This project taught me a lot. To begin with, it taught me how difficult it is to approach people and develop a relationship with them. And then, even harder – to build their trust in you enough so that they are able to share it not only with you, but the whole world. I learned a lot about myself as well – that I tend to be impatient, that I have problems approaching people (not just for the project, but generally), which I need to work on; not being able to find neither a person to interview nor a group to join was the biggest devastation I experienced on a personal level.
Of course, this brought a lot of stress to my head to deal with. Disappointment with myself, feeling I am doing everything wrong, insecurities and tension. At some point, the only thing I was able to think about was the deadline and that I am off track. I was looking at everyone else’s blogs, most seemed to be dealing with the project much better than me, and I was feeling very worried. When you are in that state of mind, you can’t think straight, you sleep bad, get anxious and you easily get into more problems with the people around you. All of that happened to me.
Talking to the people in my course helped me to at least realise I was not alone – there were other people without groups or people to interview too. Still, I needed to talk to someone, so I booked an appointment with my tutor. I thought: ‘Well it’s time to admit to myself and to the world I am failing this, but I can at least talk about it and maybe get a bit of help’. A good thing was also that the next workshop we had was about sorting out groups for people that still hadn’t joined any. I felt I was a waster, but at least I needed to be the waster in a group, not simply a waster.
I was allocated to the group of Sunil Singh, James Dove and Tom Neary. It was a big challenge to get going, because they had one way of dealing with things, and I – a totally different one. They had also done research and initial preparations, so I was worried if they would accept me as a real part of the group joining so late. There was a lot of tension, which also was evidenced in the blog posts each of us wrote reflecting on the work we were doing. Still, these blog posts helped us to reach out to each other and actually start talking about the problems (in person, not only online). I remember telling someone outside the course that I was having arguments and disagreements in the group: and the person’s reaction was: ‘Well there you go, so the group is starting to work’. I didn’t realise at the time, but it turned out to be exactly the case: When you put your thoughts out and argue with people, you help the process.
After the initial attempt at an interview, we presented a rough cut to the workshop groups and received feedback on things that can be improved. We knew it was not done well, but we weren’t really sure which are its strengths and weaknesses. Watching other people’s rough cuts, listening to the feedback they received, and then realising we made almost all the mistakes that were pointed out, we decided we need to make another attempt. This was the best decision we made – because it allowed us to plan things better, think about it more and hopefully have a better result.
All the problems you could think of…
This time we made sure we had at least an hour before the interviewee coming to meet us – so that we can set up the equipment, try different lighting and set options, etc. Of course, we had a problem with taking the room out – for some reason, the booking was not on the CUSU’s reception list, and we got lucky that the other room was not being used. When we finally got to setting up the equipment, we spent a good hour changing lighting and testing sound – and we got a much better result than last time. Still, something was missing: our interviewee wasn’t there yet…
We did have an appointment with her, and had her confirm it, but she wasn’t there 25 minutes after the agreed time. We made sure everyone she might encounter around CUSU and the Ellen Terry was going to tell her where we are – and it proved very useful. It turned out she thought we were meeting the next day, but while walking around the city, she decided to pop in the CUSU, and the people sent her to us. It was a miracle! At that point (40 minutes after our appointment), we were thinking she abandoned us, so we were really happy to see her 🙂 We quickly set up (just had to turn everything back on, it was all set up thankfully), and we started the interview.
It was tough to get specific answers from her, but still we managed to capture some good bits. Plus, she spoke about the challenges she is facing talking to large groups of people and being interviewed, so we also have an emotive element in the final piece. This interview helped us work better as a group, everyone was very helpful and trying to work towards the best result possible, but I think what really brought us together was the editing process.
Since all the guys work on Macs, we decided to edit on Final Cut Pro. I started the edit with simply playing the footage back and selecting all the bits that could be used – all parts where she is talking for more than a couple of seconds, the technically good and content-wise good bits. Of course, I did the same for all the cutaway shots we had – so when the guys joined in, we had all we could need in one sequence, most of the clips properly cropped. Then me and James spent a good 3 hours putting the main story together, synchronising the footage from the second camera (just one or two small clips, really). At some point however, we kind of lost the focus – so it was a good thing that Sunil and Tom came exactly at that time to make some editorial decisions. We realised the direction we wanted to take initially wouldn’t be practical: she only talked about these issues in the first interview, which has terrible sound and has some problems on the visual side as well. It was a tough decision for everyone – we practically lost the main story. So we had to work with what was left to have a new focus and make the piece worth watching.
I think I improved my editing skills while working with this footage. There were lots of tiny little problems we had to hack our way around, and we learned so much about the editing process, how stuff work in Final Cut and how to quickly sort out colour correction, sound levels and artifacts, etc. I personally spent another few hours dealing with file formats, because we were working on different operating systems, software platforms and file systems, so it was a real nightmare to export a video file that was big enough, the right format and codec.
I believe it is safe to say our piece is worth watching. We also developed a number of technical and organisational skills. We improved as a team, had good communication, we solved our problems together, and learned a lot of life lessons alongside the professional aspects. I am happy I was part of this project, and look forward to the next challenge 🙂