For our Media Futures project, my production team and I were tasked with producing a 3 minute documentary style film about why we chose to study at UWE. This brief was open to personal interpretation; we could choose to focus on the attraction of the media culture in Bristol and investigate various production companies that this might include, or we could focus more on ourselves as individuals and our personal reasons for studying filmmaking, and choosing to do so in Bristol as opposed to elsewhere.
My team was comprised of seven people, including me. In our first production meeting we each introduced ourselves and explained a bit about our background and our reasons for choosing to come to UWE. It became clear that the group had one reason in common; the media scene in the city. However, each group member then also had their individual reasons for becoming interested in filmmaking and individual motives for choosing to come to UWE, hence we decided to focus our film on these.
After our first Media Futures production meeting, we had several more discussions about the kind of aesthetics we wanted our documentary to have and who would be responsible for each role in the group. We set up an online communication over Facebook that we could use for sharing ideas and arranging meetings. After two weeks; we each wrote a short script about our background, and reasons for coming to UWE and to Bristol. We planned to interview each member of the group, who would speak loosely based on what they had written in their ‘script’ and then edit these together. We also discussed the idea of using pixilation and time-lapse photography to give the film an interesting visual edge. Unfortunately we had to dismiss our pixilation idea due to a lack of time, however we did include several time-lapse sequences, a technique that we learnt in our various camera workshops. I was really pleased with how the time-lapse sequences were integrated into our film. I think that they provide a visual representation of the idea that Bristol is a very energetic and bustling city, and I also liked how they divided the film up, preventing it from becoming just a repetitive series of interviews.
As we wanted to portray each member of our team as being an individual, we decided that we would each have our interviews in separate locations, of our choosing, across the city. In order to find a particular location that I liked, I did some photography around the city, before settling on a location next to the river, just off the harbour side. Reviewing locations was a good idea as it allowed me to consider lighting and also practicality. Initially I also considered having my interview at Cabot tower, however going up there to take photographs revealed that it would be far too windy; consequently I chose an alternate location which saved a lot of time and energy in the long term. Before this, I also considered having my interview somewhere that might be of importance in the media industry, however we decided as a group that we wanted to be interviewed outdoors, and that locations around the city would be more aesthetically pleasing and convenient to access.
The media futures project was an important learning curve for me. It was the first time I have worked as part of a team on a film project, which I found really challenging at times but equally very rewarding. As the producer throughout the project, I was responsible for organising the team and arranging meetings, and consequently it was frustrating when people didn’t attend or failed to communicate. On reflection, had more advance notice of meetings been given this may have been more manageable, and also perhaps using Facebook was not the best method of communication.
On the other hand, I think I learnt a lot about filmmaking in general from the people I was working with whom had all acquired their own skills through individual experiences. I also learnt a lot about the geography of Bristol; as each team member chose a separate site for their interview, our team consequently ventured all over the city, leading to the discovery of a few places I was not aware existed.
The technical workshops I attended during this project were also invaluable in teaching me how to use camera and the sound equipment, and how to use both effectively. In my opinion one of the most important lessons I learnt was how to record sound effectively; I think the clear and comprehensive sound that we achieved in our film really gave it a professional edge and made it engaging, despite the difficulties that we sometimes faced with wind, traffic and construction noise. Learning about lighting people’s faces correctly for interviews was also something that I hadn’t previously considered before this project, but was a technique that we used extensively whilst filming and really thought about on location.
Along with the technical workshops, I also took part in an ‘as-live’ TV studio exercise, in which we were tasked to produce a three minute TV interview. In this exercise I was given the role of presenter, which meant that I was under pressure to keep the talent talking for the correct amount of time, which I enjoyed as it was something I’d never done before. This exercise was particularly useful as it allowed me to get to know the people on my course better, and learn many of their names.
Before the Media Futures project got thoroughly underway, my team and I also had to produce a short ‘sweded’ film in just 4 hours, which was all edited in-camera and we were not allowed to do any postproduction work on. We chose to ‘swede’ Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, as it was a film we were familiar with and was achievable on campus. I thought this exercise was a fantastic way to team build, as it really helped me to get to know everyone in my team, and understand our various strengths and weaknesses before we properly started the work on Media Futures. I think the sweding exercise also gave us a real sense of achievement as a team when we watched the finished film.
On reflection, if I were to complete the Media Futures project again, I would certainly consider starting filming earlier, so that we might have had more time to incorporate visual effects such as pixilation, although I also appreciate the fact that this may have overcomplicated the film. Although, I think that the production meetings we had before filming were all essential to the success of the final outcome, as they allowed each member of the team to feed in their ideas. Our film was effective due to its simplicity, although perhaps we could have researched more into the media landscape in order to find an existing professional or ex-student to interview, to add more depth to the film.
In conclusion, I am very happy with my teams’ finished ‘Media Futures’ film, I found it fun to work on and I will take the skills and lessons learned on to all my future projects.
- Media Futures finished product! (meghoughtongilmour.wordpress.com)