Brief 4: A New Hope

Brief 3 is officially over, which means the beginning of a whole new chestnut – brief 4. Liam had us work together in groups with the people we were sitting with (who just happened to be Samantha and Blair from brief 3), to create pitches for a new film that could work as our brief 4 works. Liam showed us some very interesting pieces, including a documentary made entirely of people’s stolen phone conversations and a documentary narrated by a dead general’s wandering ankle.

Liam then showed us the constraints for our next project:

any of the three –

  • no interviews
  • no voice-over
  • only found-footage or other appropriated material
  • is non-photorealistic
  • deliberately breaks some other identifiable documentary convention

And all I could think about how I could break ALL of the conventions. This led me to developing a very interesting idea, an idea that actually started with one constraint – found-footage. I knew if I used found-footage it would never use interviews or voice-over. I would let the clips speak for themselves. That was three down. the quota was filled. But this non-photorealistic thing really intrigued me. If I was going to make a film I knew I wanted it to somehow be that. And then Liam went on to further explain what it meant – to be non-photorealistic, it simply had to not fit within simplistic ideas of what film looks like. Anything that breaks that frame, that mold works, whether it’s colour or shape. And then it hit me – split-screen. We would play each side of the frame against the other in order to produce the critique we wanted.

I was telling this all to Blair, who was next to me, and she loved the idea and was spurring me on, asking me all the right questions to get me thinking. Even though the structure was there, Blair pointed out, it wasn’t very clear what we were critiquing yet. I was thinking about the fake surface nature of relationships that technology produces, and how that stolen phone conversations documentary we watched earlier did it so well. Made something we see as so normal so creepy. Pointing out the obvious flaws in the structure. And then I knew what socio-political structure I wanted to critique, one that is always everywhere, it is always at the forefront of our minds through advertisements and entertainment we consume on a regular basis. The Hollywood system. We would use Hollywood to critique itself and reveal its own illusions.

It was the perfect idea and exactly the kind of thing I wanted to make for my final film, and Blair agreed that it would be a great film to make.



Blair and I have decided to work together on this film, which is amazing because not only did I love working with her on our previous project, but I really feel like I need someone’s help to pull this off in what little time we have left, and who better than Blair, a masterful editor with a keen eye and a love for Hollywood films.

We spent today’s lesson (Thursday) working on our concept and we’ve decided to root our critique in Hollywood’s portrayal of women. With this does come some heavy connotative issues, but I say if we’re using well known material why not use these connotations to our message’s advantage?

We’ve already come up with some very interesting things we can possibly use, such as what I’m calling a ‘slap compilation’. Using footage of women from all different films we will compile a sequence of women being repeatedly slapped to introduce our film with impact. This will hopefully be accompanied by a song called ‘He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)’ by The Crystals, an all female group from the 60’s.However, I am very aware of the heavy connotative values of this song and so have a backup option – classical Hollywood music that progressively speeds up and becomes off-kilter, breaking the illusion.

We’ll be officially pitching our film next week, so hopefully we’ll get some good feedback from the class (which I don’t doubt) and will be able to develop it more from there.

Group Project Update: Week 7 Crit Panel

After a marathon of pulling shifts day after day, sparing what time we could, when we could in the edit suites, (which I’ve come to lovingly call ‘the dungeon’) we finally managed to (or I should say Samantha managed to, with a few tiny last minute tweaks from me) pull the audio together, allowing us to assemble our documentary in its entirety and finish the day before the crit panel (which was technically the day before it was actually due, but we treated as though it was the actual due date).

Our crit panel was made up of Liam, Paul Ritchard and Van Rudd. Paul, as a film and documentary maker himself was an obvious choice for the panel. Van on the other hand was rather, like the studio, an outside the box choice, but fit our political and poetic studio perfectly, being a well-known political artist.

Everyone’s documentaries came together beautifully, and while I was late because of technical issues, we managed to pull it off and show our films to the panel in time. Even though we didn’t get our feedback in the classroom, we did get it in the hallway after class, after being ushered out. Standing there in a hallway, surrounded by my tutors and group members I felt so incredibly elated hearing all of the feedback they had to give. I am so proud of how Duck and Cover turned out! All of the feedback we received was exactly the response I was aiming for when I was crafting the documentary. The satire and the soundtrack in particular hit-home with the powerful imagery, getting it positive reviews all around. No Borders had the same unanimous positive feedback, which was a major relief for all of us after all of our hard work on the project. There was only one minor piece of constructive feedback related to our use of over-lays, which to be honest, after all the work we put into it, we were willing to let pass and simply hand in.

I’m really proud of both films.

Group Update: Week 6

This week I had another epiphany. While searching under a new search term that Blair thought of, I came across the missing piece for the found footage documentary’s uncomfortable, disconcerting soundtrack; this PSA from 1951 entitled “Duck and Cover”

I immediately went to work chopping and looping the 45 seconds of audio, cutting in the bigoted statements from politicians and the sounds of ocean waves and boat creaks creating a layered soundscape I knew would fit perfectly with the found footage I had already sourced.

We showed the layered audio piece to the class as well as the footage I’d already roughly pieced together and they thought that it would work well to convey the message we are trying to convey through this found footage documentary.

We also showed a rough cut of the footage Samantha and I had taken earlier in the week around the State Library and China Town, trying to show the many positive, neutral and negative layers of Melbourne. Blair did a great job editing together a rough cut of the footage as she had with the Palm Sunday March footage she and Samantha took earlier in the process. The class liked the footage but felt they needed to hear the finished audio as well to get a clearer picture of the whole documentary, which I definitely agree with.

On Tuesday this week Samantha and I interviewed another person, with questions more in line to our documentaries current state. Samantha did the same today with another person, and now I’m beginning to feel that the first person’s audio needs to be re-recorded or discarded. This shot footage documentary is taking quite the toll on our group. If we don’t figure out this audio soon…

Group Project Update: Week 5

This week I decided to stop simply hunting for found footage and start editing it together, so I started to build a rough cut. Realising that my rough cut was almost entirely still images I decided to hunt down some footage as well, so I sourced some old news reels:

These should create a really interesting juxtaposition.

Inspirational Quote of the Week – Abed Nadir, Community

“Documentarians are supposed to be objective to avoid having any effect on the story. But we end up having more effect than anyone, because we decide to tell it. And we decide how it ends. Will your story be yet another sad portrait of yet another man who just wanted to be happy? Or will your story acknowledge the very nature of stories, and embrace the fact that sharing the sad ones can sometimes make them happy.” – Abed Nadir, Community