In the last 160MC workshop I joined a group for the People to People project. I was a bit concerned about joining them that late, thinking that they’d done lots of work on the project and it wouldn’t be fair to call myself part of the group at this stage. But it seems they were OK with it, and they told me I could help with sound which had been a problem in their previous projects, so I felt welcome in the group.
The group consists of Sunil Singh, James Dove, Tom Neary, and, now, me. Since most of them live in Birmingham, we didn’t have the chance to make a pre-production meeting, so we had to discuss the project online.
Our People to People documentary focuses on an interview with PC Jeanette Partridge, who is the main University police officer for Coventry University. The working title of the project is ‘Crimewatch’.
We had an appointment with Jeanette for Wednesday at 1 PM, and she would be available for the rest of the afternoon. So we decided we would meet at 11:30 as a group to discuss ideas and prepare and test the equipment. However, on Tuesday evening she emailed Sunil that she would only be free from 11 till 12:30, so we had to reschedule everything.
Another problem we faced was that didn’t obtain authorisation to film in the police station, so we had to find another location. I went to find one, and booked and got all necessary forms signed for the Coffee Rev. café at the CUSU, which is not being used at the moment. It turned out everyone at the CUSU knew Jeanette, so we figured it was a decent choice – she would feel comfortable there. What is more, since the café is not being used, we had it all for us – and we could use the big area to set the cameras, lighting etc. the way we wanted.
Still, the problems were not over – one of the guys had forgotten his card, so we had to rearrange the bookings. So instead of discussing the questions and story, we spent our time before we met Jeanette sorting out equipment and organisational stuff.
At 11 AM, she arrived at Ellen Terry, and we all went to the CUSU. We spent a good 30 minutes setting up equipment, while trying to not get her bored. It also turned out one of the lights we booked was not working, so we had to use some of the café’s lamps for backlight. After sorting this, we had to deal with one of our ‘fresh’ tapes which only allowed us to film 4 minutes of footage. (It later turned out it was a ‘cleaning’ tape. No idea why they sold us one at the MLS). Then, after sorting out sound, we were finally all set to start the interview.
Sunil started the interview asking the questions we managed to come up with in the hurry. But Jeanette’s answers sounded a bit generic. So at some point, she started brainstorming questions and answers. I think it is because of her experience in dealing with students, speaking at public events, etc. – that even though her new questions were also pretty straightforward and generic, they worked better. I was operating the main camera and took the liberty to not stop recording while she was brainstorming – so I think we would probably end up using some of the footage of her answering her own questions, where she was more relaxed, instead of the part where she was aware we were interviewing her and she couldn’t reproduce the same answers.
We then made a quick shot of Jeanette going in the café, as well as going out of the CUSU building. Then we headed to the police station to make some more cutaway shots from a traffic sign saying ‘Police Station’ to use in the film.
I don’t know if it was because we had to work in a hurry, or there was some other reason, but we didn’t seem to challenge ourselves enough. There was of course the confusion caused by the little experience we have in dealing with the equipment and the interview situation, but still I think we could have done much better.
Overall, I feel this day was not a real production day – it was just a rehearsal. We still have another few weeks until the hand-in date for the documentary, so I think we need to try and book another couple of hours with Jeanette to try and make a better interview, with better planned questions and storyline.