Looking back at the ‘People to People’ challenge

I am quite happy with what we achieved, especially given the obstacles and problems we faced while working on the project. However, I think it is worth analysing what could be improved in the whole ‘People to People’ experience – and hopefully, these observations can be used for future projects.

First, I learned something about myself: that whatever my role is in a project, I strive to be a perfectionist, but often that creates more problems… Perfectionism often means neglecting the obvious, or not giving it enough chance; plus going into extremes – either doing things right or not doing them at all. No middle way, no settling with half-done. Maybe that was also the reason why I didn’t succeed in searching for someone to interview; more importantly – that I gave up. A big role also played that I didn’t have a group to work with me at the beginning – so if I would have found someone, most people already had groups, and it wouldn’t make sense to try and convince them to join me (at least I thought so). Of course, that is me not believing in myself…

Anyway, once I joined a group, I pretty much thought they were too passionate for the idea they had, so I didn’t even think about trying to challenge myself anymore to search for someone to interview. It was at a very late state that I realised the guys weren’t that passionate about it, and I felt they would have liked to try and film something else – but we thought it was too late to change the plan, so we settled with what we had.

Working style turned out to be quite an important part of group work. Since I was a minority in mine, I made whatever I could to match the guys’ working style so that we are able to work well as a group, and I think I succeeded. It was pretty hard to go out of my ‘comfort zone’, but I think I became a bit more tolerant, improved my diplomacy and people skills. So ‘People to People’ is a pretty apropriate title for this project – first, it was about connecting with our interviewees, but also – about connecting with each other within our groups.

Working in a group means you are only as strong as your weakest member – so it makes a big difference what strenghts and weaknesses each group member has, and what role they play. I think we tried to make the best of what each of us was doing.

We expected to have an exciting interview about crime in student communities, maybe some interesting or funny stories – but we ended up with a simple interview with a police officer with more administrative and presentation duties than action in her work. We probably didn’t research enough, or had unrealistic expectations. Plus, I think we didn’t communicate with the person effectively enough to try and connect with her on a more personal level and at least have a more emotive part in the film, so she kept it too ‘professional’.

Organisation wise, even though I enjoyed working with the guys, and I hope they did as well feel comfortable working with me, it was a bit tough with two of them living in Birmingham and having to commute for meetings, while the other two of us were here in Coventry – everyone had a different schedule, expenses played a role as well, and I felt guilty when we scheduled meetings outside of university attendance days. So logistics can be an issue.

Something that gave me a bit of a headache was that I was practically dealing with a big part of the technical issues, but couldn’t speak my opinion loud enough to influence decisions: for example, I didn’t want to miss a filming oportunity just because the HD cameras were taken – I was more than comfortable with using a PDX-10, but the guys insisted we need to reschedule for when there are cameras available. This put us under a lot of pressure, because we had a very short time to do everything, and I felt stupid that I didn’t try harder to speak up when I had the chance.

After the initial shoot, when there were some misunderstandings, I expected lots of problems and frustration within the group on the second shoot, and I was pleasantly surprised of how well we worked. It was probably because of the time pressure, but it worked. Still, if we were to film this interview again, there is lots that can be improved:

  • If we had time to film the cutaways after playing back the interview footage, maybe we would have had even more relevant ones.
  • We placed the interviewee in a corner – I wouldn’t feel comfortable in a corner, and I think she didn’t either. If we had a bit more time, we would have probably found a way to avoid this.
  • Composition wise (my big fault here): there is some awkward head room above the interviewee, and at the same time she is too close to the centre of the frame. There are also shadows because she is too close to the wall, and the corner line doesn’t help the composition either. We could have seated her further from the wall, thus minimising the ‘in the corner’ effect, avoiding all the shadows and improving the overall composition.
  • We could have also looked for a more comfortable chair – the one we had her sit wasn’t very comfortable, so I can imagine why she didn’t give her best answers.
  • I personally need to dig deeper in artificial lighting – although I believe I work well with natural light, I feel something is wrong with our set up, but don’t quite know what it is. I think this interview would have made more sense if shot with a more natural lighting, probably next to a window, but the group decided we would use artificial lighting, and I didn’t speak my mind loud enough to try and change that.
  • I am more than happy with the sound and overall feeling of the final piece – it is a huge improvement from what we had from the first interview, plus we successfully dealt with some issues in post-produciton.
  • Transitions are an aspect of editing I didn’t realise had such an impact – but now looking at the interview, I feel lots can be improved there.
  • Pacing in the final piece is a bit clumsy – the middle part is OK, but the beginning and the ending can be improved. We have the title on screen for too long, and the end credits for too short time. Plus, there is a better way to display the email address – but after the long hours of last minute editing, we didn’t have the energy to dig into these details. Still, I am pleased I got to help choose the font and overall aesthetics of the titles – it’s nothing special, but at least it doesn’t clash with the other parts of the film.
    I am unsure whether we needed the email address or not – it was an idea we kept from the initial plan – the interview was going to be more informative, with tips for students; we cut out this bit, but we kept the email part without thinking if we still need it or not.
  • Some of the outdoor cutaways we used were shot a few weeks ago, when we forgot to set the white balance – so even though we tried to fix it in post, the difference in colour temperature was just too big, and we lost some colours and quality in the final piece.
  • Capturing HD footage in Final Cut Pro meant that we could only play it back and edit it in FCP – which I had a hard time with, since I am using a PC and working more with Premiere. I didn’t really mind FCP, but the file format and codec problems were the annoying part.

Overall, lots of these issues I listed could have been dealt with on time, but I didn’t communicate them right and ended up frustrated by my own mistakes. This project was a big milestone for me, not so much on a professional, but mostly on a personal level – and I hope I learn from at least some of my mistakes.


Any thoughts?

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