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.
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