RECORDING PLACE | Studio Reflection

I have sacrificed a lot to partake in Recording Place, RMIT summer studio. I work full-time, I have 2-3 other film projects I am in pre-production for and I have a casual job on top of that. For the past 6 weeks I have been either at work, in meetings or at uni every day, all day. I can wholeheartedly say that it has been worth it. It has been my favourite class to date at RMIT. I have learnt invaluable lessons about documentary filmmaking and I feel empowered by that knowledge. For this I will be eternally grateful to our tutor, Rohan Spong and to RMIT.

Rohan himself serves as an inspiration to all media students. He made a whole documentary film by himself. He shot and directed his own documentary set in New York! Hence he flew back and forth from home in Australia to complete the project. This is a huge feat and it is immensely inspirational. He encourages us to go forth into the world and work alone if we need to. This is important to me because I have always felt let down from collaborators and to be encouraged to work alone and to now have a personal example of someone having done that and succeed is enough to inspire me to do the same.

More importantly, Rohan broke down the process for us in a way that was easy to understand and practical. This is something I feel I have missed in other classes throughout my degree at RMIT. We have focused a lot on media and film theory and too little on how to apply that knowledge practically within the industry.

The structure that Rohan taught which I will take with me onto my next documentary project is:

  • Choose an interesting setting and observe characters–allow stories to come to you.
  • Once a person, place or event is decided upon, create a logline, synopsis and treatment. (This stage helps define the purpose of the film and the direction of the interview questions)
  • Write no more than 10 questions with a “destination” in mind.
  • Shoot an interview with your subject in flattering lighting and compose a strong image/background to frame your subject.
  • Edit the interview a few times until you have the final rushes, then add appropriate visual details to compliment what is being said.
  • Use images that compliment what is being said.
  • Cull and refine ruthlessly.

Working with Haylee McCormick throughout the studio has been an absolute pleasure. Her and I worked seamlessly together and had fun through the whole process. At this point I had almost forgotten that my original desired subject had declined and Haylee and I had searched desperately for a new subject, because everything since has moved so quickly and has felt quite easy.

Once we locked Ariel in (as hesitant and somewhat hostile as he was at first) we knew we had a promising story to tell. It was certainly going to be a challenge for us. We both felt the story itself was shallow — just a celebration of sweaters — but with Rohan’s guidance we found an angle that was sweet and we enjoyed allowing ourselves and our documentary to be playful (not something either of us is used to — we both normally side with the dark side). We decided comfortably to divide cinematography and sound roles, but worked collectively on the rest.

We had a major mishap on the way (we somehow deleted our original footage), but we proved our problem solving skills a plenty when we re-shot most of it within moments of everything being deleted.

The most important tips and skills I have taken away with me from the course is to always categorize, label and back-up everything! Haylee and I learned this the hard way. Another is to think carefully about composing an image based on the Rule of Thirds — even the interview should be shot with symmetry and visual appeal in mind. Lastly, to write the idea and treatment before you jump into production — no more ‘winging it’!

Truthfully, these are only a few main examples of the points I have taken away from this studio. Really, I feel as though I have been given the combination to documentary filmmaking. I am very excited to make my own documentary with Rohan’s advice in mind.


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Rohan asked us to revisit and make any necessary adjustments to our Logline and Synopsis before we re-submit them with our completed documentary. Ours remained much the same with very slight changes:

Original Logline: A celebration of Ariel Gabizon’s 30 year long career as the ‘Coogi Man’ and his longstanding devotion to style and colour.

Updated Longline: A celebration of Ariel Gabizon’s 30 year long career as the ‘Coogi Man’ and his longstanding devotion to bringing colour to Melbourne.

Original Synopsis: The Queen Victoria Markets has seen many changes in recent decades, but for the last 30 years Ariel Gabizon has continued to sell vibrant Coogi sweaters within the bustling marketplace, spreading colour throughout customers lives. Over the years he has sold colourful garments to every type of person imaginable, asserting the inclusive belief that colour is for everyone. Life in Colour will explore Ariel’s long history with the market, the iconic Coogi sweater and the people who enjoy them.

Updated Synopsis: The Queen Victoria Markets has seen many changes in recent decades, but for the last 30 years Ariel Gabizon has continued spread colour throughout Melbourne selling vibrant Coogi sweaters within the bustling marketplace. Over the years he has sold colourful garments to every type of person imaginable, believing everyone can do with a little more colour. Coogi Man will explore Ariel’s history with the market, the iconic Coogi sweater and what the future holds.


This week the focus is on refinement and colour grading. I am quite novice when it comes to grading and Haylee feels the same so we worked together in adjusting the colour of particular shots to meet others. I don’t feel that our original (first shoot) footage needs adjusting, aside from a contrast or brightness tweak here and there. We certainly need to match the duller, flatter images we captured of Ariel standing in the market stall–they do not match our richer images at all. In order to achieve better continuity we adjusted the saturation and the contrast until we felt it matched the other shots.

I also worked out a way to make the colour saturation change gradually in a particular shot which we applied to the first close up of Ariel to reiterate our central theme of the Coogi Man bringing colour to Melbourne (suggested by Rohan).

We decided to leave the final edit and upload for Monday, the day before the due date. This way we can approach the final adjustments with a fresh perspective.


This week Haylee and I concentrated solely on fine tuning the edit.

We were fortunate enough to receive great feedback on our rough draft from Cindy, an industry-grade editor.

Cindy’s main feedback was:

  • When Ariel introduces himself see him say his name then cut to the wider shot of him so he isn’t looking offscreen so much
  • Drop two of the shots of his money belt and holding the mobile phone
  • Weave the music in and out a little more so there is less of it
  • Replace some of the cutaways at the end to more relevant images (perhaps architecture or nature around Melbourne that are similar to the designs of the jumpers)

We spent the morning focusing on these points and found a huge improvement. Though we improved the edit tenfold when Rohan came in and watched the edit again and told us to be ruthless and cut out a bunch of sections in between Ariel talking we thought we needed but realised after cutting them out they were unnecessarily. Trimming the fat on edits is such a valuable step in refining a video/film. We are lucky to have Rohan around to encourage us to do so. And it’s a reminded of how important it is to allow other parties to suggest edits to a project you are too close to to recognise.

Culling phrases that diluted the meaning of what Ariel was saying and adding extra joining words to complete Ariel’s sentences made the edit more cohesive and logical. By the end of the day we were quite satisfied with our draft, though we will continue to fine tune it in Thursday’s class.



This week I ventured down to the Markets on my own to capture more establishing shots to use in our edit. I knew we needed a variety of shots to complete the edit so I spent time capturing Wides and CUs of Market details from the outside, and then walking through the market stalls to capture finer details and to capture rushes of people through the market. Unfortunately I didn’t have a tripod with me, which proved very challenging. I really wish I had one. I managed to get some nice shots without it but it was difficult for me and my wrist was aching by the end of the hour — the Canon 5d is heavy!!

Whilst I was at the market Haylee was working on the interview. She added a few words to Ariel’s sentences to complete them and it’s made a world of difference!

Again, I am thankful to be working with Haylee, this process has been a breeze. I feel it has been equal, too, which is rare for a university project. I hope she feels the same.



This week I borrowed a camera and walked around the city attempting to capture the right kind of “gloomy Melbourne” shots to accompany something Ariel says in his interview: “It’s typical in Melbourne for people to wear a lot of blacks… dull look colours”.  I hung around the city after class and shot during and just after sun set. The footage turned out OK, but I definitely could have done better. It was around 37C while I was shooting however so I was rushing and didn’t apply Rohan’s very valuable tip: 10 second cutaways. Rohan was pressed the importance of allowing your camera to sit on one place/person/thing for at least 10 seconds. I applied this rule to come shots but not all and it’s a shame because some of the best shots I got were the ones I didn’t hang on for long enough.

Today we showed Rohan our interview rushes and he gave us some great feedback: let go of everything (visuals, style etc) and focus solely on what Ariel is saying. The structure is the most important element of a documentary–the content and creating a narrative is what drives the visual flow.

With Rohan we finalised the interview structure:

  1. Ariel talking about Melbourne being grey & the importance of colour
  2. Ariel introducing himself & his history with the markets
  3. What makes Coogi Jumpers special
  4. Reflection on how they used to sell and looking forward hoping to continue

I think this will help us immensely in getting our documentary finished in an organised and systematic fashion.


Haylee and I met at the suites yesterday to organise our shoot for the following morning and to work on the edit. Haylee working primarily on the interview rushes as I concentrated on the footage (e.g. prime sweater shots and cutaways). Haylee managed to condense the interview down to four minutes thirty, and then again to just under three minutes.

Today we returned to the Queen Vic Markets to shoot with Ariel a second time. We were lucky enough to lock him in once more before he leaves town for a holiday. This time we focused solely on visuals, hence we only brought the Canon Mark iii DSLR and a table top tripod. We were satisfied with the audio we had captured from the first shoot.

We were quite pleased with the shoot until we uploaded the footage in the editing suites and noticed the footage was a little off. The image quality wasn’t as rich as the previous shoot. I was really confused at this point given the ISO and the white balance were all balanced to the environment and lighting.

Then the most upsetting thing happened — we somehow lost our original footage. It was somewhat unclear as to how it completely deleted from the server. But I instantly knew in my gut the moment Premiere couldn’t locate the media in the editing sequence it was gone. Call it ‘filmmakers intuition’. Haylee was more optimistic and had one of the RMIT tech guys assist us in trying to relocate the footage. Within ten minutes we collectively decided to head straight back to the Vic Markets and re-shoot. At this moment I was so happy to have Haylee as my partner-in-crime. We have a mutual CAN-DO attitude. No hurdle is too big–just do it!

It was disappointing that this happened but it was also the catalyst for some very important lessons to be learned. Firstly, always back up and catalog/name your uploaded footage and sound. And, secondly, check the camera settings thoroughly before you shoot anything. Heading back to the QVM, I sat down and looked thoroughly through the camera menu/settings to try to identify why the image wasn’t as clear and lush as our previous shoot. Doing this I discovered that someone had adjusted the shooting style from Neutral (which we were using previously) to Cinema (which caused the image to be flat and grainy). I felt this also inspired me to trust in a good camera and lens to do it’s ‘thing’. No need to play with the image style, shoot RAW and unfiltered and adjust the style in post, if needed.

We were lucky that by this point Ariel had warmed to us and was supportive and happy to give us a little more of his time. I think Haylee and I both learned a lot from this single day. In a sense I am pleased it happened because it is a valuable learning curve and a slight kick in the face regarding pacing and organisation.





I’ve been thinking more and more about how I can turn my passion for short-form documentary into a stable career. I think I’ve learned through this self-interested study that branded content could be a category of filmmaking that would suit me. I’m all about the human condition/experience, so potentially after making many of my own short documentaries and dance films I could market myself as a director with a particular style (aesthetic and content/narratives) who could handle marketing campaigns, say, for Converse (watch:

Currently studying this filmmaker: He’s just released a short documentary on Krump. It looks wild. Can’t wait to see it. I know it will inspire me.


Haylee and I had an incredible experience shooting Ariel. It was smooth, fun, and surprisingly in-depth (on Ariel’s part). He warmed to us as soon as we set up and assured him we weren’t going to probe him about anything personal or anything too controversial regarding the business. He was very sweet from that point onward and he changed his tune completely! From “I have about 3 minutes spare” to “would you like me to say more? Stay! Have coffee with us!”. We were so happy with the results. Haylee on sound, myself on camera and direction. We worked seamlessly together. So much so that we’ve decided to pair up for future filmmaking endeavours. Haylee is going to accompany me on a documentary I am in pre-production stages for. Following a musician named Spike Fuck – her music (recording a second album) and recovery from heroine addiction (music as a process of recovery, an outlet and as a healing passion for her mental illness). I couldn’t be happier about working with Haylee for this studio, it’s been a blessing.

RECORDING PLACE | pb#2 report

Geri (1999) + Tim’s Creswell’s Notion of Place

Tim Cresswell’s notion of place distorts the dictionary meaning of place: a particular position, point, or area in space; a location. Creswell’s Place: A Short Introduction explores how human geography is fundamental in the conception of place, furthermore, a vital component of documentary research. Creswell’s notion of place focuses on the ‘realm of meaning and experience’ (Cresswell 2004), rather than geography. He instead believes that space is a ‘way of seeing, knowing and understanding the world’ (Cresswell 2004). Furthermore, that seeing the world in this way is antagonistic to how people rationalise the world focussing on geographic space rather than place. Instead, documentary research should focus on the human geography and the connections made to or within a space. Similarly, how a ‘place’ is represented. This is vital when considering documentary film because, ultimately, the documentarian is shaping the representation of a certain place. In this paper I am going to use Molly Dineen’s Geri (1999) to illustrate Cresswell’s notion of place.

Molly Dineen is an acclaimed contemporary documentary filmmaker. She is known for her probing, intimate portraits of British individuals and institutions. Dineen is also the recipient of numerous awards including Grierson, BAFTA and RTS for documentary. In May 1998, Geri Halliwell left the Spice Girls. One of Halliwell’s first instincts was to record this process in order to share her perspective on the event and to archive the proceedings. Subsequently, she contacted documentarian Molly Dineen to be involved. The film followed Halliwell’s life through a six-month period of self-exploration and experimentation, especially regarding her celebrity identity. In this instance, Geri, the pop-star British icon, became the place Dineen wished to penetrate. What is most fascinating about this film is its exploration of celebrity identity versus self identity. Halliwell lived parallel lives–powerful Spice Girl and sex symbol to the world, and vulnerable daughter at home. Dineen situated herself between the two and that became the centralised ‘place’ of the documentary. Ultimately, the documentary encapsulated Halliwell’s struggle for meaning, image control and authenticity, which is something many people can relate to. If place can be centred on human experience and connection, this particular paradox is something many people are familiar with.

In the opening sequence Halliwell announces she will “be herself”. This frames the remainder of the film. What is her self? What defines oneself? The film moves between the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of Halliwell’s performances, including her role as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations, and through her private life, particularly her mother’s home. Dineen has framed Halliwell’s fragmented life perfectly in these two locations. Behind-the-scenes as Geri Halliwell, the popstar, she is physically well-groomed, glamorized and painfully considered. Contrastly, at home she is stripped back, natural and less curated. Similarly, the juxtaposition of acute support and celebration from Halliwell’s fans and the lack of support she feels at home. By the last quarter of the film Dineen has defined a link between Geri’s “be herself” ordinariness and her mediated celebrity self. Firstly, by her role as ambassador at the United Nations (as this is seen as using one’s celebrity to enact positive change based on personal preferences or morality) and her solo music pursuits, wherein we see Halliwell singing a song about her self-esteem issues.

The notion of self and identity is the anchor for the whole documentary. Dineen gently probes Halliwell about her feelings regarding leaving the Spice Girls, and even goes as far as to encourage Halliwell to talk about whether she is happy or not. Therefore, largely, the film is about self-revelation. Human geography is the study of places, though there is little understanding as to what ‘place’ is. The definitions vary through different areas of interest and industries i.e. philosophy and history (Cresswell 2004). Cresswell argues that ‘place as “things” are quite obscure and hard to grasp’, when in fact, place is simply a way of understanding the world. Although it may be considered an abstruse concept, I believe identity is the ‘place’ for which Molly Dineen situated her story and research when she created Geri (1999). Halliwell’s connection to home and her thirst for celebrity are equally important in illuminating the place of self awareness and identity. Halliwell’s paralleled lifestyles– ordinary, hopeful young woman and daughter at home, versus, globally recognised and admired British pop star–are connected through this concept of identity and the authentic self.

Cresswell, T. (2004). Place : a short introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub