Fine Points of Documentary
In this blog post I begin with a consideration of the pitfalls and issues with the documentary project. I follow up with a brief exposition on my personal development through this project and ponder suggestions for any future groups taking on this project. A quick note of thanks to Dr. McClurken, I greatly appreciated the opportunities we have this semester to take on unique projects. He risked this course’s success by entrusting us to select viable projects and course readings.
I acquired a number of new skills that I would not have otherwise even begun to think about, yet even this process came with issues. In crafting a documentary I had no idea where one began. You can read first, which may inform your questions, but without doing interviews right away the rest of the documentary feels formless. However, many guides and tutorials suggest building a storyboard of what you would like to tell. While I am certainly not artistic in my storytelling, but how can you create a storyboard without already having the story? I learned how to start building relations with interviewees and set up meetings. My group thoroughly discussed tips and techniques to keep an individual somewhat on subject, namely how to politely steer the conversation back to a relevant direction. The best skill I picked up was how to edit video.
Prior to this project, I had some inkling of how to work out audio issues, but video presented a new mystery to me. Thanks to substantial online tutorials and my project partner’s strong eye for editing, I felt supremely confident in my ability to sniff out bad cuts and how to overlay a good b-roll. There will always be the obstacle of learning a new piece of technology, but consider that the technology is a platform for you to tell a story. If such is the case, despite the difference in buttons and functions, different programs will expect the user to bring the same set of skills to the table. Do you know how to find a problem with video? Do you understand how to keep a viewer mentally engaged with your work? These are a couple of the underlying questions one must ponder. My partner was not familiar with Premiere but felt right at home with Avid. Although these are two different programs, her strong editing skills can shine through in both. I love editing video and adding audio tracks that blow people’s minds.
With any project, the key lesson is knowing how to budget time, however time is again an overarching issue. One should mainly note that in a group project the core issue is dividing workload. I found balancing the work power of four people to be exceedingly difficult, especially given my dearth of skills. Regardless, I should have considered ways to play to each individual’s strengths and time availability. Each member of my group gave this project their full time and attention, but at some moments there was little for them to take care of. Truth be told, video editing can be a solo job and does not require a committee at the very beginning. Given that, how do you divvy out a four person group? Perhaps the lesson here is understanding the nature of the project and potential job roles for each participant. I wouldn’t want to take away from anyone’s learning experience, which can easily happen when individuals only take jobs they are already proficient at. I find this to be a particularly hard balancing act and would love to get other opinions on the matter.
I fell in love with this documentary project and already have ideas rolling through my mind about the next short piece. With only a few weeks left in the semester, I can’t believe it has taken me four years at UMW to realize that I love film work. Better late than never, and there is nothing wrong with pursuing documentary as a hobby, right?