of a young guy at Queen’s College who had sleep-walked out of his fourth storey window and miraculously survived, but it was intertwined with a story of his friend who also happened to be a musician. This element allowed the addition of a well-lit and well filmed clip of these guys playing and singing a beautiful song to be dispersed throughout the second half of the film, increasing the film’s appeal and uniqueness.

There were a few interesting stories and concepts, such as the music therapy film and Campaign Auslan one, although they certainly weren’t shot or edited as professionally as the above-mentioned two. I really liked most of the films though, regardless of levels of skill (and to be fair, I’m not sure that ours was up there with the very best of them!) although one that stood out to me that I didn’t connect with was Tram55 – I felt that it was a little bit overly dramatised in its execution, which (and maybe it’s just me) often repels instead of drawing me in and getting me emotionally involved. It was a fairly interesting story though. I think that maybe it’s just me because some people probably really loved it, but generally I like things to be a bit more subtle, even if the story is dramatic or emotive.

Seeing Cubbies again was great – they did a fantastic job of it and I loved just looking at the imagery, let alone hearing the stories of the kids and their struggles. It had a great balance of visual and spoken colour, all the while tugging at your heart strings and also making you giggle. Unfortunately, that’s when I had to leave the screening, but I was so happy that I’d gotten to see those handful of films and I was thoroughly impressed with everyone’s effort! It was a good final end to my time at uni.

Away

I’m quite happy with the way our film turned out. It wasn’t exactly what I’d initially envisioned, although it was a bit of a challenge working in a team with two best friends who are quite dominant and stubborn when it comes to creative direction. However, it was certainly better than being in a group with people who refuse to participate, which I’ve experienced one too many times and they did have some really good ideas and initiative so I can’t complain too much.

We decided to make the entire film black and white as our footage was quite a lot grainier than intended, since I think that Ed didn’t have his camera on the right settings when we filmed. He did a great job though of setting up shots and getting interesting angles etc, so luckily we still had those to work with. The use of the French song added another element to the film that brought it away from being focused purely on Nuth’s nationality but rather reminded us of the many people from different cultures who come to Melbourne to seek new opportunities and who need to adapt to a new place and culture.

There was also a bit more dialogue in the final product than I’d (or we’d) originally intended but we did need it in the end to tell a bit more of Nuth’s story and to personalise him and justify his presence.

I wish we’d gotten to film a little bit more, but it was difficult with Nuth not wanting to spend much time filming as this has happened through his study period and he’s been short on time. My favourite shoot, though, was the pool shoot. The indoor pool area had a beautiful reflective silver wall and was dimly lit despite the sunny day which made for some lovely shots. Unfortunately, we didn’t use any colour shots in the film as the boys wanted to keep it black and white, but the shots still looked nice without colour with the rippling water and mirrored wall.

I’m quite happy with the film and I like the final product, although I think I’d have done it a little differently if I could re-do it again. I’ve definitely learnt a lot during this process though, and I hope I’ll get another opportunity in the future to make another film! Someday !

Rough Cuts

This week we watched the class’s rough cuts. It was interesting to see the different documentaries that people are making within our class – most of them contained traditional style interviews and cut-aways/filler shots and were well filmed and put together in a linear style which had a strong final resolving point. Between the insomnia one and the cubby house, I loved the latter. Although Paul and Robin gave praise for the insomnia doco, I actually wasn’t as into it as they seemed to be. It certainly was an interesting topic and it was fairly well shot and well put together, but it didn’t retain my interest throughout. I’m not sure why – I think that there was perhaps too much dialogue from the insomniac woman, who did have some interesting things to say but those seemed (to me) to be slightly diluted in a sense by some of the other things she spoke in length about. Overall though, it was a good film and they did a really good job.

The cubby house film was great – I loved the track that they used that was actually an original by one of their subjects who lives at the housing commission. It really added character and emotion to the film in the beginning. The use of all the different kids merely stating their names allowed us to see the range of nationalities and people within the housing commission which was really clever. The actual filming was great, too, as well as the editing, and with the vibrant colours within the cubby house playground it created a really interesting mis-en-scene. I really liked that film.

Ours was still pretty rough and we had a bit still to shoot, but we’d added a French song to the opening and turned it black and white which added a whole new dimension to the film.  We’d originally thought of opening and closing the film with footage of Nuth swimming, although I think we’ll rather stick to the black and white footage of him driving to create a continuity of driving throughout the film as we’re focusing on his role as a delivery boy – and it won’t hurt to use concept of driving in the metaphorical sense with our film being quite vague in the storyline department.

So Far #2

Our film is going quite well, although we still have quite a fair way to go. I think that there are some creative differences within the team – I would love some more footage that depicts the colourful, interesting foods that Nuth eats and some swimming shots where we can see the splashes of water enveloping him and other such things that just give the viewer a really colourful – visually and conceptually – vision of Nuth and of his experience of Melbourne and how he makes it home. Despite that though we’re all working together quite well, although sometimes it is hard feeling a bit like the odd one out with the boys being so close and working together on many similar projects, therefore wanting to make this very much their own. They’ve been great to work with though and have good ideas, so I am thankful. I’m hoping that we’ll still film a scene in China Town and really capitalise on the colours and imagery there, and of course catch the swimming footage, so that might beef up the film a little more. All in good time!

Extreme Love

I really like Louis Theroux’s filmmaking style. I like his participative method and his unyielding stance when he wants an answer to a question that his subjects are initially unwilling to give. I like the way he seems to form relationships with a lot of his subjects, even those (such as in The Most Hated Family in America) whom he can’t possibly like and who don’t necessarily like him. There remains a respect there for him and some sort of trust as these subjects open up to him, let them into their homes and their minds and are willing to give him a piece of them despite knowing it may work to their disadvantage once on screen.

I decided to watch his documentary titled “Extreme Love” which focuses on kids with behavioural, cognitive and attention disorders and how their treatment, medication or otherwise, helps them. Having spent about three years working closely with kids with these kinds of issues, I can’t say that I learnt anything really new from this documentary in that sense but rather found it interesting the way these families, and the kids, were so open to Louis and allowed him to witness (and film) intimate details of their lives. For me, after having dealt with many parents who were very secretive and private about similar details, it was intriguing to see how someone could build such a trust with these people that they would willingly put themselves up for being in a documentary available for the world’s viewing.

When there’s a documentarian and interviewer as enthralling, stubborn, sturdy and provocative as Louis Theroux, the participative mode can be one of the most interesting (to me) of all the documentary modes, as the audience is able to witness the unique and rare interaction between a filmmaker and his subject. Louis makes it look so easy, but even after filming ours which is more observational yet still has some interview content, I’ve realized just how difficult it can be to build a relationship with someone who you’re really just there to capture and make into a spectacle.

Searching For Sugarman

A few nights ago, I went with my family to see the documentary “Searching For Sugarman” about American musician Sixto Rodriguez. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to see a beautifully made film that emits honesty, integrity and humility and that makes you forget about scrutinizing the “truths” in documentary films (for those who have been made to consider them throughout the three years of Prof Comm).

For anyone unfamiliar with Rodriguez, he is a musician from Detriot and made about two and a half beautiful albums, with a sound very comparable to Bob Dylan and with lyrics just as insightful, but much to the surprise of his producers he never received any recognition in his own country. However, by chance, a girl visiting her boyfriend in South Africa happened to bring a copy of his record with her and after playing it to a few friends, it spread and quickly became extremely popular. Soon, Rodriguez had superseded Elvis and The Rolling Stones in South Africa, and influenced Afrikaans rock bands to write more politically to address the apartheid government.

Of course, the South African and truth-scrutinizer in me knows that Rodriguez was actually not the pivotal influence on anti-apartheid activism that the film made him out to be – this was just one man’s view of the situation from his experience. Rodriguez’s inspiring lyrics may have given him an artistic kick-start, allowing him to come to his own anti-establishment, anti-apartheid attitude.

The film was beautiful in its visual subtlety and repetition of audio and visual cues which tied the whole thing together in a way that didn’t bring predictability but rather just a hint of consistency. For instance, the imagery of Rodriguez, such a famous and successful musician in other parts of the world from his own, trudging through the snowy streets of Detriot to his decrepit ramshackle of a home where he’s lived for 40 years didn’t seem contrived or exaggerated, as it truly is his home, and he truly does live a very humble life after what he believed was a failed music career.

The story moved at its own pace, and didn’t give anything away to those unfamiliar with its resolution (like I had been). I found myself as intrigued and stimulated by the plot line as I might have been during a fiction film with unrealistic twists and turns.


At the end of the film, Rodriguez’s South African fans, who had heard years back that he’d committed a brutal suicide onstage at an unsuccessful gig, had conducted a search to find out what had really happened to their idol and miraculously came upon his daughter who was unbelieving at her father’s overseas fame. After some convincing, they flew Sixto and his daughters to Cape Town where they were met with 6 huge sold out shows and hysterical fans – a first trip of many.

Rodriguez still lives the same modest life as he always did, working in construction in one of the poorest, most desolate parts of America. I was so inspired by this film because it really seemed to have portrayed Rodriguez quite accurately in terms of his humility and unpretentiousness and the documentary really didn’t have the questionable, contrived undertone that many do who try to portray their protagonists in a certain light. It also helped that my parents, who are of similar ages to the featured South African men who “found” Rodriguez, said that they experienced the same things that were described in the film, especially during the time of the apartheid when they were actively cut off from the rest of the world. After these few years of analyzing the truth in films and being reminded that documentaries, despite being generally thought of as films of truth and reality, are often no more accurate or real than fiction films, I felt refreshed and thankful that some genuine sincerity seemed to have come out of this one. Or maybe it was just brilliant film making.

So Far…

At this point in our shooting and editing process, we’ve completed a few shoots and a fair amount of editing groundwork to create a foundation for our film. So far, we’re all really happy with the footage that’s been shot and feel that the film is quite accurately reflecting our initial intentions of the visuals and style.

We actually ended up recording a fair amount of voiceover/interview despite our decision to have minimal to no dialogue, and have decided to just use some of it to add some meat to the film. We won’t show the interview visually, but will use pieces of the dialogue for voiceover that will accompany suitable shots. While editing the film, we decided to become as experimental as possible (without going overboard) to create more of a sense of discovery, foreignness and isolation to the documentary to accompany the experience of the international student, so the result will be a slightly disjointed, visually experimental and colourful film that will challenge the norm and cross some traditional boundaries – without being too wacky. Robin made a good suggestion that we steer clear of any traditional shots/interview styles and keep the whole film in the more abstract style that we’ve achieved in parts already, so that it maintains a feel of continuity and doesn’t halt to include a visual interview.

So far, we still have a couple of shoots to go until we’ve collected all the footage that we need but we have a clear idea of what we want and how we’ll include it in the film. Additionally, despite there being no clear “plot line” per se, we also have a good idea of how to structure and open and close the film to tie it together so that it feels complete. I think it was a good idea to use Ed’s DSLR, as he is really familiar with the camera and is able to manipulate it efficiently to take the sorts of shots that we need for the visual diversity of the film, and the shots have turned out really beautifully. Robin didn’t seem to love the fact that the lens was on auto-exposure and kept changing its exposure during shots, but I actually really like that effect (despite it being slightly unintentional) because it creates a sense of movement and realness.

I’m excited for the next shoot, which will either take place in China Town or at Nuth’s apartment complex’s swimming pool.