© 2014 ellathompson


“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. Many will rethink this dramatically by the end of the course – 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?

At the beginning of this course, I didn’t really know what to expect. I was skeptical as to whether I would enjoy it that much. I mean, of course I would enjoy it, but I was skeptical as to whether or not I’d find it as enjoyable as fiction filmmaking. I had a number of preconceptions and concerns about making a documentary.

  • Not being able to lock down every variable possible like you would in fiction filmmaking. Letting things be wayward (to an extent).
  • Finding a story. What makes a good documentary story? Or subject? I felt weirdly unfamiliar with this.
  • Using real people. Asking a regular person to play themself on camera. Especially if it means delving into a difficult subject for them. (It’s almost as if you’re taking advantage of them.)
  • Editing. Finding a story among so much content. Shooting too much and having sift through all of that material. Or not having enough material, and having to go back and re-shoot. Somehow.
  • Not a concern, but an expectation: What I was aware of and fascinated with was the story side of documentary – the power that the documentary story holds in being true and real.

The course surpassed my expectations by a mile. It was highly engaging and enjoyable. The unknown variables were what made making our documentary exciting. Finding a story/character proved incredibly fascinating and moving. Using real people was fantastic. Authentic story and characters make for a truly amazing filming experience (and hopefully a great viewing experience!). Especially when the subject is so oblivious/indifferent to the presence of the camera and sound recording equipment and so generously willing to share. I was not the main editor, so I did not have to deal with the sifting process. However, Tiana informs me that it was just a matter of watching and listening to the rushes and picking out the obvious story parts. Either way, we didn’t have to go back and re-shoot. Which is good. Very good.

Aside from wanting to understand documentary on a deeper level, my goal was to use this course and this semester as an opportunity to focus on improving my technical understanding of cameras. I’m very interested in cinematography – from a storytelling perspective and from a somewhat more psychological perspective (I spoke about these things more in my blog post from the beginning of the semester). I think that it’s so important to understand the tools that you’re working with as a filmmaker, and I want to become as familiar as I can with these tools so that I can figure out how to possibly extend their use even further. I was super determined to improve my camera competence, so I really applied myself with this goal. The documentary assignment provided the ‘excuse’ that I needed to give this cinematography research higher priority. And I learnt so much, mostly from independent online research and just playing with my own camera. I absolutely loved being DP for our documentary and I don’t want to put down my camera yet! I’d really love to continue with bettering my understanding of cinematography.


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