Constructing a narrative
For this assignment you’ll gather documentary footage and use it to create a short documentary sequence representing a portrait of a place. You should try and capture the spirit and feel of the place as well as representing what happens there.
Choose a location
Recce your location at different times and think about:
- What happens? What are the important events that occur daily in your place? Are there
any unusual events that might be interesting to follow?
- What or who is there? What and who do you need to show to represent the various elements of the place and paint a full picture of it?
- What is the character of the place? Can you apply any of the ideas of characterisation to the place? What elements typify its mood and atmosphere? What kind of pace and rhythm does the place have?
- What is the timescale of the place? Can you represent its essential elements over a minute, an hour, a day, a week?
- Plan a narrative
- Draw a chart of your narrative structure. Identify the climax. What is the story you are telling?
- Create a shot list
Note the essential shots that you will need to represent your place and construct your narrative
- Record your footage
- Review your footage carefully – You may start to see something different from your original narrative emerging…
- Throw together something like your original plan. Don’t be afraid to make radical changes. Put your original pre-conceptions aside. Look at what you have and think how to use this to create an impression of the place you know. If in doubt say less. Pick one or two key elements to focus on.
Write an evaluation of your finished sequence (500 words).
Submit your sequence online to your tutor with the pre-production notes and evaluation.
Cities -ChloeClik</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user26938305″>ChloeClik</a>
; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>
I wanted to do something quite different for assignment four. As the final assignment it was important that everything I learned during this course was incorporated. Initially I began a shot of the local seafront and did some research. However it felt static and not what I was looking for.
I thought about what my friend said, taking the brief then honing it down to something specific. With that in mind I took the idea of a place and thought how could the garden be minimised. A comment about life from a bees point of view inspired me. The assignment was born. The garden as seen from the inhabitants viewpoint. Not completely subjective though with a few of those shots included. Shot from low angles to immerse the viewer in the world. I also read an article on the OCA website on how best to structure written work. It said that examiners don’t want to wade through loads of flowery language, instead to have the main points. With that in mind I have written the assignment in this manner.
Documentaries were the first place to start. Yellowstone, Life on Earth, Anima Mundi, Scottish Highlands I watched them making notes about what makes a documentary. Whilst often differing it came down to a rough structure.
The documentary introduces the landscape or subject as a whole. Focuses on specific animals and their story. Usually life and death drama. Classical music illustrates scene. Personifies animals (not all documentaries do though) Narration can be serious, humorous, educational. Carries a message. In Yellowstone, how the wolves dominate the landscape and all animals fight to survive. The Highlands, the same story again exploring how individual animals use the land.
My plan was –
- To show garden from wildlife’s point of view
- Focus on three main creatures. Bee. Woodlice. Originally it was to be a butterfly but on discovering the Centipede I couldn’t leave it out. Contrast of different levels. Bees – Flying. Woodlice – Land. Centipede – Under ground.
- Events of the day. Bees collecting nectar. Woodlice family reunion. Rain. Evening.
- Chronological over the day. Impact of humans and people. Humans only seen as distant blur or machinery.
- Message of the impact of human contact (this came later as I worked on it).
The most important essence for a movie is the actors and they threw up big obstacles. The lavender bush was flooded with bees and I camped out in the garden filming them. From this
- I charted their process, their patterns until I could almost predict the next flowers they’d go to.
- Experimented with various auto focus modes. Occasionally manual focus.
- 18-55mm lens ensured closeness. 50mm just wasn’t fast enough.
- Looked into expensive kit but was pleased with footage from lens.
The woodlice weren’t too bad to find. Several lived under the ornamental tortoise. I ensured I caused minimal disturbance to them. Replaced stones as they were.
- Favourite shot. Woodlouse uncurling. Found it curled up. Waited. Held my breath as it uncurled. It was magical moment.
- A whole conglomeration lived under the empty water butt.
- Gardener discovered many while cleaning leaf litter.
- Shot of woodlice with slug worked well with sequence.
This was unexpected. There was an old fuchsia bush removed from the pot. Discovered centipede by chance. Needed manual focus to track them fast enough. Created contrast, the underworld.
- Canon EOS 70D
- 80mm lens
- Voice over – used iMovie recording function.
Whilst it is good not to always include music, the music was important as I’d noted from my research, needed to convey mood, illustrate the story. Incompetech provided me with the perfect tracks which I edited and cut from occasionally to achieve the effect best for the video. It took longer than expected to adjust the sound levels to the voice over wasn’t overwhelmed or the music volume to differ greatly.
- Upbeat dance music mimicked intensity of bees pollen collecting.
- Magical created the atmosphere of the woodlice world.
- Tribal beat for the ‘drone’ shot of the woodlouse running.
- Gentle and classical like rain drops for rain storm. Brought sequence to a gentle close.
For the diegetic sounds I mostly used my own footage, the bees humming were achieved by getting very close to the bees (with my iPhone) I used the bird song from copies of my own music. Some were from free sound, the rain and water droplets were from iMovie.
Minimal, a gentle narration allowing footage to tell the story. Anthropomorphism of animals.
Giving animals human characteristics showed relationship between people and animals and reinforced message at end.
Final shot. Sums up the movie I feel with the tiny cities hidden in the undergrowth.
Reviewing it on the TV changed things. Earlier in this unit I had researched the different types of documentary. Initially I wondered whether to do a poetic documentary, letting the music and footage tell the story but when it came to it I realised it would be more suited to a narrative so I chose to go for a mix, an expository narrative but poetic as well especially with the music sequences.
Then it was a matter of editing. I cut the film down to just over six minutes.
I experimented with a variety of beginnings. At first I panned down the tree but felt it was important to show the small space where the tiny cities were. I panned around but it felt static. Then I included the sky, this had more impact and I could pan down from the sky, the plants and even capturing a spider web. Finally ending on a lavender bush which motivated the next shot. Documentaries often show a collection of footage to introduce the film.
Early Morning Time was represented by the early morning dew, I would have liked to capture a sunrise but it was just too early with my health.
Introduces Bees. Decided to use jolly music to show the frenetic activity of bees. Edited so they represented musical notes. Jumping from the leaves on the beat. The hornet shakes about. Adds a circus like feel with the trapeze and high wire act. Sets a false scent of security. Bee flies away as music ends.
Strimmer. Dark music. Creates a contrast of dark and light. Uses connecting shots. Strimmer goes with music. Bees all fly off. Butterfly in holly (filmed at different moment) shows the creatures there. Time lapse. It was pure serendipity that the woodlouse appeared during filming and the leaf speared down. Edited to go with music which I felt worked well. The leaf also represents danger.
Bee hit. This caused a lot of problems. I thought about the Mosjukhin Experiment that we had studied and how the story came from the viewers perception. As with Assignment Three, implying meaning, I wanted to imply the bee being caught by the up draught and not show it. At first it showed the bee flying then the strimmer then the bee but the effect wasn’t strong enough. I decided to add shock. The bee is shown on a flower then in the next frame the strimmer goes down.. Empty space of flowers creates feeling of fear. Cathedral sound effect on strimmer and blurred focus of people add to the disorientation.
Woodlouse – Works well with the magical music as it is unfurls. Depicts mother on her journey searching for her scattered children. Shows garden and other inhabitants.
Drone shot. As I craned the camera up a woodlouse came running. Almost like the drone shots in nature documentaries.
Centipede. Woodlouse motivated shot into underworld. Dark. Pans down twisted roots to reinforce going down. Creepy music. Tartarus in Greek mythology being the equivalent of Hell.
Rain storm. The rain storm was a chance to show more of the garden, the flowers, the insects and to give it a bit of contrast, a gentle moment often used in documentaries to bring things to a close. It served the perfect function of guiding into the closing sequence.
I am happy with this documentary. It means quite a lot to me as I really immersed myself in the wildlife’s world. Realised our garden was not really our garden. But a shared space. It taught me a lot and I was fascinated by the amount of nature on our doorstep. I managed not to be stung by bees despite staying in a close proximity to them, something which I regard as an accomplishment. It was almost like they knew I was there as an observer and not a threat. I even rescued several sugar starved bees in the process.
I felt I got unique footage such as the woodlouse uncurling and explored every dimension of the place. I am pleased I went for this and not my original idea of the seafront as I learnt so much from this and produced footage which I am pleased with. This assignment means more to me than all of the others put together. They let me share their world and now I can portray it and show it in the best way I can.
I ran it by several people I know and didn’t know and while there were those who felt a bit squeamish watching it some said they would keep an eye out for the tiny cities, others liked the touch of humour in the narration that didn’t overshadow the themes and message and some even said whilst before they wouldn’t have been able to watch woodlice on TV they now regarding them as cute.
And so ends digital film production. My life will feel almost empty without the enjoyable exercises, fun research and community of the film students. I would like to thank my tutor for his support in my ideas, feedback and invaluable advice. It has been a long and fantastic journey through this course, I have learnt so much, challenged myself and I look back at the first assignments and noticed errors I hadn’t before such as the introduction of diegetic sound in one scene only to be cut out in the next. Things I wouldn’t have noticed at the beginning now feel second nature, this course has been wonderful.
I went through every page of the course writing everything learned from exercises and incorporated it all.
- Low Angle
- High Angle
- Canted Frame
- POV – Subjective
- Diegetic sound
- Non diegetic
- Sound – smell, colour, emotion, physical
- New soundtrack
- Screen space
- Connecting shots
- Speed up
- Jump cutting
- Empty drama
- Slow motion
- Overlapping or repeating action