Here is our group’s finished video for the 4 Week Project. We decided to go with our ‘chain reaction music film’ idea, first proposed by Ben and developed within the group.
In our feedback session, we were told the piece had a good cinematic look and feel, with some beautiful shots and nice colours. The most common criticism, though, was that the story wasn’t clear. Which, for a film, however beautiful and lovely it looks, is a problem.
Right from the start, we were a bit unclear how the story would unfold. Yes, we all knew and understood the basic concept and the ‘chain reaction / karma’ bit, but we didn’t have a very strong narrative idea. Every time we pitched or discussed it, different examples of ‘links’ between the characters were proposed. We practically had no pre-production stage, ideas were scattered and kept changing, and we only created a shot list (the only clear document of our project) just one day before filming. This, of course, meant the idea wasn’t well developed, and we were not clear what we were doing – resulting in lots of confusion in the narrative.
In terms of organisation, we didn’t really have a leader or any structure in the group, so communication was tough, things were happening slowly (or not at all), and no one of us really took the project seriously or responsibly. That meant that instead of getting excited about it and wanting to make it as good as possible, we didn’t quite want to work on it. Or at least that’s the impression I got (including from myself).
I probably shouldn’t be writing too much about the production stage, as I couldn’t attend – I had to be at work on the day we were meant to film, so by the time I came back, the rest of the group had finished filming.
Since I didn’t take part in the filming, it was agreed I would focus on editing it together. It was a pretty straightforward task in technical terms, as the guys had filmed in scene order – I had more problems booking a camera to digitise the footage and getting access to the editing suite in the basement (lots of lectures in the room). Oh, and I had forgotten how to change the FireWire settings in Final Cut Pro, so I got some additional worrying until I got help with that.
The song we had chosen to use was copyrighted – I was against using copyrighted music right from the start, and I was trying to convince the group it makes more sense to just look for a royalty free / CC alternative, but people were confused as it had first been said we had no restrictions to the project – and the common impression was that meant we could breach copyright.
I think it’s worth mentioning how the editing process developed, once all the main technical problems were sorted out. I was first left alone with the footage, so while digitising it I took notes of what happened at what times, what the best takes were and what problems I could see in each of them. I didn’t end up using the notes, but it was a very good exercise just looking with a fresh and critical eye into the footage we had. Also, since I didn’t attend the filming, I needed someone to answer some of my questions, about changes in the shot list, decisions made on the day etc.
On the day of filming, Chris Hammond had taken the lead (he directed the shoot and operated the camera in lots of the takes), so I phoned him to get a basic idea what to expect from the footage – technical details such as if they filmed on tape or digital, how much footage they ended up with, whether they changed scenes, whether they filmed in order or not, problems they might have had, etc. It was a very useful conversation to have, also because the group (and Chris) had some ideas about the edit that I needed to consider. After my phone call with Chris, I met with Kartik to get the footage – he then told me a bit more about the day, and also later in the evening he posted photos from the ‘making of’ process – which gave me a better visual idea what to expect from the footage. On the day of digitising, Amrit came to help me and answered some of my new questions, and later in the editing process, Chris joined me to help with editing the final piece.
Two important lessons came as result of this process:
- I found out my way of thinking / planning a project was with the edit in mind – I’m too concerned about technical details and organisation – not so much the creative side. So I’m not the best person to have around at the development / production stage, and I’ve noticed I can even be counterproductive to it. Maybe if I take a step back, observe, and only step up if I really feel it’s crucial, it would make more sense – but at this point of my professional development, I might be better off to just shut up and listen.
- In terms of being an editor, and working closely with the director, it’s actually a good idea to not have the editor on set, so they have a fresh look at the footage – in the end of the day, that’s all the editor has to work with, and the focus should be ‘how to best tell the story with the footage we have’, rather than ‘we had this idea before, let’s do it and not think if the footage we have allows it or not’. But having the director working alongside with the editor is, I think, also quite important – because no matter how creative the editor is, it’s the director’s vision for the film that needs communicating.
On reflection, the project was a good way to remind us about all the details that need to be taken into consideration in media production – from the creative, idea development and preparation stages, through to the technical details in production, and to the final post-production and presentation stage. It was also a great lesson about the importance of leadership in creative projects, and how the smallest things can change the whole direction of such a production.