Whenever you begin a digital media project you will need to answer the following questions:
You need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your concept. An idea doesn’t necessarily translate easily into a video, so you need to clarify the key theme and consider the style that will resonate for your audience. We use a 5-point plan to simultaneously identify the production needs and map out a story arch. It has proved to be an invaluable tool for community projects, as we can all see how the final film will be constructed from footage shot at specific locations, with specific people.
[5-point plans Find out more.]
Factors that impact on the final idea are the audience, [what message will they tune into?] and the feasibility, [do you have access, a team with enough skills, the gear and a process].
Theme: Race, voice and power
The ‘When does the light turn on?’ was a collaboration with Melbourne artists from migrant, refugee, Anglo-Australian, Indigenous and Pacific Islander backgrounds, to explore the theme of ‘race, voice and power’. This work was intended for the general public, who might be at Federation Square during the month of June. We wanted the work to be a very artistic set of interviews. It began as ‘The Ever Changing Face’ as a reflection of our shared humanity, and after a brainstorming session, the theme shifted to light and dark. This project was a training session for the ASRC members to practice filming interviews. Interviews are the backbone of most documentaries, so it is essential to know how to do them well.
Often when we brainstorm a film idea or theme, we spend some time mapping out ideas and any images that resonate, such as visual motifs, sounds and phrases.
The key elements were: When people are given the chance to share stories about power and race, everyone is an expert, on how it impacts on their lives. We kept the questions disarmingly simple so that the participants could share what was important for them.
The factors that influenced the style of the final artwork were the intended audience and screens: The Big Screen audiences were peak hour commuter and ‘by-standers’ at Federation Square, catching a quick glimpse of the work. The artwork was competing with traffic noise and twilight. The 5000+ Light in Winter solstice participants and visitors needed something visually stunning, for the same reasons. Online visitors can spend more time, so instead of a 30 minutes piece, we created short provocations, that stood up to the sound and light issues, and could be easily packaged for online and VicHealth’s educational campaign.
The resulting work is part dance, part documentary, part moving image poetry: Australian citizens of the world share their insights, movements and stories about enlightenment, racism and change, and offer ‘gifts of light’ that come to life on screen as animations of light.
Imagine your final film audience early on, it helps you to clarify your message and resolve to produce your idea.
This is one of the most important questions in documentary production: what is unique about your project and your involvement – why should anyone listen to you?
With an increased focus on digital media nowadays and new fangled cheap cameras promoting bite-sized media, every man and his dog and his dog’s partner have got a video on YouTube. This saturation a) increases the amount of rubbish out there and b) makes it harder for you to get your good idea out there, like an avant-garde flower trying to grow between the decreasingly available cracks in an ever-expanding concrete jungle.
But don’t give up. Not yet anyway. You need to own your right to tell stories. Be an ape on a mountaintop swinging a stick of fire. Do it. I’m demanding it of you. You have a unique view of the world, no stop it, you do. You’re a delicate genius; at the very least you’re the one with the most access to you, so make it happen. Life is too short.
And the Internet is so big that anyone with a couple of bucks, a DSLR, an idea and a web connection can pretty much put anything out there. In fact, a lot of people only have the money, the camera and the Internet and seem to operate fairly well sans idea. But that’s not you. You have an idea, and you’re going to turn it into the best damn film this side of ‘Great Film #2077685-B’.
To be able to create exciting media projects and documentaries, you need to identify the key ingredients for successful production: access, assets, skills and passion – and luck…
Every production is different. For example, during the development for ‘Flow – Life Giving Lands and Waters’, we saw that we would need an underwater camera to show the viewer what goes on under the surface. We didn’t have a budget for a professional underwater case for our bigger cameras, so we bought an HD GoPro camera kit for about $400, which came with a waterproof case and could be attached to a pole. We then found out that we could use an iPad to remote control it [to some degree], which gave our team a preview of what the camera was able to see underwater.
It is not about how much your gear costs, but how effectively you can use it for your project – and how inventive you can be with the gear and skills you have access to.