It took us driving from 8am to arrive at our shoot location in Smiths Gully, at 11am. It’s not convenient for us to drive there multiple times, to look around, block, and plan, like I usually would before a shoot. While spending time in this area before filming would have helped us accurately plan, and picture what our footage would look like and what our audio in this space would sound like when filming, this is a place of business and a home – before its title as our film location, and this needs to be respected. Therefore, we could only plan based on images and in large part, imagination. It was difficult to follow our shot list developed from this scene breakdown, and much easier to go with the flow and direction that our subject (and other guests) felt comfortable with. We’ll see in our edit, whether this spontaneity worked to our advantage or not.
In film, to make an argument without words requires the audience’s understanding that the filmmaker is saying something through the manipulation of what we see — that is, through editing, shot height, colour, pattern, timing, etc. It also requires a level of trust in the audience — that they are not ignorant and passive viewers, but are active enough to conjure meaning from the sequence of shots and come to a conclusion by themselves, without a voiceover, song lyrics, or commentary guiding them to it. Our Daily Bread (2005) on surface level might seem like it is letting an audience think whatever they want to think, but that decision to include ‘shot A’ and nothing else at that point in time means that there is still an intent to make the audience think about shot A for a particular reason. The audience’s response is not entirely subjective. The mise en scène is subtle in getting viewers to think about real life events and how their instincts and minds respond to what is on screen. That cognitive process is complex and different for every audience member, but it is important for us to pay attention to. For example, a central theme of our documentary is our subject’s kindness. We have heard stories about it through different people. Through silent b-roll of our subject interacting with her animals, caring for them, and painting her in a positive light, we encourage love and respect for animal life without needing to explicitly state this. Through the animals’ comfort in this exchange, we show this interaction and love is not an extreme in the Saunders household, it is the norm. Our timing and pace (cuts) will be slow and unhurried once we arrive at our subject’s home, for this serene feeling is how she makes everyone feel.
“The decision to use words minimally represents an attempt to match the film aesthetic to the footage, recognising that the audience’s focus on creating their own mental representations of the objects represented in the image is in itself the most meaningful goal.” (Hughes, 2013, p. 335).
The footage and sounds captured while making Our Daily Bread (2005) are mechanical and clinical, so the film’s entire aesthetic is thus mechanical and clinical to the point that it makes us uneasy. If our own footage of our subject’s farm home is capturing warmth, kindness, tranquility — then according to this statement we should aim to replicate these feelings through the film’s aesthetic. Ambient sounds that evoke these feelings in me are rain, forest sounds, and cats purring. Rather than commentary, these are the kinds of things we should capture and show to indirectly guide our audience to experience these feelings. I do agree that spectatorship and perception of our film is the most meaningful thing to focus on. However, I would suggest that the use of speech can also be powerful. While a basic instinct we have is to filter through long speech to be able to understand what is being said, words are how humans convey meaning. Our subject could tell us a story about a traumatic experience, or she could instead communicate her feelings about it through scars, artwork, etc. But why not a combination of both? In our film, we will find ourselves attempting a healthy combination of words with immense weight, and shooting images without words (movement, interaction, art, and still shots) to satisfy the understanding we now have that narration is useful, but not necessary to convey meaning or arguments.
Hughes, H 2013, ‘Arguments without words in Unser täglich Brot (Geyrhalter 2005)’, Continuum, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 347-364, DOI: 10.1080/10304312.2013.772112
Unser täglich Brot 2005, motion picture, The ICA, Austria, directed by Nikolaus Geyrhalter.
Rabiger’s work on conducting documentary interviews was useful both before and after we conducted our own interviews during class. The idea of interviewing groups stood out for me, for the purpose of “putting [people] together who disagree” on a topic because both familiarity and “antipathy reduces inhibitions”, (Rabiger 2009, p. 464). When it came to our experience interviewing a group, I was surprised by the amount of comfort and energy in the space, exceeding most other on-the-spot interviews I’ve conducted in the past. The three students we questioned together were friends first, classmates second, and comically shared their opposing views on each other’s financial situations. Once we stated our purpose they were eager to participate. In a group interview in my own film, I would use more than one camera to capture reaction shots, accurately depicting the level of interviewee engagement, and also to aid continuity between jarring cuts. Our aim to “catalyze people’s thoughts and feelings” (p. 464) did not require much intervention on our part however. Emphasis on ‘much’ – there were instances where we had to remind the trio not to talk over each other, as the dialogue we’d pick up was almost indistinguishable through the yelling. I think we could overcome an issue like this in the future by initially explaining why talking over each other should be avoided, and offering a demonstration. The background noise in our interview and vox pops was distractingly loud. We can prevent having to correct this in the editing stage by using a quieter location.
My group has found someone we’re super keen to interview and most likely centre our entire documentary on (though we’re also remaining adaptable and open-minded to any unexpected events we can document). The lifestyle of our current interviewee is more than inspirational. It’s a step up from what even we would consider ourselves to be capable of. According to the reading, the metaphor or plot we’re considering depicting is “the one against the many” (p. 465) because this person challenges social norms in terms of diet, career, relationships, and connectedness to the planet. Though we are still in the research stage, from what we have learned about her, the “antagonist” (p. 465) of this story is the collective, oppressive, force of the meat, dairy and egg, and big pharma industries, and societal expectations as a whole. How our interviewee has responded to these challenges is our focus for now.
In terms of camera placement when we interview, we will direct the interviewee to look on-axis towards the camera. The interviewer will sit below the camera lens. The reading mentions that “the interviewer’s role [is] to ask questions the audience would ask if it could” (p. 468), and we have this responsibility to conjure honest answers from our interviewee. Because sitting down and watching a film is generally a “passive” (p. 470) experience, when the person interviewed talks to the camera lens, through it, and to the audience, the audience will feel expected to respond — and we definitely want to evoke a response.
Rabiger, M 2009, ‘Conducting and Shooting Interviews’, in Directing the Documentary, 5th edn, Taylor & Francis Group, New York, USA, pp. 462-482.