“In 200 words or less please outline your goals, desires – what you want to get out of this semester. You will review this later in the course. You may rethink this dramatically – this is a good thing.”
You were asked this at the beginning of the semester. Now, could you review constructively what you got from this semester – has the course lived up to your expectations, delivered what you expected, maybe even surpassed it?
I was super enthusiastic about Film-TV 2 at the beginning of the semester because I’ve always preferred non-fiction work to fiction – drama doesn’t interest me as much. We were instructed to develop and research an ‘idea’ we wanted to work on, instead of a specific topic; it was to be sort of ‘abstract’. Ideas rushed into my head: nostalgia, identity, migration, adolescence, etc. The problem, however, was that 12 weeks was too short a period of time to explore any ‘abstract’ idea extensively and produce a documentary of it.
Compared to Film-TV 1, there was less pre-production planning required. We just had to ‘flow’ with the story – you never know what gems you might find! But I was too optimistic. While we did uncover some interesting anecdotes from our documentary subject Mr Wong, they proved highly difficult and frustrating to edit in post-production. We struggled a lot with piecing the narrative together – what should we focus on? What should we leave out? Does the narrative make sense to the audience? How can we make the narrative more engaging and exciting? The feedback from the fine cut session was really helpful because as filmmakers, it’s hard to view our documentary from an audience’s perspective.
Also, another obstacle I encountered was actually approaching documentary subjects. In Film-TV 1 we held auditions, which attracted actors that wanted to be in the film. With documentaries, your intended subjects don’t necessarily want to be filmed. Being thick-skinned helps; some amount of persuasion is involved. I felt like I was asking Mr Wong for a huge favour, taking up his time, and disrupting the running of his business. There was no good reason for him to help us, but he did. When he rejected us the third time we wanted to go down to his restaurant for filming, it was expected. I felt so apologetic.
Overall I think Film-TV 2 fell short of my expectations slightly. I must clarify this is most definitely not the fault of my amazing tutors and classmates; this is mainly due to personal obstacles I have yet to overcome, namely my lack of filmmaking experience, lack of technical skills (re: equipment), and my lack of journalistic gutsiness. I went into Film-TV 2 disillusioned, with inflated expectations, so naturally the experience has left me a bit disenchanted. Nevertheless, I have learned plenty and I couldn’t have been more glad to have had the opportunity to explore documentary filmmaking in uni. Film-TV 2 has provided me with basic documentary filmmaking skills and knowledge, which I expect will be very useful in the future. I still retain a lot of interest in documentaries and I hope I will be able to explore one of those abstract ideas at great length someday!
P.S.: Dear Robin and Paul, thank you for being ever so patient and helpful throughout Film-TV 1 and 2. While I am unlikely to pursue an actual career in film (my interests simply lean towards journalism/writing more), your earnest guidance and passion for film has been absolutely infectious and inspiring… I am truly grateful that you guys (as well as my group mates) have made my first foray into filmmaking a wonderful experience. Cheers. See you at the screening.