It’s not about what you watch; it’s about who you watch with

At the beginning of the semester Glen asked the question, ‘what is TV?’ Several options were given including this one that surprised me:

“A social experience and set of practices associated with producing, viewing, listening, talking about, reading about, being captured by, appearing on, and being influenced and affected by television”

This reflection explores how the different people I watch television with dictate the way in which I watch. Although it’s changing, TV is a social medium and with that goes some social “rules”. Explore this through three case studies to demonstrate how my engagement changes depending on who is involved.

My time use journal didn’t really reveal a whole bunch of consistency. I watched TV in many different ways, across many different platforms. However, what was interesting to come out of the exercise was the importance that additional people had on my TV watching habits.

Family Feud with Mum


TV is a form of social glue and taste is a major ingredient. William Brooks comments on this idea of having good taste as “some kind of framework within which our choices are assigned values, both aesthetic and economic. Often the framework is social, built primarily form the judgments made by a group of our tasteful peers. Using it assures us of a home among society’s tribes; our taste both reflects and shapes the circles in which we move.” He adds, “taste helps to place us – to regulate the company we keep and to define our position”

Family Feud, or more generally the game show, would be considered low culture in comparison to say, House of Cards.

I watch Family Feud with my mum as often as I can. However we interact with it very differently to how we interact with House of Cards. We laugh at how bad the contestant’s answers are and their poorly-told stories and we scoff at Grant Denyer’s terrible, cringe-worthy jokes.

Mum and I take analternative fan positions. We find a way to engage with low-culture by hate-watching the show so that we don’t offend “our tasteful peers”, even if that is each other.

Ten Eyewitness News with Grandma

TEN+newsSetEarlier this semester my grandma came to stay with us. During this period, many nights I watched several news bulletins in a row on live, free-to-air TV which proves that in a post-broadcast era, traditional broadcast TV is not (yet) dead.

Communication Facilitation is ‘the program being watched creates an immediate agenda for talk where there may otherwise be none’. Watching the news with my grandma offered an opportunity to find common ground and conversational agenda. It was an easy way for me to socialize with some I otherwise wouldn;t

Ten Eyewitness News, branding, ‘First at Five’.

When my grandma left, much of my TV viewing on a tradition TV screen ceased.

Nathan for You with my Boyfriend

the-insane-business-ideas-on-nathan-for-you-have-had-mixed-resultsWith TV is now in a post-broadcast era, one in which we control the schedule. Much of my TV viewing is done in my bed on my 13 inch Mac. I decide, when, where and how I watch.

In his writing, John Ellis claims ‘If programmes are the building blocks of television, then the schedule is its architecture, defining the edifice that gives meaning to each programmeblock’, or ‘editing on an Olympian scale’. He implies here that, scheduling is very much is a constructed and dictated by broadcasters. Sorry John but your paper from just five years ago is now (fairly) redundant. Scheduling is no longer by broadcasters, instead the audience are in charge.

The availability of TV shows just few clicks away, I am able to create and dictate my own schedule. Online distribution such as Netflix, or simply illegally downloading torrents allow you to watch almost anything whenever you like.

This implies that we have total freedom, but now when there is shared viewing there is an etiquette around scheduling. My boyfriend and I have rules in order to be on the same “schedule” we watch at the same pace in order for TV to remain a social media. Break that “rule”? Big trouble.

This example and the others listed above prove that that TV for me is a social medium. Although how we interact with it is changing constantly, but what has stay a constant is that it is a cultural medium, with practises around it, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.


Brooks, W. (1982). On being tasteless. Popular Music, 2, p.9.

Ellis, J. (2000). Scheduling: the last creative act in television?. Media, Culture & Society, 22(1), pp.25-38.

Lull, James. 1980. The Social Uses of Television. Human Communication Research Vol.6(3), pp.197-209

Girls (white ones)

“I think I am the voice of a generation. Or at least a voice of a generation,” says Hannah Horvath, sitting across from her mum and dad whilst high on opium.


For this blog I would like to explore the idea of ‘quality TV’ being made intentionally for ‘quality audiences’ and what affect that has on the representation of cultures in the HBO series Girls.

‘Quality TV’ is difficult to define subjective nature of perceptions of qulaity. However, Jane Feuer believes “quality TV” as a descriptive term has some formulaic characteristics such as; being serialised, having moments of comedy paired with moments of high seriousness, explores otherwise taboo subject matter such as sex and drugs and is much alike art-house cinema, relying on the idea of the auteur, or in this case the writer-producer.

The HBO series Girls is the textbook definition of “quality TV”.

Girls is a HBO series written, produced and starring Lena Dunham. She also had a background in arthouse cinema with the success of her arthouse film Tiny Furniture. The show follows four, young, white, educated, upper-middle class females who try to find their way in living in the hipster capital of the world, Brooklyn. The 20 minute show explores themes such as abortion, education and drugs with moments of comedy littered throughout.



HBO has a history of positioning it’s brand away from broadcast TV and instead aligning themselves with arthouse cinema and developing a reputation for creating “quality TV” whilst insisting “It’s not TV. It’s HBO”. To add to the exclusivity of the product HBO has a cost.

Deborah Jaramillo (2002) believes that “the idea that subscribers can get products at HBO that they can get nowhere else has been a significant part of the channel’s allure”.

She goes on to explain that “television programs are both text and commodity. The television industry’s shift in 1970 to valuing upscale demographics over sheer ratings numbers is vital to the definition of “quality.” “Quality” programs are those that appeal to young, urban adults from 18 to 34 years of age”. (Jaramillo, 2002)

HBO makes quality TV intentionally for the idea of high net worth audiences. However the problem with this specific audience driven then a specific type of show gets made by the dominant culture leaving out characters and filmmakers that are marginalised.

Girls is quite progressive in terms of modern day feminism which is something that the show should be applauded for. The “voice of a generation line” Rolling Stone, in their piece entitled The Power of Lena Dunham responded in favour to the line, ‘the scary thing is, she’s probably right’. However the characters claim had adverse responses too, Shepherd (2014) claiming ‘Dunham managed to successfully exclude a large populace of said generation’.

Upon the shows debut in April, the much of the discussion surrounding the program, Girls was based around its blatant whiteness, Brooklyn, the most statistically diverse city in the country, the show had not just an all white cast.

I do believe that the show isn’t all bad and is actually quite progressive when read from a feminist lens. However, there is a need in the TV industry as a whole to be representative of a wider, more inclusive demographic. If this young, hipster, urban, white content is seen as quality and everything else is not then this cycle will continue and voices excluded from existing on not just HBO but TV in general.

Maureen Ryan (2014) argues that the lack of diversity on Girls, is not the wholly the fault of Dunham but is a reflection of a ‘massive failure on the part of the television industry’. She claims, ‘I could list the shows on television with all-white casts, but then we’d be here all day’. She recognises the importance of Girls representing ‘the expectations and dreams of a certain segment of the audience, some of whom want their reality reflected’ and credits the shows for ‘presenting a viewpoint that is not the norm on television’. (Ryan, 2014)

Therefore the issue is rooted in the lack of diversity in the industry and those that feel underrepresented in Lena Dunham’s Girls shouldn’t have to rely on her for representation.


Feuer, J. HBO and the Concept of Quality TV. In McCabe, J. and Akass, K. (2007). Quality TV. London: I.B. Tauris.

Jaramillo, D. (2002). The Family Racket: AOL Time Warner, HBO, The Sopranos, and the Construction of a Quality Brand. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 26(1), pp.59-75.

Ryan, M. (2014). ‘Girls’ Isn’t Racist, Television Is. [online] The Huffington Post. Available at: [Accessed 3 Jun. 2014].

Sheffield, R. (2014). The Power of Lena Dunham’s ‘Girls’. [online] Rolling Stone. Available at: [Accessed 3 Jun. 2014].

Sheperd, J. (2014). “Girls” still racist. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Jun. 2014].

Fixing what is wrong

Transformation narratives turn the fat into the skinny, pretty into the ugly and the dag into the fashionista.

In the case of Beauty and the Geek socially awkward engineers become studs and the shallow ditz suddenly become, nice, smarter young ladies – all in the space of a season.

Beauty and the Geek is a makeover show that employs the use of a transformation narrative. It’s pitched as a show about changing perceptions and changing lives. Every episode the beauties become a little less vain and the geeks get a little less awkward.

Although this may seem like a “nice” premise to base a show on, there is a central issue with ‘the makeover’ that I would like to address in this blog. I would like to explore the fundamental, ideological issues with makeover television, in determining or strengthening what is considered right and wrong or good and bad in the broader context of Australian society.

Beauty and the Geek began as in America in 2005 and was advertised as “The Ultimate Social Experiment”. Created by Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher, the show ran for 5 seasons and has since been adapted for 21 different countries.

The Australian version premiered in 2009 on Channel 7 and has run for 6 seasons.

According to Tanya Lewis (2008), makeover television shows are growing in popularity and in scope.

“The past few years has seen an explosion of lifestyle makeover television shows with audiences around the world being urged to renovate everything from their homes to their pets, a process that has seen the emergence of an army of lifestyle gurus on television advising us on what not to eat and what not to wear”. (T Lewis)

The intended transformation in Beauty and the Geek Australia is  explicit with the voiceover reading “the team with the greatest transformation will win $10,000.” Beauty and the Geek could be seen as a transformation shows in two ways: the physical transformation of the geeks and the emotional transformation of the beauties.

There is the obvious make over episode where dorks become studs thanks to leather jackets and hair gel.

The geeks walk down the stairs of the mansion. The geeks voice over reminisces about their first day in the mansion, referring to themselves in the past tense playing on the idea of transformation. A tracking shot is used to map the journey of the geek as they talk about their previous selves. Dramatic orchestral music plays to add a heightened sense of emotion. Their transformation is revealed by walking through a life size image of their old selves. The orchestral music gets louder and more intense as they physically breaks through to reveal their new selves. The beauties cheer and the music buildings to a flourishing orchestral melody indicating that the subjects are overwhelmed with happiness with their new appearance.

Despite characters claiming to love their new look. I argue there is a bigger issue at hand. The fundamental premise of transformation narratives is that there is something to be fixed. “premised around the possibility of transformation and renewal,” which implies there is something wrong or bad in the first place.

Alison Hearn believes there are issues with the very premise of transformation television. “The shows actively exploit the insecurity of participants for narrative effect; they discipline the participants into compliance through the use of an array of humiliating devices with the goal of finally producing a relatively homogenous array of subjects”

“Geeks” who once wore Hawaiian shirts and Star Wars memorabilia now sport man buns and chic suits. They undertake tasks, often humiliating in order to become less socially awkward and therefore be transformed into a “better” version of their previous selves.

It could be argued that the beauties become better by being nicer and more concerned about the world around them, which are considered a worthwhile transformation. However again, it implies that if someone isn’t smart or well spoken then they need to be improved or made better in some way.

Put simply, transformation narrative often promotes a clear dichotomy between good and bad, right and wrong, beauty and geek.

Gareth Palmer claims that shows like Beauty and the Geek are forms of social experiments that “advocates ways to eliminate eccentricity or any signs of difference in the need to make the individual a better-functioning member of society”.

But I like eccentricity and believe eradicating it is a detrimental element to the show. Whilst promoting itself as doing something worthy and improving lives, one must question the makers of reality TV who govern the standards by which these subjects are supposedly being improved by.

Palmer, G. (2004). The New You: Class and transformation in lifestyle television. In Deborah Jermyn & S. Holmes. (Eds.), Understanding Reality Television. London: Routledge.

Lewis, T. (2008). TV transformations. London: Routledge.

Hearn, A. (2008). Insecure: Narratives and economies of the branded self in transformation television. Continuum, 22(4), pp.495-504.

How I reckon I did at Media 6

I joined the Steering Committee for two reasons.

Firstly, through work I thought I had a pretty sound knowledge of marketing and promotion which I thought I could contribute to the seminar series. I was really keen to use my knowledge in a different setting, be able to create the overall “brand” and be able to mould the series it into something I really liked and ultimately was proud of. Secondly, the role of the Steering Committee was advertised as an opportunity to better my leadership skills so I largely took it on as a development opportunity.

Contribution and Collaboration

The biggest collaborative effort for the Steering Committee occurred before the seminar series even began.

We had to brainstorm themes which was the first collaborative group exercise that the Steering Committee undertook. It was quite interesting to see all the different takes on themes. Some I totally connected with and some I did not. I have found throughout my uni experience, tasks that involve questions of taste are always interesting exercises and always require an element of compromise and collaboration.

We then presented and the entire body of students voted on which one they thought was best. Once Epic Adventure was locked in, the team had to come up with a design. Although majority of the design was done by Jake, I played a role in giving feedback and developing the poster to a higher level.

Poster Development

During the seminar series, I was largely responsible for chasing up the groups pre-seminar. This proved to be more difficult than I first thought.

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A major learning from this was that groups were not necessarily pro-active in reaching out or even looping in. On top of this some groups were completely unresponsive. Perhaps it is because I am used to working in an office environment where every email gets a response, even if it is a simple acknowledgement, so hearing absolutely nothing from groups I found incredibly frustrating.

I learnt that you should never devalue face-to-face communication as that is always where you will get the most informed.

The biggest challenge of my role as “pre-seminar chaser uper-er” was the posters.

Some of the groups really stayed on brand and embraced the theme, ‘Epic Adventure’ as illustrated below.

Good posters

However there were some groups that did not “get around” the Epic Adventure theme which ultimately weakened our positioning as a seminar series.

Bad postersIn hindsight I think we should have picked a more obvious theme to create more simplicity or reiterated the importance of the seminars really taking on “Epic Adventure” as a theme.

I was also responsible for ensuring the poster requirements were met such as having the right logos, which turned out to be more difficult and time consuming than I first thought as it often involved many edits.

I guess overall I found it really challenging to finding balance; not being overbearing but also making sure everything is in place in order to make the seminar series a success. I know what it is like to have micromanager for a boss, however perhaps taking on a leadership role has made me more empathetic to my boss! I felt myself wanting to give much more input to the seminar series but also felt the need to respect their work and the direction they took it in. Overall though, I found the seminars to be of an incredibly high level.

Proactive learning

It could be argued that this entire subject was proactive learning as there is no guide to running a good student seminar series.

Despite being in my last semester, I have never really taken on a leadership role, so my participation in the steering committee was a proactive step towards my learning. My role was largely to do with managing people and ensuring tasks were complete which is very much a logistical role that is difficult to assign hard skills too.

I don’t think I did a lot of traditional proactive learning in the sense of seeking out more information on project management. I saw my learning as very much a “learning on the job” role.

Unlike my previous media studio, there were few technical capabilities.

I would have liked to have become more skilled in design, which I continue to see as a gap in my knowledge that would help me into my future and my career and have flagged that this is something to improve post-semester. However there was a short turn around for the design and time did not permit.

Setting up systems was something that myself and the team had to do. How do we communicate with groups to ensure everything is in place for their seminar. We chose to create tools like the pre-seminar checklist.

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I do however feel that I took on the role to get better at organisation and communication, which I got better at as the semester went on and have some major learning from which I can take into my career and everyday life going forward.


Although I don’t think I am ever the loudest voice in the room, I do think it is important to have your presence felt and I am satisfied that I was a valued member of the Steering Committee.

Steering Committee

I attended all Steering Committee meetings, all six seminars and touched bases with all group leaders, so I am satisfied that I was there and that I added value.

Importantly, I think myself and others in the committee had “no job too small” attitude. I helped in preparing the gifts, carry things between buildings and guarding doors, if it was required of me.

Connections and intersections

For me, the seminar series was about learning about my options for the future through the collective effort of the media cohort.

My major learning from a leadership perspective was to make everything explicit. I think we encountered a few issues (listed above) purely because of a lack of clarity and we could have made things clearer. Our expectations, our deadlines and our requirements needed to be spelled out much earlier.

Although I wasn’t a part of a specific seminar group, I took the opportunity presented to reach out personally to the guests that I found particularly interesting and have since been asked to pass my CV and LinkedIn on in regards to future job opportunities, which proves the benefit of networking.

Being able to attend all six seminars has meant that I had some major learning’s about the industry so while I was able to explore something quite narrow and specific in my PNR, the seminar series allowed me to get a really broad overview of what it is like to have a career in a range of media industries which has definitely steered me towards some industries and far away from others.

One of the most important parts of the series is that I left feeling positive and empowered rather than nauseous about finishing uni and entering the workforce.

I am really proud of my efforts in the Steering Committee however there most definitely is room to improve my leadership skills and I need to seek out more opportunities to be in a leadership role.

women in media


I need to make an early disclosure. I’m perhaps the biggest Broad City fan on the planet and not just because it’s funny. I love it and believe that it is hugely important for women everywhere. In my eyes, they are feminist heroes.

Jen Winston writes, “Unlike Scandal, Broad City doesn’t feature diatribes about equal rights. Unlike Beyoncé, this show doesn’t feature in-your-face girl power — in fact, “empowering” is one of the last adjectives you’d probably use to describe it. Instead, Broad City opts for a different kind of feminist expression — one reflecting how normal people actually behave. A kind of feminism that’s not concerned with the Internet’s reaction. A kind of every day feminism that feels real.

To tackle Feminism in television in 500 words is highly unrealistic. Defining or classifying feminism on TV, or rather feminism everywhere, is hotly debated in the public sphere and deserves a longer blog post. So I would like to focus on one particular art of the show that SCREAMS feminism to me.

The representation of sex in Broad City.

First of all, lets get an understanding of the show. Staring as a web series, Broad City follows two women, Abbi and Ilana who are living in New York.

From the first episode the topic of sex is far from taboo.

In the first episode Ilana Skypes Abbi, whilst with Lincoln, whilst Lincoln is inside her. Abbi too has her own unique for of sexual expression as she labels her dildo with a post-it note – “Monday”.

It’s quite difficult to pick out a particular episode or extract and determine how the treat the subject of sex, because, well, they don’t really. Never have women on TV been so sexual and so blasé. It’s treated like any other topic.

To understand the importance of women’s sexual expression, one could compare Broad City to Sex and the City. Often celebrated as feminist TV, the show does it in a very different way to Broad City and there are problems with this.

XXX writes, “Sex and the City stole its feminist credentials, I think, by showing female sexuality. The women have a lot of sex with different men, it’s true. But it’s an add-on to the handbags and dieting and the reductive feminine helplessness – it seems like just one more thing they go shopping for.”

Samantha’s character perhaps the most. I feel as though she was identified as the “sex character”. It was very explicit. Amy Schumer is a current TV character and personality that deals with female sexuality.

That’s not to say I don’t think these women are doing anything wrong. I think when feminism starts attacking women we have a problem. I firmly believe that when there are still huge problems with attitudes toward women and sex, blame culture, by all means we need women out there, like Samantha and Amy, screaming at the top of their lungs for female sexuality equality.

However I think Broad City does something unique. Like Jen Winston claims, I believe they find a way to make feminism relatable and everyday. I will never be a rich publicist, as confident and as suave as Samantha Jones. I will however be a poor 20 year old with a less than perfect sex life.

In Broad City, like in other shows, nothing is really taboo. However, perhaps, simply because the characters are more relatable, does this have a more powerful effect. Speaking as a young woman , I can safely say that Broad City offers an alternative. They make gross sex, with weird guys and normal bodies okay and because it’s such funny quality content, it does more, it makes their weird, quirky lifestyle…appealing.

Squeezing ingrown hairs from your bikini line, isn’t shameful, it’s funny. Wanting sex, or even a finger up the bum isn’t crude and left unsaid, it’s celebrated.

By remaining real, weird and unapologetic they too are fighting the feminist cause when it comes to women and their relationship with sex.

Yas Queen.

Love from,

The Biggest Broad City Fan in the world


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Keeping up with Frank Underwood

Let me paint a picture for you. A group of seven, 14 year-old girls sat around a TV, eyes welling, gripping pillows. We watched Ryan slowly walks away from a burning car with Marissa in his arms whilst an acoustic cover of Hallelujah played in the background.

The OC - Season 3 Finale -- Pictured: Ryan and Marissa

The OC season finale was an social occasion in my house and not one to be missed might I add. Very importantly, the watching of the show was temporal, dictated by a broadcast schedule. However the rise of online distribution has made TV viewing an increasingly individualised process, allowing individuals to control their own scheduling.

In this blog I would like to explore how groups of individuals create their own form of scheduling in order to preserve the social experience of shared television viewing.

In his writing, John Ellis claims ‘If programmes are the building blocks of television, then the schedule is its architecture, defining the edifice that gives meaning to each programmeblock.’ He implies here that, scheduling very much is a constructed and dictated. However with the rise of digital distribution through platforms such as Netflix, the audience is now responsible for arranging these building blocks in order to create whatever kind of architecture we want.

In an attempt to preserve that warm, inclusive, shared experience of watching a TV show together individuals create their own form of scheduling.

I would like to discuss this using my social experience of watching Netflix series, House of Cards.


House of Cards is a political drama set in present day Washington DC and following Frank Underwood, a US Congressman and stars big names such as Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.

The entire series was released on one day using online distribution platform Netflix, a global trend that is transforming how we view TV. The shows season release demonstrated a shift away from traditional broadcast scheduling and instead towards individualized scheduling.

When I watched House of Cards, I did it alongside my mum, dad and sister.

In order to do this we had to plan when we would watch it, as a family, ultimately creating our own form of scheduling. We waited for every member of the group, because watching episodes without the whole group would be breaking a new, unwritten rule of social scheduling – one must never watch without the group. It’s very much a leave no one behind mentality.

When the structure of shared TV experience, that is a broadcast schedule, is taken away, we have to create the structure ourselves.

Next, we must ask why we do this? Why do we want to have this shared experience.

Richard Lawson put’s it perfectly when he write about his experience of watching the Netflix series. “I was mostly worried about being left out. That’s the problem with this everything-at-once episode dump. There was no way to keep pace with everyone else.”

I believe one of the best things about TV is that it can be a shared experience. There is discourse around particular shows, discussion about media in the media. It is a cultural medium and a part of our society.

Here is a text I received from my father whilst I was on my way home from uni whilst we were in the middle of our House of Cards obsession.


Quite simply, this message demonstrates that people yearn for the days where TV was a social experience and less individualised. Myself, my friends, my colleagues and my family love to talk about TV so therefore, when this constructed schedule that forces us to share experiences is taken away, we create our own to preserve a cultural practise that we love.

We do this to preserve what I think is one of the best things about TV, it can be shared. So we can have more moments like I did in Year 8 watching Marissa die, with the support of my friends.

Full circle

My first blog this year was debating Politics vs. Poetics. I have incidentally found my last blog post of the semester to be about this too.

The relationship between form and content really is the crux of this studio.

My group always had a good idea of what our film would look like and fortunately the soundscape that Aimee produced came up with was really strong. We felt that our approach to a film that was; non-photorealistic and made from found footage thankfully worked with the subject matter and soundscape produced.

Our approach to form was to use two projectors. On digital data projector and one “old school” overhead projector. Taking a slightly more analogue approach, we wanted to alter the photorealism of the imagery using the projects, altering the light and colours.

I see the process happening in three sections:

Part One: Narrative

We had the soundscape. Now we had to think about the imagery that would accompany it. We were familiar with using found footage but we were dealing with really sensitive subject matter so much consideration went into deciding on what this imagery would be.

There is also several decisions or considerations to be made about literal and figurative imagery. What parts did we want to be overt and striking (of men), what parts would be better as symbolic and how to find that balance.

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Part Two: Play

Taking it offline! Fun times!

The purpose of this day was just to have play around with how we could manipulate the

However as I alluded to in my previous blog post there were significant time restrictions which perhaps controlled our experimenting. Yeah, lets call it controlled experimenting or smart experimenting or “structured play” (I used to work in a primary school clearly)

Wanting to have enough material to play with but not too much because of the time factor.

Having too much footage after a day of experimenting was a real worry because it would make the editing process.

One of my favourite documentaries of all time is called .Babies’ which covers the first year of four babies lives.

“Budgeted at 4m Euros, filming Babies was, Balmes says, a complex operation. The crew had 400 shooting days over a two-year period to cover the action. Each child was born six weeks apart and Balmes would fly between his home base in Paris to whatever continent, spend two weeks filming, and then return.”


So to avoid a ‘Babies’ length production, we had to be fairly selective with our experimentation. Unlike ‘Babies’, we didn’t have time on our side. We had two weeks.

We considered stop motion, drawing and writing on the projectors, physically “blacking out” portions of the screen, but aesthetics wise, the paint on cellophane projected onto a wall was the most striking so went with that.

Colour was also important. Although we had an array of cellophane to “play” with, through experimenting we figured that hot colours, red, pink and purple were the boldest and most effective for our subject matter. Therefore we didn’t continue to shoot on yellow, green and blue.

We used strategy in order to be creative and complete the task at hand.

ex 2

ex 1

Part Three: Deeper Meaning

We had a solid narrative and we had manipulated it to see different effects with great success. We had taken it offline, now it was time to go back. We had the opportunity to digitally manipulate what we had experimented with in order to “bring it to the next level”.

As I said our use of “smart” experimentation really did pay off. We chose a very specific size shot and did not move the camera for the remainder of the day so that we had the ability to edit the footage without it appearing jumpy or obviously edited.

We also got a range of shots using the paint which could be layered and distorted to better express what was the narrative created in the audio. As it was altered ‘non-digitally’ we got some really effective shots of moving the cellophane around that ended up being used in the film also.

Again reinforces the idea of films, in particular experimental documentaries being a fluid process, and that by making things you discover the potential for things you hadn’t previously thought of.

I think the success of the film, with the short amount of time was making good decisions at the point of production. Perhaps if we hadn’t had this time constraint we wouldn’t have the finished product that we do now.

Be A Man from Kate Nickels on Vimeo.

The Creative Process

So after my little crisis and subsequent abandonment of our piece on disability (for the time being) we needed to begin something new.

I was well aware of the creative process looking a little like this.


I’ve always been interested by the process of creativity and how this fits into university which is formulaic with deadlines and assessment criteria.

  • no interviews
  • no voice-over
  • only found-footage or other appropriated material
  • is non-photorealistic

I think because of the challenging restrictions my mind went to trying to solve a problem before we knew what the problem was. We started to get an image in out head of what we wanted the films to look like but didn’t have the subject matter to match.

With two weeks left, we started the creative process…again. We used a trusty friend, the mind map brainstorm.


Digressing for one minute! One of the best parts of this subject was being in a class with people who were passionate about stuff! People with opinions, people that wanted to make things that mattered to them.

Now, as there was the time restriction, I felt under pressure and a little defeated. So I made something. I really did just need to throw myself into an idea, regardless of the groups direction, in order to get myself on the path to creating something again.

I explored Foreign Aid and Australia’s lack of generosity toward other countries that are in need. It’s not a particularly polished or powerful in its current sketchy state, but I found the making of it got me in a much better headspace to continue after feeling even though the idea wasn’t pursued.

I find the getting feedback on my work no longer scary, in fact I find it super . Thinking back to being a 1st year student who never wanted to show work, I think the the studio model of learning to be incredibly helpful in discussing and listening to feedback and

When I am not at uni I work in a marketing team. My boss always says, “we want to be known a team of active problem solvers”, and although marketing jargon makes me cringe slightly every time I hear it I do believe its true.

Sometimes the solution is taking a step away, or a step in a different direction but a step nonetheless. There certainly isn’t any creativity in stopping altogether.

I had heard that the best way to be truly creative is to have limitations, as they force you to problem solve. So perhaps by thinking about form before content actually did us a world of good in thinking and imagining our film into existence.

Let’s Get Ethical

So ethics hey?

My difficulties being a filmmaker (can I call myself that yet) thus far have surrounded either:

a) Practical concerns – group members I couldn’t stand, inflexible work timetables and always forgetting my password for booking the edit suites. However I thought that in three years I possibly had acquired the skills to battle these relatively small but nevertheless real concerns

b) Creative concerns – it really is the main challenge of the Media course, how to be creative, whilst fulfilling a fucking rubric with only a few weeks to do so. I feel the a lot of the course was balancing creativity and practicality. The task at hand was quite a challenge: in 5 weeks myself and my group members needed to create a film that was both poetic and political. Having made two previously with great group members. But that wasn’t even where my concern was this time.

I never thought that it would be ethical issues would halt me in my tracks like they did. That’s not to say that I didn’t take the subject seriously or understand the nature of political documentaries, or even that I hadn’t considered ethics important before.

The problem was this.

The issue I wanted to explore was disability. I’d worked in disability for a number of years and found myself to be really passionate about it. No, it was more than that – disability was an important issue for me because it was the first time I had felt politically passionate about something. Like really passionate, I found myself for the first time reading more about the issue, caring more about the policies in Australia, talking about it with friends and family, researching and really having a stance on an issue I felt invested in.

So it made sense to make a film about it…right? Perhaps not. With hindsight, I now will do my best to map my thinking during this time for you.

The issue really came up when we looked at the theme. We automatically thought about pairing the theme of disability with exclusion. First mistake. You know that saying – when you assume you make an ass out of u and me? Well that’s what I did and certainly how I felt.


I just assumed that people with disabilities felt excluded from society.

The second qualm I had was with the subject matter. When we decided on disability all members of the group started to verbalise people they could ask. Friends, family, even those that work in the disability . However when I started to really think about what we were doing, by highlighting their difference I essentially was doing exactly what I set out to critique, which was making assumptions and exclusion.

A friend of mine suffered an absolutely horrific brain injury when we were both 12-years old. Although he survived which for a while was not always clear, he now has a pretty severe physical disability. Asking him to do an interview was where I struggled most. There were arguments in my head

If I hadn’t asked him these questions before, why was it suddenly okay that as a 3rd year media student with a sound recorder was it okay?

On a totally selfish and personal level, I also felt myself getting really upset. The nature of the situation I found to be more detrimental than helpful as it was happening in a relatively public forum, even if that was the others my class. Ultimately, making the film forced me to ask questions that I did not want to share with others.

So instead the film became about the ethical dilemma rather than his story.

But wasn’t that a little unethical too? To make a film about him without telling him?

His story is amazing and I wanted others to hear it I do want people to hear it. But perhaps it is something that I wanted to happen more organically.

That’s not to say that I didn’t think he was amazing, special, a great story and that word… inspirational. My third final qualm – should people with disabilities be considered inspirational? Once again, should they be picked out and put on show as inspiration?

Stella Young thinks not.

I kept thinking and saying, “I want someone to tell me that what I am doing is okay.” But that’s the thing with ethics – no one will!

The decision to not go ahead with this film was actually really tricky. I felt defeated and emotionally exhausted. However going ahead whilst I was still unsure of what I was doing was right or not felt worse.

I’d still really like to pursue the idea of looking at people with disabilities and how they are in the media. I don’t know that there is a definitive answer but I certainly think its worthy of exploring.

Politics vs. Poetics

Can something be both political and poetic?

To put it simply yes, in fact I would argue that it is difficult to produce work that is one or the other.

Other artists, such as poets, painters and writers express their highly political works in some of the most creative ways. For example George Orwell’s book 1984 explores socialism through animals, Australian musician Paul Kelly’s song From Little Thing Big Things Grow advocates for Indigenous land rights through music and lyrics. Therefore why can’t documentary filmmakers use poetics in their art form to make a statement?

This plays into the bigger issue of documentaries and the argument that they must be truthful, objective representations. However the issue is in the very word ‘representation’. Film is a construct. Therefore regardless of genre or form, film has a perspective. Although I believe it is truth, it is one person’s version of the truth.

I think it’s also important to think about the question in reverse – can something be poetic and political? I flipped my thinking by looking at a documentary that I previously had not seen as political at all and assumed was simply poetic.

The the film ‘Better than Sinatra’  doesn’t outright make a political statement. It is a human study rather than a traditional “political documentary” however this film that is considered poetic could have political underpinnings. Although it isn’t centred around an issue it makes a comment not only on the protagonists life, but also on the elderly, poverty and many more societal issues.

Conversely, often the work that hits my hardest as “political” is often because of the creative treatment of the subject. The film, ‘The Falling Man’ deals with the atrocities of 9/11 through looking at photography of the event. One photograph in particular and the reactions to it are focused on.

I think the reason I like the film so much is because it deals with a political issue in such a humanised and really quite a beautiful way through the medium of photography.

In conclusion I think that yes a film can be both poetic and political. In fact, I think we could look at it as a given, films are inherently political and inherently poetic. It is simply a measure of how much.

What room is there for formal experimentation?

I’m going to use a terrible example here. It’s not a documentary at all (rather, a long running, underrated comedy show starring Zach Braff).

In one episode of Scrubs a woman see’s life as if she is in a musical due to a tumour.  The episode is her version of reality.

I see it once again as playing into the bigger question of what is true, what is objective, what is real?

Who is to say which, if a person see’s things as a musical then why can’t  documentary experiment with musical form to illustrate their representation of reality? It may not be my reality but it is for somebody else.

Experimentation allows for a really bold statement to be made therefore documentaries that play around formally can often make the greatest political statement.

Although this may step away from the traditional definition of documentary, it ultimately makes it a more inclusive art form allowing for all kinds of realities.