Mustafa Izzy, Max Conroy and myself have been working on the production of a collection of short exploratory documentaries. Primarily the short pieces profile individuals within the community, focusing on what assists immigrants assimilating to life in Australia, and some of the hardships or potential joys that they might face. As a part of our Film TV 2 specialisation, our committed team formed ‘MKM Productions’ and began the process of sourcing, interviewing, filming and editing our intended documentaries.
Within both the course and time constraints, MKM Productions filmed two pieces as well as produced one completed short film. Our team will resume editing of our second documentary, ‘EP2’, and has also made arrangements to film our next short piece in early 2015. Additionally, over the last semester of 2014, MKM Productions kept a dedicated blog that entails some of our research, production processes and exploratory concepts.
MKM’s first completed film titled ‘Mosaic: The Series EP1’ profiles an aspiring Melbourne based musician, 18-year-old Angelo from Kukuma, Kenya.
As a part of the last analysis/ reflection for Film-TV 2, I have been asked to discuss what I have gained from this course and if it has lived up to my expectations. Firstly, I have gained a lot throughout this semester from various elements of the documentary film-making process. It has been a strong learning experience, particularly with the subject topic that we decided to explore. The two documentary segments that we have produced investigates how immigrants assimilate to their new life in Australia, what challenges they might come across and what can assist them to adapt within their new society. With investigating the subject topic at hand, the team faced challenges with interviewing the documentary participants and presenting information. However, it was a good learning curve into how to consider and deal with sensitive topics. Additionally, I gained a lot based on the subject topic that we investigated as I have had a strong desire to explore the topic for a while and it provided me with a great deal of insight.
In regards to the technical process, I have also gained insight into what I would do next time and how to approach certain technical elements. Importantly, when making another documentary I would use two cameras instead of one to allow for the team to capture a more diverse range of footage inclusive of various camera angles and cut away shots. The importance of gaining a varied range of footage was evident in the editing process when we had limited stylistic options.
Overall, I have highly enjoyed the course that has enabled me with the support and base knowledge to produce documentaries. Furthermore, I am ambitious to continue practicing documentary film-making and am looking forward to making my next piece.
Megan Cunningham’s article titled ‘The Art of Documentary’ features an interview with the reclaimed documentary film-maker, Haskell Wexler.
The article divulges in Wexler’s film-making style, where he often provoked actions from documentary subjects in order to entice drama as well as to present a certain type of documentary. Wexler defines his approach to cinema verite documentary making as “Using your filming ability” (pg. 89), suggestively to present a filmic piece that a director envisions. Interestingly, Wexler tells how he has often foreseen what may be needed to make a cut work better and to enhance a scene. In doing so, Wexler disclosed how he filmed Keith Richard’s jamming, however he recognized at the time that he would need a shot of Richards entering the room to make the shot work and so he made that happen. Although Wexler did intervene with how the shot, I consider this approach a documentary tactic, one that perhaps I should consider when shooting my documentary. In saying this, it is always important to have an awareness of elements surrounding your film, which may be how to make a shot work better, a sound that you pass by or even potential cut away.
Wexler tells that, “All images we see are images now presented by the people that want to present them. And they don’t necessarily present the truth” (pg. 89). Wexler’s statement notes a striking veracity. Not only does the author have an ability to present information in a certain way, every decision a filmmaker chooses assists in presenting a certain perception on numerous elements within a film.
The week four reading by Paul Ward titled ‘Fiction and non-fiction: the great divide?’ was highly insightful with our documentary fast approaching. The article tells that one of the most interesting aspects about studying the documentary field is the taxonomy of fiction, documentary and nonfiction and the difference as well as similarities between the genres (pg. 31).
Often a controversial topic, the article speaks of the blurred differences between fiction and documentary, or what Bill Nichols depicts as ‘blurred boundaries’. The article aims to deconstruct the modes of both documentary and fiction and the distinguishing factors that categorically place them into their defining genre. In doing so, the article looks over the supposedly separate factors of both film types however investigates overlapping similarities within the genres.
Interestingly the article speaks of a new wave of hybrid genres between documentary, drama and non-fiction that further blurs the distinctions. Giving the subject some consideration, I would consider a documentary film to be perceived by its viewers as truthful. However, various filmmakers have previously pushed these perimeters and have tested an audience’s perception of documentary films. One notably shocking example of this is the mocumentary True Lies, where the main protagonist told a story about being raped, however the film’s credits showed that the film was not based on real events. Despite the film’s shocking affect on it’s viewer when they discovered that the film was not an actuality, True Lies proved to be an exemplifier that documentaries are often perceived to be factual despite the potential for filmmakers to make rhetoric or bias documentary. Notably, the emerging hybrid genres further complicate the defining elements of the mentioned genres along with the audience’s notion of documentaries being based on actualities (34).
Bernard Curran’s article titled ‘Documentary Storytelling for Film and Videomakers’ provides insight as to the considerations of planning of producing a documentary. Curran told how it is important to take a step back and to consider whether the documentary’s story is something that audiences would actually want to view (27). Interestingly, Curran told that a documentary that transports viewers into experiences beyond their own means or presents observations outside of their attainment is more likely to be well received (31). Additionally, Curran spoke of the importance of building relationships and gaining trust with your subjects. This reminded me of the strong and sometimes obscure bonds that the filmmaker, Louis Theroux forms with his subjects – as below.
The student documentary titled End of the Line, also known as ‘the Broken Hill film’ features long-term locals expressing their passion and life-long loyalty for the rural town. In doing this, the film presents some striking views of small town mentality. Particular from an elderly woman who obsessively voiced her desire for death as well as connecting her supposed near death with the town whilst conveying a sense of religious harmony.
I’m unsure if the filmmakers achieved what they originally intended to do. I’d like to think that no documentary filmmakers could presuppose precisely the type of film their going to end up with as it often dependent on the subjects or often things are discovered in the process of making the film. I do perceive that the filmmakers remained in line with their original concept however the subjects and the brutality of the town itself perhaps revealed certain views as well as a sense of reality to the filmmakers.
I have authored my very first K-film, formally known as Korsakow, which has been adapted from Korsakoff’s Syndrome (early on-set dementia from excessive alcohol abuse and the consequential malnutrition). I’ve never really known the exact reason behind the naming of the software, although I’m inclined to think it has something to do with the usability of the program… But mostly because of the limited viewing time within each frame.
The footage has been taken over the last six weeks and contains elements of personal documentary whilst being within the constraints of the outlined weekly filming tasks. You can have a play with it here.