The initial story in a social media campaign to publicise library cuts and closures, Sarah’s Story tells the plight of a young girl from an unhappy home whose only refuge is her local library. Sarah’s problems at home and misdiagnosed dyslexia get her into trouble at school and she eventually leaves barely able to read and write. But her life is slowly turned around with the help of her local library and it’s caring staff. Sarah can now be found campaigning for the good of the library. Trying to save UK libraries from closure just as her library saved her.
We hope Sarah’s Story will be the first of many library stories using the hashtag #YourLibraryStory, documenting how libraries help individuals and communities and change people’s lives for the better.
I was really excited to talk to someone at the local ECHO newspaper today who is interested in helping to publicize our documentary and the SaveOurLibraries campaign.
Hopefully this will get the ball rolling locally, encouraging other people to share their library stories and get the news of library cuts and closures to a wider audience through social media.
My next step is to contact Martyn Andrews from RT News. Martyn contacted me earlier in the year and requested some of the footage I had shot at local library campaigns as RT News were considering covering the story of UK library cuts. Unfortunately the station dropped the story in the end but Martyn encouraged me to get in touch if I had any additional material so maybe #YourLibraryStory might be of interest.
I was captivated by Sarah’s story. Libraries had such a positive effect on her life and now she was trying to do all she could to help them. It was a classic protagonist vs antagonist storyline.
I watched several short documentaries on libraries as part of our research. Many were without impact and quite dull.
We wanted our documentary to have bright and vibrant imagery and for the audience to be moved by the emotion of Sarah’s Story and the thought of a future without libraries.
Choosing to use facts and figures on library closures meant we had to find a reliable source of information and getting accurate numbers took a lot longer than we imagined. We also failed to research library hierarchy early enough. This caused delays in getting our filming requests to the right person. In hindsight both these things would be top of my list of research on my next project.
As Sarah’s story was very personal we researched interviewing techniques to gain her trust and make her feel at ease. Choosing to film at Sarah’s house where she felt most comfortable and giving her as much time as she needed really helped her to open up.
Feedback sessions greatly helped with our documentary’s development, sharing weekly ideas and problems and getting advice from tutors and peers was invaluable, developing many new idea paths. I will now be regularly sharing the progress of my work and asking for critical feedback.
‘La Jetee’ was a huge inspiration and motivation for me. Although science fiction rather than documentary, the idea of using still images to narrate has opened my eyes to what can be achieved on a small budget with big ideas.
Kubrick’s use of shadows and one point perspective influenced our framing and filming style.
Man with a Movie Camera and the concept of montage inspired our edit encouraging us to think outside a typical linear narrative.
Making a shooting script was a new concept for me. Previously I would have had a list of questions and a location but assumed, as it was documentary, that everything else would be governed by our subject on the day. I have learnt that preparing a good shooting script makes you far more organized for your shoot, giving you more time to experiment and capture images and audio you hadn’t planned for, but which can greatly improve your final piece.
For the audio interview I encouraged the interviewee to pause, explaining silences helped the audience take things in. But emotions took over and we got one constant stream of speech. For the future I need to look at ways to slow the subject down.
The first shoot we did was in the early evening and already getting dark. So we had not planned for the next day’s intense sunshine making it difficult to film in some areas of the library without extreme shadows or over exposure.
In retrospect I would have dedicated a whole extra day to collecting background noise and sounds at the library and checking lighting. Sound is just as important as visuals if not more so.
We took the dolly and shoulder mount as normally these are great for filming documentary. But looking back at the first day’s footage we found tracking shots across books needed to be super slow otherwise they caused a motion sickness effect. We learnt from this and the following day we did more static shots with the tripod.
We also need to become more confident asking to reshoot as many times as necessary, not as many times as we think is polite.
Our final edit has changed somewhat from our original plan. Mainly due to the audio interview and the power and emotion it has. We didn’t want this to get lost against distracting footage. The interview needed to take centre stage.
The audio talked about a lot of personal issues and needed pauses for the audience to take everything in but, sadly, they weren’t there. Unfortunately no one within our group was particularly skilled with audio. I consulted Paul and some editors in my year and they showed me the basics of Audition. It took me many hours to try and get the audio to sound anywhere close to how I wanted it. Even now it is still very choppy and needs cleaning up more. I will keep working on it in the hope of perfecting it, but this may be outside my capability, at least for now. I did not want to hand it over to someone outside our group, not knowing if this would be allowed and, more importantly, realising that if I didn’t learn to edit audio now then maybe I never would? I don’t want future projects to be hampered in the same way. I have learnt so much from working on Audition in this final week I feel that if I dedicate some spare time over Christmas to using Audition more I can really become confident with audio editing.
The final imagery of our film has remained the same throughout but the delivery of our facts and figures has developed a lot from our initial planning. Originally we were going to have a narrator telling the audience about how many library closures and cuts there had been in the past 5 or 10 years. Discussing this in weekly feedback we realised that these figures didn’t have quite the impact we expected. So we opted to show the year that the very last library would close it’s doors and make the film part of a bigger plan. The film ends with ‘share #YourLibraryStory’ and links to the @SaveAllLibraries campaign. We hope to make Sarah’s Story the first of many stories about how libraries have changed people’s lives for the better. This module has made me realize that I want to make documentary to open up people’s eyes to things they don’t know about and to help make a change. Hopefully Sarah’s Story will do just that.
Amazing Short Films (2016) Chris marker – la Jetée . Available at: https://youtu.be/cq5lq1V2HN0.
BBC (2012) The library returns – BBC radio 4. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01h75xw (Accessed: 26 November 2016).
BBC (2016) Libraries lose a quarter of staff as hundreds close. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-35707956 (Accessed: 7 November 2016).
Bolton, L. (2012) List of withdrawn libraries. Available at: http://www.publiclibrariesnews.com/about-public-libraries-news/news-topics (Accessed: 7 November 2016).
CBS News (1969) A visit to the Vatican library. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2nCN4rhlFw (Accessed: 26 November 2016).
Das, T. (2007) ‘How to write a documentary script’ HOW TO WRITE A DOCUMENTARY SCRIPT A MONOGRAPH. Available at: http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/CI/CI/pdf/programme_doc_documentary_script.pdf (Accessed: 31 October 2016).
Desktop-Documentaries (2016) Top 10 video interviewing tips for documentary filmmaking. Available at: http://www.desktop-documentaries.com/interviewing-tips.html (Accessed: 13 November 2016).
Ella’s Archives (2015) Library organization – 1951 educational documentary – Ella73TV. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prtH0OYnB1c (Accessed: 18 October 2016).
FocalOnline (2014) How to conduct a documentary interview. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lj3VzkWAKsA (Accessed: 13 November 2016).
Krohn, B. (2010) Masters of cinema: Stanley Kubrick. Paris: Cahiers du cinéma Sari.
Lindenmuth, K.J. (2010) The documentary moviemaking course: The starter guide to documentary filmmaking. London: Methuen Drama.
LISU’s UK statistics (2012) Available at: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/microsites/infosci/lisu/lisu-statistics/lisu-uk-library-statistics.pdf (Accessed: 10 November 2016).
Morgen, B. (2015) Cobain: Montage of heck. .
NationSwell (2016) The street librarian. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22oG1cell1E (Accessed: 18 October 2016).
PRO, kogonada (2016) Kubrick // One-Point perspective. Available at: https://vimeo.com/48425421 (Accessed: 22 November 2016).
Rohdie, Sam (2006) Montage. Manchester University Press.
I really enjoyed this task. I was originally going to choose quite a dark poem about death and have a clock ticking and chimes chiming to imply the impending doom. But then I started creating my own sounds and realized how much fun that could be so decided to make my soundscape something silly and fun too. Wile. E. Coyote and The Roadrunner cartoons were my inspiration, as their sound effects were always greatly exaggerated and added a lot of humour to the poor coyote’s never ending failure.
I picked an excerpt from Dr.Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat as it used to be one of my daughter’s favorite stories when she was little and I knew most of it by heart. I think this really helps with reciting a poem or piece of prose. Otherwise you often just sound like you are reading from a page.
Before I started creating any foley myself I researched Treg Brown who created many of the Looney Tunes sound effects you may remember from cartoons.
Greatly inspired but, sadly, minus a Hawaiian guitar I set to work. As the story is about being stuck in the house on a rainy day the first thing I needed to recreate was rain. I didn’t have a watering can and the famous British weather, for once, wasn’t giving us any actual rain. So I experimented with aiming the shower at different things until I got the right sound. An empty plastic bottle seemed to work best.
For the play ball I found a pom pom covered Christmas bauble which I bounced on a wooden floor and repeatedly caught. It sounded surprisingly like a bouncing ball hitting off a wall, like you would do if you were bored and couldn’t go out to play.
For the Sit! Sit! Sit! Sit! part I moved a chair about in time with the words, well not quite in time. I actually had to slow the thuds down slightly, but eventually I got them just right.
For the BUMP I shouldered a wooden door and then added some reverb and bass. This is my favorite sound that I created as I can imagine Wile.E.Coyote slamming into something and making just this noise.
For the Ta Da noise I folded up some paper like a fan and blew into it and then added a few audio effects.
And to finish I added the theme tune to Bod.
If I could change anything about my soundscape it would be the rain track I made. The shower made a great rain sound but it also produced an annoying background hiss from the water pressure. Not having much experience with sound editing and using Audition I had no idea how to isolate the hiss and remove it. This, in turn, meant I couldn’t bring the sound of the rain up very loud without the hiss making my whole soundscape sound like a poor quality recording. This was confirmed when I played it to my task group who all thought the rain effect was actually just static in the background that needed removing.
Next time I think a child’s watering can pouring water from a height onto some plastic sheeting would create a far more natural sound or I could even try the bacon frying trick we learnt in lectures last week.
I would also be braver with my sounds and include more of them. Both the bouncing ball and the BUMP almost got missed by the audience as they were so quiet. You add a sound for a reason so it is important that your audience hears it, otherwise they miss the mood or message you are trying to convey. I think I need to think a little more theatrically with my soundscape and not tone everything down quite so much.
Next term I plan to dedicate some time each week to using Audition and watching the tutorials on Lynda.com and continue collecting sounds around me to make my own Sound Bank. Hopefully this will help me improve my sound editing skills while also allowing me to have fun with sounds until I can produce something Treg Brown himself would be proud of!
fartfx3 (2009a) CRASH! BANG! BOOM! The wild sounds of Treg brown part1. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xqaeds-wO4A (Accessed: 8 November 2016).
fartfx3 (2009b) CRASH! BANG! BOOM! The wild sounds of Treg brown part2. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6IeTsHfcvU (Accessed: 12 November 2016).
Loren (1998) Homemade sound effects with big-budget impact. Available at: https://www.videomaker.com/article/c9/3186-homemade-sound-effects-with-big-budget-impact (Accessed: 8 December 2016).
Seuss (1999) The cat in the hat. 5th edn. New York: Random House USA Children’s Books.
Sound FX challenge: Bacon vs. Rain- VideoBlocks (2015) Available at: http://content.videoblocks.com/stock-videos/video-gallery/bacon-vs-rain/ (Accessed: 25 November 2016).
Recently in class we discussed ethics, integrity and using our own personal, moral, compass when it comes to working with members of the public.
I always want to ensure that I am protecting my documentary subject and in no way taking advantage of their open-ness.
While working on Sarah’s story I have had to question my own ethics and decide if certain information should remain in my documentary’s final cut or should be removed to limit any damage caused to those referred to.
Sarah reveals during the documentary that she was abused as a child but then goes on to name her abuser and members of her family she felt were negligent. I am not sure what good revealing these names in the documentary would do, other than to cause possible problems for Sarah and her family, so I am choosing to edit them out of the final film.
Yesterday I worked as an assistant photographer at Gunther Prague’s much anticipated new gig at The Tin at The Coal Vaults, Coventry.
I normally photograph in natural light so this job was quite different for me and meant I was probably going to come up against quite a few problems I’d not encountered while shooting in daylight. But, as I was working as an assistant alongside a main photographer and because Gunther Prague like their publicity shots to be a bit quirky and different, it meant I could really have some fun on this shoot and in the following edit.
Because of the extreme lighting at the gig I found I had a lot of problems with the artificial lights washing the whole scene resulting in over exposed images or the band members looking like they had purple or green skin. I found the best way to avoid this was to get down really low so I was under the lighting. At first I felt quite self conscience about crawling around on the floor in front of a crowd of people but I soon realised they were far too engrossed in watching the band to pay any attention to me. I had also made a point of wearing black clothes and flat shoes to the event which helped me to blend in more and meant I had no problems rushing from one side of the stage to the other depending on where the next good shot was likely to be taken from.
I think I may have actually learnt more from editing these images than I did while taking them.
With gig photos you often end up with photos awash with glaring colors and blur from the bands constant movement. Initially I spent quite a long time trying to correct these things. Resulting in some really terrible images that looked totally unnatural. I soon came to realize that you need to work with these things instead of pulling against them. Audiences don’t expect to see gig photos naturally lit. They are used to seeing images tinted by stage lights and blur from a guitarists enthusiastic strumming so, instead, I tried accentuating these things and that’s when my photos really began to gain their own personality.
The image above is the same image reversed and placed over itself while a second image has then been layered over the first two after the base image was color filtered and partially posterized. Obviously this kind of image will not be to everyone’s taste but I think they really fit with the band’s style and essentially that is what you are trying to capture in most photos. The essence of a person or place, their individuality and the atmosphere of that moment to share with the people who weren’t lucky enough to be there to discover it themselves.
After reading about The Rising Global Peace festival that was happening this month in Coventry I contacted it’s organisers to see if I could be off any help taking some photos and filming a little footage for them.
The organisers were extremely helpful and said they would love for me to come and document their event and I could have access to all areas where I wanted to photograph and film.
Alinah Azadeh was holding an exhibition of her artwork inside the cathedral ruins that I was lucky enough to photograph. Each piece of art was placed in the cathedral and was available for visitors to take home with them if they chose to.
In the evening I travelled to Fargo village to capture the performance of the amazing Venus Bushfires on both camera and film.
A few days after the festival Alinah Azadeh contacted me to thank me for taking the photos of her artwork. It was really nice to know that was happy worth my work.
I’m working with Dana and Lavi to help answer Alan’s question from last week’s lecture:
“What is the future of documentary?”
For me it is very much based in both:
Virtual Field Trips in primary schools:
and becoming more:
Man with a Movie Camera: The Global Remake
Can a Live Twitter feed deliver a documentary format? Although this may be seen as some as merely a reporter reporting it very much has a documentary feel to me. And where does reporting end and documenting begin?:
Above you can see research links I have added and a few examples of some of my favorite pieces. We hope to show a few clips of these in the lecture and, if we can get hold of one, also borrow a VR headset so the class can get a chance to watch a snippet of VR documentary for themselves in immersive 360.
Further possible research:
“Some startups, such as Somniacs and Hyve 3D, have gone even further, building full-blown simulators with air fans and added smells to heighten the experience.”