Music Documentary Evaluation | A Few Fleeting Thoughts

When I started this module back in
September, I was at a slight disadvantage to my peers because I’d not studied
any video documentary related courses in the past. I knew it would be slightly
harder for me but I didn’t want that to stop me doing the module. I also went
into it thinking, “It’s only making a few films, how hard can it be?” Turns out
it can be quite tricky. The technical side not so much but the planning and
organising of people is hard work! All of the prep work that goes into filming
even the shortest of films is ridiculous.
In the first semester I was the producer
for a mockumentary style film about an a cappella singing group and their
delusional group leader. Working alongside the director, Andar, we came up with
the idea based on a group that we used to run at the university. In hindsight,
we should have started the process of starting this film earlier as we found
time to not be on our side. My role included gathering the actors and getting
their contact information etc, helping with the writing process, organising
people on the day and making sure they’re comfortable/know what they’re doing,
assisting with artistic direction of the shoot, arranging costumes, working out
a budget, among other smaller basic jobs to help the shoot days run smoothly. I
also directed the ‘YouTube video’ section of the film and filmed/edited that
section.
Overall, that film was more successful than
we hoped, but the camera quality wasn’t up to scratch. If we’d used better
cameras, the overall look of the project would have been more successful. We
also left a lot of the paperwork until the last minute and so getting that all
sorted was very stressful but we learnt from that and for the project we’ve
just finished, we started on all of that a lot sooner.
For the project in semester 2, it was
agreed that I would be the director and that we would do a music video. We knew
that we wanted to do something a bit different than a video for a generic rock
band and that we wanted to include elements of psychedelia and use lots of
colours. We contacted a few different bands and artists but they didn’t really
suit the style of video we wanted to do. This was until we found the band
Psyence. Psyence are a psychedelic indie band from Stoke-on-Trent. I contacted
one of the members of the band on facebook and asked whether they had any songs
they’d like a music video for and Ben (the synth/keys player of the band) said
that he and the rest of the band would very much be interested in it and that
they had a song they’d like us to use. Apparently the band had tried making a video
to the song in the past but it wasn’t successful but they had ideas and were
very open to any ideas we had.
After discussing a few ideas on facebook
chat, we arranged a meeting with Ben to discuss the ideas further. It was hard
for us to process with the plans we had before we’d talked to him in person and
made sure we were on the right page. It was then that we discussed the idea of
recreating cult drug films from the perspective of the band members and the
idea of them being in a prison-type hospital cell and them imagining those
scenes in their heads, but we also wanted to use animation to amplify the
imaginary aspect of the scenarios. During this meeting, Ben gave us ideas of
the kind of films he’d want including and they were all ones that Andar and
myself had thought of prior to the meeting so everything seemed to be going
into place nicely. Ben appreciated that we were doing him a favour as well as
them doing us a favour, so he was very open to any and all ideas we had and offered
us any help we might need with it all. The only thing he couldn’t help with was
budget. Unfortunately, the band had no money to input and when I suggested they
start a crowd-funding type thing, he dismissed it because apparently they need
to save that for a future project that he was very hush-hush about. Respecting
this, we had to find ideas that weren’t going to break the bank because being
students, Andar and I didn’t have much money between us because most of our
shoot days were before loan day.
Whilst at the meeting with Ben, we both
looked through our schedules to see when we’d all be free for filming and wrote
down some dates that would work for everyone. Having dates set in mind, we
started the organisation process and wrote a schedule of when we would get
everything done. Of course, because life never goes as smoothly as we hope,
those dates kept getting pushed back due to band commitments. This made things
a bit difficult because it set back our whole schedule we’d had planned and
meant that we kept having to put off booking equipment until the last minute
because we couldn’t trust they’d make the shoot days.
When we finally had a definite shoot day
booked, we were told that the bassist wouldn’t be there because he was on
holiday. That meant I had to change the idea slightly because he was meant to
be in all of the scenes with the other band members. We arranged that we’d do a
separate shoot with him the following week so it resolved itself slightly.
When it came to the actually shoot day, we
had a few issues. The day started off perfectly. We turned up at the venue (The
Exchange in Hanley) and went it to start setting up, waiting for the band and
extras to turn up. The extras all turned up on time at 10am, shortly after, Ben
turned up; still no sign of the rest of the band. We waited for a while and Ben
was frantically calling the band to see where they were. It got to the point
where we couldn’t waste any more time so we started filming the first scene of
the day which was meant to be the scene with Ben as the focal character anyway
so it made sense to just get started with it. As it came to the end of filming
that scene, it was becoming clear that the rest of the band weren’t going to
showup so I had to think on my feet and think of a way to get things filmed
without them being there. This meant that I changed the idea and decided to
have Ben as the focal character in every scenario instead of band members
having their own scene. Ben could sense we were getting rather stressed and a
bit annoyed that they hadn’t turned up so he tried his hardest to get people
down to be extras just so there were more people to fill the screen for the
Clockwork Orange scenes. Two of his friends came down and it all went very
well. With using just Ben in each scene seemed like it would work quite well
because we couldn’t trust that the rest of the band would turn up on the other
shoot days either so this idea seemed more solid and reliable.
Our second shoot day was set in Stoke
police cells. This was the film the cell based cutaway scenes and the ‘dumbo’
style scene. We were very surprised that the rest of the band showed up for
this day of filming and I explained to them that because they weren’t there the
previous day, the music video would centre on Ben. They were understanding of
this and we managed to film lots of great scenes and the cells were a great
place to film, even if it was ridiculously cold. Most of the shots were thought
of on the day because it was hard to plan it without having seen the cell we
were using before the day of shooting.
The following week, we were filming the Scarface
type scene with the bassist, as well as some other cutaways with Ben. Andar
took control on these scenes because he knew more about the film it was
referencing and because the only day the bassist was free to film was a day
where I had prior commitments with another module. Andar set up our front room
with curtains and such as a backdrop and made the place look appropriate for
the scene.
I oversaw the editing process that Andar
was doing. Everything had to go through me and be confirmed/changed if I felt
it needed to be. When we finally had an edit we were pleased with, we sent it
to our animator. Due to the shoot days being pushed back and such, it meant he
had less time to edit but he promised us he would have it done in time for hand
in. He didn’t disappoint though it was at the last minute that he had it done
and didn’t include everything we wanted. Overall, we were very pleased with
what he had done but if he’d had more time, the end product would have been a
lot better.

This project was always going to be
ambitious. I wanted to do something a bit different for my final piece and it
was certainly that. I enjoyed being a director. Directing people on set and
overseeing the project as a whole and knowing that it was my idea and seeing it
all come together was quite amazing. Despite the few hiccups with had, I kept a
level head throughout because if I, the director, freaked out, it would
unsettle everyone I was working with and I didn’t want to add more pressure
when it wasn’t needed. I describe myself as quite a creative type and have
delved into several different mediums so it was nice to create something with
film rather than makeup/magazines/photography etc like I had in the past. I enjoyed
the experience and is something I’d like to look into further and gain more
experience with every aspect. I’d like to develop my editing skills and in future
projects I do outside of university, I’d like a more hands-on approach with the
editing.

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