See below my blog posts for weeks nine, ten and eleven.
“For the viewer or reader, details and events can seem clear, linear, straightforward, and factual. And yet a false logic can occur: the absence of any contradiction and the invisibility of the writer or marker often lead us to confer unquestioned objectivity, truth, and facticity to the account.” (p. 5, 2017, Fox)
The above from Reimagining Documentary is a great starting point for me today, having finished up our interview with Enza, author of The Bridge. Enza’s novel is partly based upon the Westgate bridge collapse, and as a result, she has undergone some rather extensive research on the topic, which she spoke about in our interview. This interview was great because in this case, our documentary participant was a storyteller herself who has been researching the same topic we have been. Enza mentioned that throughout the research process she came across countless contradictions in the witness testimonies, news articles and various books on the topic of the Westgate. This was not so much a challenge for her as it was a realisation that the concept of the ‘truth’ is a very messy thing which doesn’t really exist in the perfect way we may want it to. For Enza, she had to put together all of these accounts and use them to influence her fictional work which she sought to be somewhat representational but not necessarily exactly factually true to the events of the collapse.
This insight is something that is very useful to us. The thing about the open space documentary concept is that we don’t need to be concerned with attaining this more authorial version of the ‘truth’. Instead, we can merge these different stories and create a collaborative account of the events. To attain a linear account of the ‘truth’ is something that would be very difficult to accomplish, and I don’t think that I would want to do that, because of the reasons that Fox describes. It is deceitful in a sense, because stories like the Westgate which reflect a multifaceted history, do not constitute these kinds of linear and factual histories. There are certainly some elements which are factual – the bridge definitely fell, for example. However, there are so many accounts that to summarise them into one linear account is so ambitious that it wouldn’t really be possible.
So that is really where I’m at this week. Listening to a storyteller like Enza has taught me more about what the reality of storytelling is: subject to many different perspectives and without any singular “truth”.
Fox, B 2017, ‘A Brief History of Documentary Movements and Modes’ in Documentary Media: History, Theory, Practice, Routledge
We are coming to the point in the project where the production stage of things will soon be wrapped up. This means we are identifying the forms that our content is going to take. We have two short film pieces in the works – the interviews with Donna and Tommy. These edits are coming along quite nicely and Nolan and Campbell have done well at consolidating these stories to a manageable amount of time. We are planning to use Danny’s interview for an audioscape, and with a limited amount of time we have it seems best to do another audioscape with an upcoming interview we have lined up with Enza Gandolfo, author of The Bridge.
While audio is the best way to go at this point because of how time – poor we are, I’m confronted with something: I’ve never really worked with audio. I’ve been undertaking the media degree here at RMIT for four years (!) and the most I’ve edited audio is a few tweaks editing out ums and ahs in interviews and adjusting gain. Why have I never worked with audio very much? Well, I’ve never really sought it out, this is true, but it’s never really been highlighted to me as a major thing I should be focusing on.
So I’m an audio beginner.
I listen to a lot of long-form podcasts so I have some idea of what can be achieved just with sound, but the short – form audio pieces that are going to fit well with this project are new territory for me.
So I have been seeking out some audio pieces which may help me to get an idea about the kind of piece that I could produce using this interview.
The poetry piece below is rather structured in that it is presented as a monologue but it includes very subtle noises – footsteps, voices on the street, sounds from outside – alongside his words. It intertwines quite well in that the listener can pay attention to the poetry piece without being distracted by the audioscape that is being created. It builds an environment that as a listener you can be immersed in. This is something I’m thinking about trying to do as I launch into audio work.
This week, we had the opportunity to interview Tommy Watson who was a witness to the Westgate bridge collapse. This was, to say the least, a very humbling experience as Tommy provides first-hand insight into what the immediate aftermath of the collapse was like as well as the long – reaching effect it has had on witnesses and survivors. Tommy does not class himself as a survivor because he was not physically impacted by the actual span falling, but he was there for much of the aftermath and has been active in union activism both prior to and following the collapse.
Each of us in the group asked questions as we were all curious about Tommy’s experience, but I did take on most of the interviewing which I was very glad to do. In many ways, Tommy was quite easy to interview because he has a lot to say – not only about his own experiences, but he also spoke a little about what it was like for the victim’s and survivor’s families afterwards and the lack of support they received. Tommy is also a great interviewee because he has been interviewed before and is familiar with the format, so he was quite comfortable answering questions from the start.
The research I had done prior to the interviewee really helped out the flow of the interview because as soon as we got fast the preliminary questions about Tommy’s background, we could move on to more specific areas. One thing that I really appreciated from this experience was in Tommy telling us that he finds the discussions about the actual mechanics of the collapse quite overdone in the media and sees that there hasn’t been enough focus on the social impact the collapse had on workers and families. In the video below which Tommy features in, you can see how there is a lot of discussion about the details of how it fell. I think this is a great insight for us moving forward because it can inform what this project is really about – that often overlooked impact upon the community.
I think this also better represents working within the open – space concept because it reflects the focus on being engaged with social issues that this concept promotes. This insight from Tommy will be something to think about moving forward in the editing stage.
Old Treasury Building, 2013, West Gate Bridge Collapse: 40 Years On, video, Youtube, viewed September 17 2018 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=li8SLxytnzA&t=402s>
Today Nolan and I had an opportunity to speak to Danny, who worked on the bridge following the collapse, and who is active within the Westgate memorial committee. It was a really great interview, somewhat aided by the fact that Danny is very easy to talk to, and has a lot of knowledge about the bridge and the community which surrounds it. I haven’t interviewed a participant for a documentary in a while, so I was quite conscious that I needed to prepare for it. The research that I did was quite key to this, and I think what worked was the general approach that both Nolan and I took to it – quite a conversational one. It was also really great for Nolan to be there, as with another person where you can sort of bounce off of them and collaborate in that sense.
This experience has helped us to come to a clearer vision for our project. I think we have realised that the time frame, as well as the scope of the subject of the bridge, is working against us. We do only have a few weeks, and the length of the videos were only a few minutes means that to summarise the events of the bridge in an informative or historical sense is frankly quite ambitious. I think it would serve us better to focus on participants, and as Kim mentioned to us, their relationship to, and experience with the bridge. Though I do think that for this information side of things, the format of an interactive website would suit this for any other supplementary information. Stylistically, the approach that we have will be affected by the above, and I think will inform it significantly.
I do think that going forward we have a clearer vision and while the interview work we have to do is significant, I think the task at hand is much more approachable than it was a few weeks ago.
Throughout the mid-semester break, I have been able to make some preliminary research on topics surrounding the bridge. I have found that there is some information available online, most of which is available on various websites who have compiled information in an exhibition – style format. This information is great and readily accessible, though much of it covers the collapse itself rather than the before/after aspects. See here.
The next step that I have taken is moving past google and searching online library’s catalogues from RMIT and the state library. There are two main books which have been great resources, the first being ‘Understanding Bridge Collapses’ written by Bjorn Akesson. In the Westgate bridge chapter, Akesson outlines the reasons behind the collapse of the bridge and also provides insight into some of the events which acted as a precursor to the collapse, most notably the collapse of the bridge in Milford Haven, Wales in June 1970 which was constructed by Freeman and Fox – the same designers of the west gate – and was, like the west gate, a box girder bridge. This information has been included in similar texts, like ‘Westgate’ written by Bill Hitchings, and has been mentioned in many of the documentaries and interviews on the topic of the west gate which are available online. Tom Watson, survivor of the collapse, speaks in this video below about the strikes which occured on the west gate once the news of the Milford Haven collapse had reached Melbourne. Note that many of the details of the collapse Tom includes in this speech are quite disturbing.
This is something which I find particularly intriguing – that there was a degree of scepticism surrounding the bridge so soon before it collapsed, largely bought on by the collapse of this other, quite similar bridge. The advocacy of the worker’s at the time of the event, particularly informs my curiosity of this – because they were the ones that went on strike because they were concerned, but also were the ones to bare so much of the consequences of the collapse. If I am able to, this is something that I would like to ask an interviewee about.
Speaking of which, we have made some successful contact with interviewees, and people who can provide insight into the history of the west gate. I am quite excited at the prospect of being able to interviewee them, while also quite wary of our approach, because of the sensitive nature of the subject and my lack of experience with the subject – so because of this, research has been really important to do within this pre – production stage.
Åkesson, B. (2008). Understanding bridge collapses. London: Taylor & Francis. Available at: EBSCO Host eBooks. [Accessed 8th September 2018]
Hitchings, B. (1979). West Gate. Victoria, Australia: Outback Press. Available at: State Library of Victoria. [Accessed 9th September 2018]
This week has brought on some rather unexpected changes in terms of looking ahead to the next assignment. Our potential groups met up on Tuesday of this week to discuss our ideas. My original group was discussing topics related to community groups within the western suburbs and while this interested to me to a degree, I found that it was not really aligned with the work I had been doing so far during this studio. I was really hoping to focus on something in the vein of industrial labour – refer to my work on Hume Pipe co. – and was fast realising that joining the Westgate group was the best way to achieve this.
Campbell gave me a rundown on what the group has been looking at thus far, and I fast realised that there are many different aspects to the Westgate bridge. I have mentioned before in my blog posts that in regards to the more general topic of the west, I am coming from an outsider’s perspective – and this couldn’t be truer when it comes to the west gate. Prior to the research, I have just done, I had little knowledge about the bridge – only that it collapsed and that it was a major disaster.
However, I have come to learn that my group is intrigued not only by the collapse but by the long history of the bridge – it’s beginnings, the politics surrounding it’s building, and of course the eventual collapse and the aftermath. The initial planning we have undertaken of this project has been quite focused. The project will take the form of a series of chaptered videos encompassing these different areas, and perhaps visually represented as the pillars of the bridge. I imagine it will take the form of an interactive website. I think this is a very intriguing topic, and that this is a great way of considering it – in that we want to look at the bridge not just as a single event (the collapse) but rather as something of an icon that has carried with it so many different stories and experiences, particularly for those in the west.
See the video below which chronicles the opening of the bridge in 1978 – it’s great footage, and the title ‘Gateway to a city’ gives one an idea of the bridge as just that – representing such a major shift in transportation in Melbourne. It also puts into perspective how huge the opening event was.
In the interests of exploring which style/s of a documentary I may want to pursue, I have been watching a few to get ideas. During assignment two, where experimenting with style and form was encouraged, I realised that I don’t really gravitate toward more poetic/experimental work. In retrospect, I think it would have been great to tackle something like that – especially through viewing everyone else’s work, I have seen how that style has a lot of affordances as far as being less concerned with succinctly summarising information and more to do with expressing the story.
Loading Docs has a number of short-form documentaries which I quite like. Being quite used to talking heads and b – roll, these kinds of films give a refreshing alternative. I like this film about a young Māori man living in Japan who plays rugby union. The use of voiceover is nice because it avoids the formal question/answer format and instead opts for a monologue. I also like the conversational mode the voice overuses, such as “I was like, nah nah nah…” while also commenting on the experience of cultural isolation with quite reflective statements towards the end.
I also love this film ‘Blood sugar’. The beginning of the film shows a little girl who is diabetic talking to her doctor, who talks to her like she’s an adult. She replies ‘I don’t know’ and proceeds to walk down the very serious hospital hallway to buzzy music. We move from the world of doctors and hospitals to the imagination of a child and again, there is no interview but rather the musings of the girl coinciding with the rather frustrating reality of living with diabetes.
These films both utilise the first person perspective very nicely, to where the audience is experiencing their point of view but not so much in a way that feels intrusive. Though I may not refer to these films as poetic or experimental as such, they both quite creatively tell the stories in the use of monologue and/or a more conversational question/answer that loses the formalities but still manages to cohesively tell us something about the subjects.
As we learnt this week, I would assume that both of these films constitute an autobiographical format. In relating it to this week’s reading by Broderick, neither use rhetoric in the way of logos (demonstrative proof), and nor it is particularly concerned with ethos in the way of expert opinion. Both are more concerned with pathos, the emotional appeals (p. 88, 2017) put forth by each of the subjects in that we as the audience seek to relate to, and empathise with them.
Fox, Broderick. Documentary Media : History, Theory, Practice, Routledge, 2017. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/swin/detail.action?docID=5103711. [Accessed 15 August 2018]