Our next MDX1300 assignment brief required us to produce a short documentary consisting of 2, 60 second interviews that concentrated on sound. The sound on the first interview was to be recorded with a tie mic (lapel mic), and the sound on the second interview was to be recorded with a boom mic, however both interviews were to also be recorded with the camera mic, simultaneously on a different channel.
We planned to make the documentary about Middlesex University, or more specifically the BA Film course at the university, because we had access to all of the resources we required on location, and we could interview Middlesex students who would give us insightful information on the subject. These two interviews would be intercut with juxtaposing imagery relating to the narrative, and detailed cut-aways of the interviewee (eg: close ups of their eyes/hands). We also decided to cut from a mid-shot to a mid-close up half way through the interview, when the questions about the film course arise. This would not only break up the static nature of the interview, making it more more engaging (less boring) for the viewer, but it would also enhance the relation between the interviewee and the audience, by focusing more on the subjects face than any other aspect in the frame, during the questions about the course.
Here is the film:
I was happy with the finished product, and I feel, as the director, that I effectively translated my vision onto the screen. During the next MDA1300 class, we watched the documentaries made by the multiple groups in our class, and gave constructive criticism to our peers. After viewing my group’s film in class, the tutor gave us some feedback. Some of the points made I agreed with, such as the lack of related imagery to cut away to, however this was possibly the first time I disagreed with some of the points made by the tutor.
Before I go into detail, I would like to add that our interviewees were students on our course, who were somewhat camera shy. This wouldn’t have been a problem if the brief didn’t required us to use students in our group as the interviewees, however, it did. If the brief was more flexible about this, I would have chosen subjects more confident in front of a camera.
Our tutor’s main criticism was on the detail close up shots of the interviewees eyes/hands, he argued that they were unnecessary, ‘awkward’ and did not suit the formal nature of the interview. Admittedly, the movement of the hands were somewhat unnatural, and the sound on the extreme close ups were not synced to the imagery, however I would argue that they were totally necessary to the film. The serious nature of the interview was not a directorial choice, the seriousness, instead, arose from the lack of confidence of the interviewees (no smiling, no laughing, etc…). The fact that the interviewees seemed emotionless on camera was the exact reason why the detail shots were necessary.
The close ups of the eyes and hands helps portray the interviewees on a more ‘human’ level. The eyes, after all, are the window to the soul, a viewer can learn a lot of information about a character from their eyes. This is why I chose to include a close up of the subjects eyes in the film. The close up of the hands puts emphasis on what is being said by the interviewee, the hand movement, again, portrays the subject at a more ‘human’ level. If I were to have the interviewees sit there, emotionless and not moving throughout the duration of the interviews, it would contradict the tone I was attempting to achieve, and more importantly, would be boring for the audience. Furthermore, we also added an uplifting soundtrack that plays throughout the interviews to make the interviews more lighthearted, and less serious.
‘Serious’ and ’emotionless’ was not the tone I was attempting to achieve with this film. This is not a professional production, and we did not have the flexibility in the assignment to chose our interviewees, if we did, these issues would have not occurred. Yes the hand movement was awkward, yes the close up of the eyes were not synced up to the visuals (we were only allowed to use one camera), however, the very fact that we included these shots, along with changes in camera angles, juxtaposing imagery and lighthearted music shows a very conscious directorial decision to lift the overall tone of the film. I am surprised that our group was criticised on the performance of the interviewees, and not the craft of the film itself.
On the other hand, the sound on the film was referred to as ‘textbook’, by one of the tutors in the seminar, which is good seeing as it was a sound assignment. The lighting, framing and mise-en-scene was complimented on, and referred to as looking ‘professional’. The film also fit the brief, so overall it was successful.