My original subject was a young woman, whose life crumbled in destructive hands. Her stories project the struggle of overcoming an abusive relationship and a life changing prison sentence; using these lessons and challenges faced to turn over a new leaf and taking the positives steps to reconstruct her life. However a lack of budget and clarity in terms of the visuals led me to pick up another idea. Instead of my idea, I chose to work with Dana on her subject, an Anti Arms Trade Activist. Dana’s subject really intrigued me after presenting a clear and well-researched pitch. The Anti Arms Trade/Movement was also a topic that I was unfamiliar with, however based on Dana’s pitch, I knew that this was a rich topic that provided a lot of visual potential. Our subject, Melanie Moon, was a C.A.A.T (Campaign Against The Arms Trade) supporter, who is a [i]“UK-based organisation working to end the international arms trade.”
After Dana spoke to Melanie via Facebook I found out her involvement in this movement covers many areas, companies and people, but she is mostly keen on sharing her own thoughts about the company Lockheed Martin that is involved in a £100 million investment in the arms trade and who has Coventry based offices. From this information, I knew that our main questions would be tailored towards her views and opinions on the Arms Trade and Lockheed Martin and from this I also got our first idea for visuals, a protest shot in front of the Lockheed Martin building. As this was a rich idea, I needed to make sure that I narrowed the focus specifically to Melanie’s knowledge and experiences and ensure that the questions were open
Feedback from our peers and lecturer Ken, allowed us to further develop our ideas audio and visuals. We originally chose to shoot in an expository mode, which the most common form of documentaries broadcasted on national television. Expository mode’s form is ‘direct-address’ where [ii]“social issues are assembled into an argumentative frame, mediated by a voice-of-God narration.” We felt that our documentary topic and subject was most suited to this mode of filming, as our subject actively took part in marches and protests, we aimed to capture shots of her at a protest. Our ‘a voice-of-God narration’ would be an interview we recorded prior to filming, so the chosen audio would give a base for the shots captured. One of the most important areas of planning our documentary was the ethics. I learned that we must firstly discuss a way in which the story can be presented to suit the documentary maker and the subject, as well as not exploiting our subject.
Our interview content differed from what we expected. The questions asked stimulated a difference response from Melanie, which led us to a slight change in content included, as we felt certain parts were more interesting. On the other hand, we didn’t stray much from our shooting script, our main components featured in the shooting script are all included in the final edit, apart from footage from the campaign, as Melanie did not attend it. On the day of the shoot we changed our plan to not shoot a sit down interview, as we were no longer able to capture footage of the protest. We also found that Melanie wasn’t completely comfortable in front of the camera, so we had to work on ways of shooting her actions and refrain from lengthy shots of her talking to the camera. I filmed using the second camera on location and the lack of equipment on the shoot hindered the quality of my footage. As we were shooting in an Expository mode, we didn’t bring tripods, steadicams or shoulder mounts to our location shoot, so that limited the type of shots I was able to capture as I head to ensure I didn’t move around a lot because it would affect the stability of the shot.
The first obstacle faced when editing was editing the audio. Our subject stuttered quite a lot and also used a lot of filler words “um” which interrupted the fluidity of what she was saying. Dana and I chopped the audio in Adobe Audition to cut out the filler words and select the most interesting parts. As we did not have music, when creating the audio, we had to layer the ambient sounds to create a backing for the interview. This was mainly a feature to fill the pauses in between Melanie’s voice over.
After we had finished editing our audio, we selected out footage. A lot of the footage was either out of focus or had sharp/jittery movements, which made most of it unusable. The sit down interview shot on the day was out of focus and Dana stood to the side of Melanie, which meant that her response was directed away from the camera. As we now had a lack of footage, this made it difficult to piece the three-minute documentary together. As a solution to this, we decided to create a hybrid of two modes, Expository and Participatory, by including previous footage from a sit down interview with Melanie, shot by Dana. This also meant that we’d have to change some of the interview included in the final audio, as it would not synchronize with what was said in the sit down interview. We also included an extra bit of archive footage from a previous protest Melanie had went to, as a substitution for the footage we was supposed to capture at the protest in Birmingham.
Lastly, deciding on our working title proved difficult as the group had different ideas. Our first title idea was “Hugs, Not Arms” which was intended to be a pun, reflecting Melanie’s ethos of peace and attitude towards weapons and the Arms trade. We decided to go against this title and choose “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. Although the title is cliche, we felt that this title would hold more weight and convey how destructive weapons can be.
To prevent these problems from happening on a future project, I can re record interesting parts of the interview or key sections and try to focus on getting clear responses from my subject. When shooting the footage, it is also important to record more than one take and ensure that the camera is set up correctly before shooting. It is also important to carefully select the mode, in order to be able to shoot in the correct style for your chosen subject. Although we used a hybrid mode, it still gave us chance to present a good reflection of Melanie’s activism, as I feel the interview shots were perhaps the most emotive.
[ii] Karina Wilson (2000-2013) Mediaknowall AS&A2 Documentary [Online] available from – http://www.mediaknowall.com/as_alevel/Documentary/docu_index.php