Grizzly Man

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 “I will die for these animals, I will die for these animals, I will die for these animals.” Timothy Treadwell

Grizzly Man is the film that I chose to review mainly because it is not your regular nature documentary as it goes far deeper than just nature. It exposes the brutality of nature and the curiosity of human nature and is blended together to show the audience an opinion stated by the director.

Werner Herzog documentary Grizzly Man was released in 2005. It revolves around Timothy Treadwell who is an environmentalist who went to the Alaskan national state park for 13 years during summers to live with grizzly bears  and in these visits he came up with almost 100 hours of footage including the final clash with the Grizzly where he eventually lost his life although that one just has audio recordings.

The film not only consists of the footage that Treadwell had but also the interviews with his friend’s acquaintances and ex-partner and how they shape up an argument that Herzog was trying to make.

“And what haunts me, is that in all the faces of all the bears that Treadwell ever filmed, I discover no kinship, no understanding, no mercy. I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature. To me, there is no such thing as a secret world of the bears. And this blank stare speaks only of a half-bored interest in food. But for Timothy Treadwell, this bear was a friend, a savior. “ Werner Herzog in Grizzly Man 2005

The film is considered to be expository through  the mean of god of voice which is used through Herzog’s Commentary as both the men didn’t meet in real life. Although, the film acts as a medium for conversation as Herzog shows admiration for Treadwell’s love for nature but is also very critical about how his love blind sighted him from the dangers of living around wild animals.

He does that by the use of showing the footage of Timothy but instead of observational means he narrates his opinion to a point that at places it feels almost forced on how Herzog seem to be shaping his opinion to the audience. He also use metaphorical shots to register the audience with Treadwell’s inner turmoil and confusions

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“I believe the common character of the universe is not harmony, but hostility, chaos and murder.” Werner Herzog

This is also further emphasized when Herzog labels the bears who killed Treadwell as murderers or killers to make a point. This documentary feels intimate for the viewer as its a conversation between two people with different mindset. Visuals is trying to let you think that nature is your friend but with the use of music voice over commentary and editing the director is trying to show his side.

Herzog mentions that although most of the footage of Treadwell seems to be observational but at points the shots seemed to be staged. Treadwell went to a point of re-recording some of the shots and staging some of the shots to make it look more appealing. He mentions that he was alone on these journeys but there were points where it felt like he was being filmed by his girlfriend. These sections with the use of interviews deviate the documentary from traditional nature documentary. Although, Treadwell was trying to look for identity through his actions and his footage as he put up an accent and hiding his true origin by mentioning he is from Australia.

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Grizzly man also stays true to his roots by having observational footage of how bears are living in their natural habitat and how Treadwell seems to believe he belongs there and is a part of it. Herzog uses the non digetic sound score to represent nature and in the beginning it seems to be happy and uplifting but down the line it gets darker. This can be pointed out on how Herzog used the music as a means to drive the story and to make audience think the way Herzog thinks about Treadwell’s actions.

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He also used the interviews to support his argument that people who knew Treadwell were impacted by his death and that his love for nature eventually led him to his death.  In most of the interviews you don’t see or hear from him but at points where he talks about Treadwell’s interview with his ex-girlfriend we can see him in the footage hearing the recording. I believe he did that to show his empathy towards Treadwell and to show that he is personally moved by his death and also to make the audience feel like its still their perception that derives the conclusion.

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So, in conclusion, this documentary was a perfect example of how nature has boundaries that should not be crossed, and this was done by laying out the argument through the voice of the director. It also shows how documentary is not only a mean for exposing facts but it can also shape up audience opinions and their way of thinking with the use of content and how it is used. It also gives you the power to derive a story drama and also at points prove a point through the means of editing non digetic music etc.

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Capturing Reality – What is Documentary

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Documentary film speaks about situations and events involving people… who present themselves to us as themselves in stories that convey a plausible proposal about, or perspective on, the lives, situations and events… Nichols (2002)  (pg 14)

Going into this trimester I was very keen and a bit nervous about documentary films. Keen because it always fascinated me to know about peoples stories and also being able to witness their raw emotions. Nervous because I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and I didn’t want to displease the Editing Gods. Knowing that it will have a lot of post-production work and I just wished I did justice to it. Which is the reason why I left this blog to be told at the very end of this trimester as I felt it would’ve been unfair to speak about a documentary and what it is without having a better understanding of it. I understood the process better over time through making a documentary myself.

So what is documentary? Bill Nichols in his book Introduction to Documentary (2002) says “ a concise, overarching definition [for documentary] is possible but… it will conceal as much as it will reveal” (pg 6)

This also relates to the concept that the documentary is “being inspired by the moment it’s the joy of letting something effect you and responding to it”, (Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary, 2008). So when you are being inspired by the moment there are endless possibilities which we come to realize just a fraction of it. For instance during the interviewing process we came to the realisation that we had a completely different intake of what the doco is about. Therefore, after hearing the stories that our subjects had, our story took a complete U-turn and we had to return to the drawing board to change our focus from one subject to another.

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This was further backed by the statements in Capturing Reality, Hubert Sauper described it as “the freest way of cinema”  which is why it is different from the traditional drama and films as it give you freedom and it is not restricted to a story line. In other words,  it has never has a definite structure as you have an idea of the direction that you would take your project  but you cant rely on it as this is life being shown at its purest form.

We are being inspired by real-time events and the interviews are what structure’s your story rather than a script. But this doesn’t mean that we cannot make the outcome good or bad as with all this freedom and content we as editors and directors can lead the story to drive emotions. This is where Documentary is different from drama where a viewer is counting on you to be credible and demonstrate factual research and for the truth to be exposed rather than made up. If you fail to do that then you cross the fine line between narration and factual. Documentary and Narration.

 

Ferrari, P. (2008). Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary. Canada: National Film Board of Canada, Against Gravity, First Run Features

Nichols, B. (2001). Introduction to Documentary (2nd ed., pp. 6-8, 10, 11, 14). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Post Production- I became a Muslim

The post-production phase for me as an editor of the documentary ‘I become a Muslim’ was definitely one to remember as it was overall a great learning outcome and very different from the previous post work that I have been involved in.

 

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Why? Lets just start step by step.

With a short team I was given the responsibility to do data wrangling apart from being the D.O.P.

So what I did was when we had completed our interviews, is that I went through all of them which were about 3 hours long and came up with a structure. Based on the Questions and related subjects I made different timeline for our subjects Chloe and her Mum and also marked the questions separately so during anytime where I need to go through a certain dialogue or conversation I have everything sorted.

Once that was done I made the assembly cut that came out to be 24 mins long which me Alex and Isira went through. This helped us find which direction the story can lead to as initially we pitched to have a story of a muslim youtuber and her day to day life but after the interviews we came with three definite story lines. One was the initial one we pitched, second was Chloe’s struggles to deal with negativity through internet and third which was the most compelling; Chloe’s relationship with her mother and how it changed after her conversion to Islam.

 

The assembly cut helped us realize that we are in need of more interviews to shape our story with the new approach.
Once the story was identified I went back to the edit suite and came up with the edit that structured a story that was revolving around our new story which was the relationship of her mother and daughter. Then once the first draft was done it was time to add the B-roll footage.  Fortunately we had a team of very creative and innovative cameramen such as Isira and Robinson. Although I was the DOP they contributed by having another camera which helped us get a lot of B-ROLL footage we already knew that re-enactment of the events would not be so engaging. So, we decided to use our B-roll in an abstract way to symbolize the dialogues especially when Chloe speaks about her depression.

 

 

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The only issue that we faced with B-roll outside was that c100 doesn’t allow us to have a view finder which made it difficult to see whats going on the screen. This makes it more difficult to focus the shots at some points causing it to have a soft focus. I tried to fix it with the help of sharpen plugin but not too much that it looks fake, also when it comes to hand held camera there was a lot of hand movement which had to be removed with the help of wrap stabilizer.

We also went to the mosque to shoot some of the B-roll which was later on added as we made sure we film it in 60fps in order to get some slow motions which help in making the shots look more appealing and cinematic.

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When it comes to audio we hada very good soundee Robinson Clark who did an amazing job with the interviews. However, on the second day interviews we had an issue with the equipment which caused wind being recorded in the audio. Then we tried to audio correct it through the noise reduction option in audition but it just made the voice sound robotic so we decided to use minimum clips from the second day audio this was a set back for us but we overcame it.

Once the edit came to a definite structure it was time to add the music. For this we had our own producer which is Isira’s brother who helped us come up with the music score.  Then it was the music cue, Cue is a piece of music in a film also known as the lingo that means a clip or piece of a music score. It also means changing the mood or transitioning or driving a story from one place to another. I used music cue from the point where Chloe speaks about her depression and the music is a bit dark and gloomy to the point where she meets Davut where we transition the score from the dark gloomy track to the guitar/rubab music score. This was to show the sense of hope through the changing of music score.

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How do we do it to make it seemless is that we go through the wave form and match one score with the other one and use audio transitions so that it blends in without a break so it doesnt sound weird to the ear.

Once the audio is mixed and finalised we work on the color grade by exporting it on an xml and taking it to davinci resolve where we first do the color correction and once we are happy with the exposure and the color tones we apply a grade.

This is my Post Produtction workflow, hope it helped in understanding how this edit was played out.

Australian Story – Inside Shalom House, Australia’s ‘strictest’ drug rehabilitation centre

 

Today i’ll be talking about the episode  Inside Shalom House, Australia’s ‘strictest’ drug rehabilitation centre from the show Australian story. Australian story has been running for the last 20 years and it focuses on the lives of Australians with an interesting story and this episode is about drug use and rehabilitation and getting another shot at life.

This episode had a format of a reflective documentary,  where our main characters/subjects are telling us their story with the medium of interviews which are later reflected through visuals either from the facility itself or through the use of archival pictures.

The way that this production meets the requirement of broadcast television and the attributes can be identified by the fact that the drama-documentaries tend to have an underlining subtle message that sets to educate the audience through telling stories of ordinary and extraordinary people. Channels like HBO BBC NETFLIX would be willing to broadcast a documentary if they find the story compelling and worth investing in and more importantly if it meets the guidelines to be broadcasted.

To start off, an independent documentary can last from any duration while a broadcast documentary normally lasts 28 mins i.e 1/2 hour or an hour long and most of these documentaries are carrying a message to educate and raise awareness about social issues.

While an independent doco production doesn’t necessarily need to have a message for educational purposes but the top priorities that are mentioned by broadcast television even on their website are as follows;
The following is a broad list of priorities and styles for 2017 and beyond. While we prefer contemporary longer running series, we will commission singles that demand to be watched. The topics are:

 

  • Social Issues
  • Access
  • Campaigns
  • True Crime
  • Science
  • Formats
  • Politics
  • Natural History

 

The Australian Story finds their talent through several mediums. One is through the contact option where they encourage people who have a story to tell to get in touch and tell them their story and if its compelling and engaging they set off to make a documentary. Another is through the word of mouth where a story emerges through news or social media and they approach the people to make a detailed documentary.

For this particular documentary, I believe the team of interviewee would have had done a thorough research on the rehab center and how it is different from the other ones and what makes the story of this particular facility so engaging.

They started the episode by introducing the facility and addressing the issue of youth addictions and the ways in which they deal with it. They revolve the story around Peter Lyndon-James who is a former ice addict and criminal who now runs ‘the nation’s strictest’ drug rehabilitation centre. At Shalom House in Perth, addicts agree to go ‘cold turkey’ off all drugs including cigarettes, get their heads shaved and go to Christian church services three times a week.

Now as you can see the premise is clear and they convey a method of story telling by the use of broll that reflects their dialogues and old pictures of Peter to show his past and present very clearly.

Then, as the Episode progresses we are shown the new “Residents” of the center who are current users but are trying to turn their life around and get away from drugs. Through the use of interviews and archival footage they show their past and their days in the center and what it is like to go through the different stages of rehabilitation; from the start of the withdrawal stage and then becoming clean.

How have they structured their questions is by talking about the past of the users and what made them change and what are the struggles and problems they are facing and how hard their journey is.

All these questions lead to a compelling story that is visually engaging for the audience as drug abuse is a big issue that is being faced by the Australian Youth.

So in conclusion the format used throughout the show and the story told has been successful in getting their story across as it not only is educational but also creative by the use of story telling. As it gets you up close and personal with the rehab staff, their everyday lives and the transition from a bad point in life to a good one.

This is a similar structure that we applied for our own documentary as we reflected the issues of the past and how our subject over came them.

Bibliography
Abc.net.au. Retrieved 22 April 2018, from http://www.abc.net.au/tv/independent/factualdocumentary_projects.htm

Australian Story: Inside Shalom House, Australia’s ‘strictest’ drug rehabilitation centre

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2KVcCecSUo

 

 

 

Interview Techniques

I was very excited about this workshop as for our major project I was given the task to interview our subject. So for me, this was an opportunity to learn about the interview process so that I can confidently be able to ask questions and also to ace my vox pop exercise.

The class started off by mentioning and emphasizing the importance of how its always good to find an interviewee who is compassionate and interesting when they talk to keep the interest of your audience in case of vox pop it comes more down to the fact that how you are able to structure your questions and get interesting answers from your interviewee.

For that, the most important rule is to decide a topic that is interesting that will lead your subject to think and to instantly attract their attention. Second is to see how your interviewee respond to it as some people are more talkative than others so what do you do for a person who answers in just a few words. That would cause your audience to lose interest as nobody wants to hear YES and NO for an answer for this we need to come up with sub-questions to keep the conversation going.

Second things are once you have found an interviewee it is very important to build rapport approach with a friendly confident manner cause people can find your body movement and gestures to be either welcoming or dull according to your posture so it is very important to give positive vibes when you approach an interviewee which leads to the other key factor which is to maintaint eye contact cause if you fail to do that you are going to give an impression of either lacking confidence or showing little interest to the interviewee which will lead to a dull converstaion or sometimes even come off as offensive as the interviewee might think that you are not interested in what you have to say to them.

So as an interviewer, I was told to ask from one of the student i.e interviewee a very personal question which was you in love with the person you first had sex with. Now for me, this was a surprise to ask someone such a personal question when I don’t know them that well.

So how did it go, I just picked up the tips Jodie gave us which was to get over my fear and introduce myself which I did then I explained to my interviewee about the topic and then I asked him the question to my surprise he answered me quite easily but his answer was a plain NO which would have ended the conversation right there so in order to keep the conversation going I built rapport by telling him my experience which in turn made him open up more and tell more details about the whole incident

I figured that if you have a good grip on your questions and how your overall approach is to the interview you can make it easier for the other person to open up.

As an interviewee I was asked the question about how was my childhood this was something that I would not open up about much with anyone so I did not really talk much about this matter and the interviewer did not really find a compassionate ground for me to speak much about my past what I learnt was in such touchy subjects its always best to first start off with light-hearted questions like maybe if he would’ve asked someting about my best childhood memories I’d be able to open up more about the darker parts.

I believe this workshop not only helped me overcome my fears but also helped me get into a better mindset going forward with my vox pop exercise it taught me how it’s very important to have good structured questions. How body movements and eye contact is important. How its okay to be rejected but it is not okay to give up if you keep trying there would be someone who would answer you.

On the technical side of things I learned how its important to always check your gear and most importantly the sound before you go off on your adventure into the public, second is the positioning of your interviewee in a way that it cuts off all the background noise as much as possible.  Use of shallow depth of field to make it more focused on ur subject. Where to stand while asking the questions and which lens to use in a fast-paced interview based environment. Speaking of environment get to know it too!

 

Blog #3 Modality

So for my pitch “Heart of a Lion,” we were asked to write about the modality for the documentary. Now in order to discuss modality for my documentary first, we need to know what it means.

The google definition of modality is as follows

“a particular mode in which something exists or is experienced or expressed.”

But being in my last studio at SAE one thing I have learned about blogs is that google definition just doesn’t cut it.  So I did some research about modality and how it interlinks with documentaries.

Before Studio 2 I only briefly encountered documentaries and never really know much about the different type of modes and styles of documentaries that can be used to express your idea so lets discuss about the different type of documentaries and then I will explain about the styles that I have chosen for my documentary and why I choose those styles.

These are the different type of modes that are commonly used in documentaries

Observational

Reflexive

Expository

Poetic

Performative

Participatory
So why are these styles important why is it important to have a modality to your documentary well in simple terms the modality in itself is like a sub-genre to Documentary meaning it gives an essence of the director’s vision to the audience. It drives the story and each director has a specific mode that they choose from which they are recognized.
For my documentary, I have decided to use the filming style used in TailWhip, I noticed that most of the sports documentary have an observational modality but at the same time, it is very cinematic almost like its a film being played.  For example, in the film Tail whip, we are introduced to a young 14 year old BMX rider who is trying to make it big in the sports. The doco link is mentioned below

What makes this documentary as appealing to the eye is the fact that it allows the audience to experience the lifestyle of a BMX rider and to interpret a message through the visuals, Unlike the expository documentaries like where the director has somewhat a say to drive the story which can sometimes be biased or authoritative to shape the audience opinion like in the documentary Frank Capra’s Why We Fight(1944) where the commentator has put forward a strong point and fact that drives the audience opinion.

I would also like to use some element of reflexive modality in my documentary as reflexive documentary are those where the actor does something that is staged or promotional but the audience is unaware of it in our case the subject would be asked to do certain things to make the sport looks more interesting and to give a positive outlook even after all the gore and tough regime showing discipline and this would be achieved by using The Coach to act in a certain way that is more cinematic with probably a bit of underline script in certain points like during the training sessions to give a bit of depth to the story.

Aufderheide, P. (2007). Documentary film: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press.

Types of documentaries | Learning Outcome 2. (2018). YouTube. Retrieved 13 March 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jvtiVIW5zQ

Pearce, G., & McLaughlin, C. (Eds.). (2006). Truth or Dare : Art & Documentary (1). Bristol, GB: Intellect

Kanmaz. (2018). Expository DocumentarySlideshare.net. Retrieved 13 March 2018, from https://www.slideshare.net/idlknmz/expository-documentary-34103281

 

 

 

Blog #2 Standard Opperating Procedure

This is my second blog and its about the movie standard operating procedure. I would be lying if i said that this documentary was not one of the very few films that left me disturbed and intimidated and made me hate war even more but it wasn’t just the gruesome truth that were revealed but the way they were revealed that left me wondering how did they filmed this.

For those of you who do not know the film Standard Operating Procedure I would like to give a brief synopsis of the film and then talk more about the directorial approach used by Errol Morris this film revealed the abuse that the inmates at one of the interrogation facility of Iraq were carried out which looked inhumane and downright wrong. But they would not have been exposed if it wasnt for some pictures that got leaked out that caused and outrage in the media.

Errol Morris showed the side of the story of the soldiers and staff member who carried out these tortures to give their intake on why they did it but the first thing i noticed was that with the little knowledge I have about interviews and documentary is  that these interviews were different from the previous docos I have watched there was a certain depth to the characters. So I did some research and came across the style of direction introduced by Ellon Moris.  Apart from the mood and tone set by Ellon Morris with reenactment that went opposing to the narration of the interviews which made the audience feel like the truth is till somewhat concealed and that was done by using the photographs and video clips with a musical score that looked straight out of a slasher/horror film.  The interviews looked like they were being told straight to the camera  but how did he achieved this style is something of an invention that he came up  that is by using two way mirrors with one monitor right under the camera what this does is produce an intimacy his all idea of revealing the trust is that you cannot get a  person to spill the truth or spill out a confession like in the Thin Blue Line while they are looking at glass but if you have a face that is in front you gave a two way communication that can eventually lead to break down emotional barriers.

The set up is as follows

 

 

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Ellon Morris explained this technique as a way of exposing the truth Morris explained

“I put my face on the Teleprompter or, strictly speaking, my live video image. For the first time, I could be talking to someone, and they could be talking to me and at the same time looking directly into the lens of the camera. Now, there was no looking off slightly to the side. No more faux first person. This was the true first person…I worried at first. Would it frighten people? Would they run out of the studio screaming? Who could say? I used it for the first time in Fast, Cheap and Out of Control. And it worked like a charm. People loved the Interrotron.”

So with the techniques and his stylistic approach to the documentaries, I conclude that for a person to get the truth out, you need to go above and beyond and persue the truth through means of building rapport through proper research and by asking the questions that are missed out or overlooked. I will end this blog with the video of Ellon Morris on his intake about the Truth

Refrences
– ERROL MORRIS’S SECRET WEAPON FOR UNSETTLING INTERVIEWS: THEZ INTERROTRON

 Errol Morris’s Secret Weapon for Unsettling Interviews: The Interrotron. (2018). Co.Design. Retrieved 28 February 2018, from https://www.fastcodesign.com/1663105/errol-morriss-secret-weapon-for-unsettling-interviews-the-interrotron

-Review: Standard Operating Procedure – Film Comment. (2018). Film Comment. Retrieved 28 February 2018, from https://www.filmcomment.com/article/standard-operating-procedure-review/

Standard Operating Procedure | Alec Nevala-Lee. (2018). Nevalalee.wordpress.com. Retrieved 28 February 2018, from https://nevalalee.wordpress.com/tag/standard-operating-procedure/