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.
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.
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.”
343 public libraries have closed since 2010.
Another 111 closures are planned in 2016.
after sharing my research with the class it was suggested that a percentage of figures shown would have more impact and then possibly thinking about if the rate of library closures stayed the same by what year would all libraries be closed. i think this could be a really powerful ending to Sarah’s Story.
Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place…
(And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place.)
– T.S. Eliot
Even though we know the narration is fiction played over visual fact, I wonder about the narrator and writer’s relationship. Have they ever met or do they just know each other through letters? I imagine our narrator reading each letter and using them to follow the writer on his journey, as she also refers to her travels. Maybe always one step behind him, never quite catching up. Or are his letters just so vivid she feels she has also been to these places and witnessed the same scenes he has?
The letters are a type of poetry/prose.
I feel Marker’s film is very much inspired/influenced by Vertoz’s Man With a Movie Camera. We see a mixture of similar imagery; people going to work, shopping and at leisure (people on the beach sunbathing in MWMC/people playing video games in arcades in SS), industry and technology (walls of TV’s in SS/factories and pistons in MWMC and trains and their tracks seem to hold a fascination for both film makers), seemingly uncalled for nudity in both- almost seemed to shock or surprise in comparison to other footage? wrestling and sports recreation feature in both films (add more specific examples later from each film with a rewatch of both to confirm ideas and some more still images to compare and contrast)
Sans Soleil seems to consider the value of human life and animal life. Looking at war and animals being hunted and killed. Possibly commenting on the needless slaughtering of humans in unjust wars and animals killed for unjust want. This is also echoed in the scenes of the panda’s funeral. Making us consider if our lives are worth more than that of an animal’s. Why shouldn’t an animal have a funeral as we would? (was Chris Marker an animal rights activist/vegetarian? look into this and his life, sure I remember something about him being part of a commune while making the film?) We also see a vulture feeding, is this in reference to the circle of life and out of death comes life?
Throughout Sans Soleil we see repeated images of cats. Whether it be the Maneki-Niko, the lucky fortune cat statue so popular in Japan, or just domestic cats making an appearance it made me wonder if the cat symbolized something for Marker or if he was just a feline fan. On looking at Marker’s biography I discovered that he rarely gave interviews and when asked for a photo to represent himself in the press he often sent an image of a cat. So maybe the cats in Sans Soleil actually represent Marker himself? (look into did he own a cat and look at the film with cartoon cats he was involved with?)
The writer tells our narrator that ‘Computers offer a future for the human race’ and tells us how Pacman is a metaphor for our lives. Maybe because he is constantly rushing around not taking time to stop to enjoy life until he is finally eaten up/consumed by it?
Marker uses a series of different techniques throughout his film to get a reaction from us. Not just through the narrative and imagery but also through his editorial choices. At some points he uses what I can only describe as a ‘synthesiser’ distortion effect on some images. Like the footage has been mixed with sound waves. There is probably a technical name for this I just don’t know (look into it, ask lecturers) It has a slightly uncomfortable effect and I imagine that was his intention. Throughout the dance scenes in the film the sound is also slightly too loud, another technique to keep us off balance? He continues to distort the images we see with filters. Most notably red filters over black and white. This helps to keep the color continuity but also seems to symbolize something. The use of red filters on war images possibly representing anger and bloodshed.
Sans Soleil uses both stills and footage from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Particularly the image of the eye and the swirling of it. Hitchcock uses a similar swirling meets eye effect in the movie Psycho at the end of it’s infamous shower scene. (are these symbols linked and what is Marker saying about them? going inside a persons mind?) This again links back to the imagery in Vertoz’s Man With a Movie Camera. Looking at how the camera’s lens captures what our eye sees but can also distort and misinterpret it.
I’ve never written a shooting script for a documentary before so decided I needed to do some research before I started. I looked at scripts for other documentaries online and also came across this great e-book by director and screenplay writer Trisha Das:
I am really interested to see how our pre-shooting script will differ from our post-shoot script.
Below I have made a short visual storyboard of our script to show the colours of our documentary and the style of shoot we have in mind. Our film will start bright and go into slight shadow as Sarah discusses her struggles. It then comes back to bright colours but eventually fades to black as the light turns out.
Scene 1 – Introduction/Establishing shot
A tracking shot shows the audience books on shelves in a library, tables, chairs, a librarian busy working and then finally comes to rest on a hand selecting an oversized book. It is Sarah’s hand. She is choosing a revision book for the maths course she is currently studying. We follow her as she carries the book to a table and sits down and starts to read. The camera pans out to get a view of the entire library.
Scene 2 – Background
We hear Sarah’s voice as she describes her childhood, her struggle at school and her problems with dyslexia. We see Sarah looking at photos of herself as a child and the camera lingers on children’s books, open at pages with illustrations that relate to her life. i.e: if Sarah talks about her dyslexia we show a book with blurred/jumbled letters; if Sarah talks about an unhappy home life we see illustrations from the book Matilda.
Scene 3 – Conflict and conclusion
We begin to see facts and figures on the screen. Recent library closures across the country, their dates and the government spending cuts still to be brought in, laid over more visuals of the library. We end with the library closing for the evening, lights switch off, black screen and silence.
Sarah’s Story is, exactly that, so we want to make the main body of the film- Scene 2- the heart of the story and as such it will be longer than the other two scenes. We want to let Sarah tell us about the difference libraries made to her life and then, at the end, tell the audience that the government is in the process of shutting down many libraries across the country. We hope to make them two separate issues that the audience connects together themselves and feels more informed for doing so. The library closing at the end, and the silence, hints at it’s possible closure for good and gives the audience a moment to understand this.
As this is a documentary we are aware that the treatment needs to be flexible. As Sarah’s Story unfolds other issues, we have not yet considered, may crop up and new visuals may become apparent. In preparation for this we plan to record Sarah’s audio first and then scout out our location to see what pairs to it. We also need to be flexible in our ideas so that we don’t try and force Sarah’s Story to fit the box we have designed for it.