Category Archives: People to People

People to People – Editing & Final Product

I will be frank in saying that I found the editing stage very difficult. I have not a lot experience editing, especially with the software we used, Final Cut. Though a member of our group was very adept at using the program and so my lack of skills did not hinder the process.

I took a back seat when editing, I was not on hand doing the job. This was due to the fact I had no proficiency at using the software and since we only had a week to put the documentary together I felt it would be better if someone else used the software and got it done. I will endeavor to learn how to use the system but with the footage needing editing fast due to time constraints, I encouraged someone else to do it. 

I had a quick shot at editing but was mainly directing the editing.

 I was not passing on the responsibility but I felt I was more effective commenting, discussing and divulging my thoughts and opinions about how the documentary should look as opposed to bumbling about learning the tools. It was like I was the brain and the person physically editing was the hands. I actually think this method of getting the job done by using your strongest components really worked well. I could concentrate on how the film looked overall with my companion concentrating on the technical sides of editing. I did pick a fair few instructions up as we went along making me more confident about editing in my next project.

Neil’s interview needed more than just him talking to make it into a documentary. We needed to add certain things to the footage to make the story more aesthetically pleasing and easy to follow. Though first,we had to remove the footage we were not going to use (such as us talking to him asking him questions or irrelevant points). We then selected the sections of the interview we liked the best and created the best narrative without too much explanation. We placed them into a continuity order which gave the piece structure – the three-part structure as mentioned before, getting into music journalism; being a music journalist; and his band.

There were several cut-aways we felt had to be included in the finished product. First was the very first news article Neil had published. The zoom into this really brought an otherwise static image to life. This was done by key framing the image. Emma had a lot of experience doing this and using Final Cut and showed Jess and I how to perform this function. The news article cutaway was crucial, I feel, and I urged it to be put into the product. The rhythm and pace when Neil was talking was very intense with no natural breaks or pauses. I insisted the cutaway be placed in to give the piece time to breathe. An audience would feel claustrophobic in consuming the product if it does not pause for them to take a moment to take in what has been said. The second cutaway was relating to the ‘Derrek Smalls of Spinal Tap’ line with another key framing image of the man shown. Another cutaway was a photograph of Neil ‘from a young age’ which matches what he is saying blissfully perfect. It is in relation to him talking about always having a passion for reading, writing and music since his childhood. A video of his band, The Moonbears, is played with him talking over the top about the band itself and what it means to him. We had to include it also as it linked what he was saying. If we had not put it in, it would seem like he changed the context of the conversation with no seamless link and appears abruptly strange. The Moonbear video helps to smooth the transition.

I think we made a cracking decision by filming with two cameras. It was said that two cameras was a cover up for either an audio glitch or the fact that the effects need to be interesting because the subject (interviewee) is not. However, Neil was fully engaging and not only does he speak with his mouth, but he speaks with his face. His almost caricature facial expressions complement the context and emotion of what he is saying. We used the close up shots sacredly to convey these interesting points about him. One particular part I feel responsible for pulling together was during the section where Neil talks about being a ‘cocky, arrogant git’ and telling the music press their articles were ‘shit’. This cocky, arrogantness, along with a sense of cheekiness, is portrayed though a smile and widening of the eyes which are full of swagger. It really brings his character and personality to life.

The finished product succeeds as a documentary and can hold its own as a piece of narrative. It is structured and self explanatory which is what we aimed to achieve. If we had to explain what was going on or the audience actually asked what was going on then we would have failed in making a self supporting product. But this was not the case. With careful editing and selective cut-aways we stabilised the quick change of topics that delivered the information we wanted to show about Neil but at the same time keeping rhythm and pace in his interview.


People to People – Filming

We went off to film our interview with Neil. However, we did stumble across a few problems on the way. The first of these was an issue with booking the Z5 out. With the only cameras available not working we were stuck with just using PDX10s. Panic kicked in as we knew this would dramatically reduce the quality of our film. But we ran into a stroke of luck. Just as we were planning to leave, another student dropped off a Z5. We jumped on this opportunity and booked it out straight away. With hindsight, this dilemma could have been avoided by booking in advanced but we learn from our mistakes.

We got to the City College with plenty of time before our interview was due to commence (an aspect of planning we did get right) and went into the television studio there. After playing about with our set and deciding on a back drop, we positioned a chair in the corner of a built set with a purple background. We used each other to stand in as we set up the lights – we decided to use three-point-lighting as we felt it actually looked natural. We did the same for the Z5 camera, building the tripod and positioning it so the it caught the front of the interviewees face but was not dead straight on. I would be holding the PDX10 as close with being in line with the shot from the Z5 (the main camera) but to offer different shots. The microphone, once wired up, was placed as close to the chair as it could be (without being in shot) for a sharp, crisp sound.

Framing the shot and the overall composition is important so with this in mind, we made sure the interviewees’ head was in shot with a little background space over the top of their head. We made sure the chair was quite far back against the wall and the camera zoomed in so as to fit most of their body in the shot to cancel out the risk of dead space being created which would ruin our look of the film. The main focus of the cameras would be Neil’s eyes so these were the focal points.The Key Lighting worked effectively to shadow and lighten the interviewees’ face and give it some depth. It was done as subtle as possible as these little subtle things often make the difference between the overall product looking superb of looking naff. There was also a small shadow behind and to the side of the character giving them a field of depth from the wall so they didn’t look flat against it – at the end of the day, the character is not part of the back drop, they are the key feature.

We met Neil and ran through what the interview was about in detail. We asked him to paraphrase his answers as best as he possibly could and that he had a few seconds from us asking the question to him answering it so he could build a coherent response and be fluid in what he was saying (we later found out that this was not an issue as Neil is very articulate and well practiced in forwarding his conversation without hesitation). After a quick sound check we commenced the interview. As mentioned, we had no trouble in getting a decent interview out of Neil. Ten minutes (roughly) later we stopped filming. We had sufficient footage and interesting points to wrap up. A total of twenty minutes split between two shots would be plenty to create a documentary in three minutes without being an overwhelming amount. We packed the equipment away, thanked Neil and went to make our footage into a film. 

Here is the Risk Assessment form. This and health & safety were my responsibility.


People To People – Project Discussion

My group members, Jess Wilkinson and Emma Fielder, and I talked about what we should do for the project. We came to the conclusion that my idea, Claire, and Jess’ idea, her mum Susan, we less practical to film than Emma’s for reasons as follows: My project would either require my subject to come down from Bradford in Yorkshire or us to go up there; Jess’ would require her mum to come down from Barton-upon-Haven in Lincolnshire. Although not impossible, it is very expensive to do. Emma’s subject, a music journalist and lecturer called Neil, is based in Coventry, not far from the university. Ease of access, limited expense and accommodating time (as in both parties can meet and get the job done) meant that Neil was our firm choice.

We arranged to meet Neil on Thursday 3rd March at the Coventry City College, his place of work. We were invited to use a studio there. This gave us both a themed setting (his natural environment) as well as a place to work in, free of unwanted noise, disturbance and we could set it up as we pleased.

During the discussion, we talked about how we would film Neil and what we wanted from him. We want to show that his career in music journalism was a single moment of pushing himself out there and saying ‘look at what I can do, give me a shot’. We also wanted to bring some of his experience as a journalist through in his interview. Neil is also a  member of a band, The Moonbears, which we decided should get coverage too because Neil is a journalist who really knows his subject. He does not just question the bands image and style but their musical prowess. He can really relate to his audience and his own interviews because of his own musical talent.

We brainstormed some names for the project. These had to relate to his music journalism and his musical background. Here is a few examples I thought of:
                        – Writing Stories and Tunes
                        – Articles and Harmonies (I really liked this one)
                        – The Journo Who Became a Moonbear
However, the title we decided on was “Inspirational Words and Musical Notes”.

We decided the quality of our documentary was very important and decided to use a Z5 video camera to film with. I had a bit of experience with it – I know where the functions I need are; I know how to use the aperture, focus, shutter speed and white balance effectively. We decided we would take lights just in case the lighting in the studio was not adequate for what were trying to do. We also needed a microphone as we would be recording sound separate to footage. We also decided to take a PDX10 with us just for some alternate shots. The Z5 also needed a tripod.

The interview would be broken down into three parts. First, Neil’s story in becoming a music journalist. Second, Neil’s career as a music journalist. Third, Neil’s band, The Moonbears. We thought of paraphrased questions to ask Neil based around these three areas. The use of paraphrasing them, we thought, would make Neil’s respone include our question which would help the interview flow better when played back to an audience.


People to People – Treatment

Had a thought about the documentary film and how I would put it all together. I was searching for a name for the film and I wanted to coin the words ‘Drug’ and ‘Love’ together – that is Claire’s story. The film ‘Love and Other Drugs’ had a title I could spin: “Drugs and Other Love’.

How am I going to make this film?

“Drugs and Other Love” will focus on a short explanation of what Claire’s addiction has done to her health. It will be more based on interviewing her, with inter-looped footage and pictures.

I plan to interview Claire for 15 – 20 minutes and ask her to talk about different topics. I will lead the interview with questions to structure her answer (which we will plan in advance). Using my charismatic but gentle and sensitive nature, I will try as get as much detail out of her as possible.

The questions:

– How did you start on both Amphetamine and Heroin?
– How long were you on them for?
– How did you live your life at that time?
– How did you fund your addiction?
– What long-term effects have the drugs had on your life?
– What made you turn your life around/What was the pinnacle of turning your life around?
– What was the darkest point during your addiction?

I really want her to fully open up to my questions but it may cause her emotional pain.


People to People – Ideas

   When I thought about interesting people to document in my project, my mind went awol! I had to think back to my home up north and identify potential stories. Two really hit the spot.

   One, a man called David Wade, an art teacher and head of sixth form, is very interesting. Working backwards – he is now the head of a sixth form and fully operates them effectively (also encouraging interests, travelling and extra-ciriculum activities); is an art teacher of tremendous ability; has worked for the police force; studied fine art and graphic design at university; ran away from home in India to go to university and get a better life; was born to a colonist family and moved to India at a very early age; struggled at academics at school (due to dyslexia discovered at university) but found a passion for art and was good at long distance running.
   As well as footage of David, I would also incorporate photographs he has that document his life and also footage of maps.

   The second person I thought about is a woman who I shall refer to as Claire. A sufferer of manic depression since her childhood and the unexpected life change of having a child while she was 17 and 18, led her to experimenting with drugs during her late teens – particularly heroin. As she moved into her twenties, Claire was an addict.  Her life was hard, consisting of abusive partners, addiction sickness and low income. Due to the state she was in, the drugs helped her escape the life she hated; a life she hated because of the drugs. Addicts will do anything for their needs and Claire ended up working at a brothel; the only way she could fund her addiction. But there was a light at the end of her tunnel. She had had two children. And they needed a mum. They were looked after but it spurred Claire to get clean. In 1998, Claire woke one morning knowing she was going to die but how could she do that with so much to live for.

Everyone knows addictions are hard to kick…heroin is probably the worse. Their are stories of addicts committing disgusting acts (such as with animals) to not suffer the pain and illness getting clean. But Claire went cold turkey by herself and got off the smack.

She then met a man who I will refer to as William. She was madly in love with him and he her. It seemed like life was perfect. Then life took another hurtful turn toward Claire. In 2005, William had a completely unexpected heart attack. Claire could not physically and mentally cope with his death and turned to another drug, amphetamine, to escape. She was addicted to this drug for four years, eventually admitting herself to Lynfield Mount Hospital (a mental health hospital in Bradford) for sixth months to get herself off the amphetamine. With (now three) children to be a mum for, with the help of Lynfield Mount and with a will stronger than stone, Claire got clean in 2009, vowing never to abuse drugs again.

  Although Claire got off the drugs, they still affected her health. She suffers from Psychosis and epilepsy as a (common) side effect to phet; she suffers Raynards disease from the smack. Claire also has Hepatitis C. This is not a result of being a dirty addict (a clean addict uses clean needles/doesnt share paraphernalia/safe sex etc) but from an old partner as he attempted a home made tatoo on her – it’s worth noting he only pricked her twice and not even deep into her skin. Claire’s story is full of love; her story is not just “I was an addict, now I am clean” it’s actually “Look what drugs did to me”.

I am going to go with Claire for the documentary project. She is up for it as long as her identity is not revealed, I dont post the video on the internet (facebook, youtube, vimeo etc) and in the future, I make a fuller document to bring awareness of post-addiction diseases and conditions. The one problem is that Claire lives in my hometown Bradford so filming may be an issue.