Looking Back…

9 Jun

The semester is finally over and I am about to submit both my blogs and Transient Spaces documentary. So it seems appropriate to reflect on the journey I have taken throughout the semester, and the process that has evolved through the making of my documentary.

When first given the task of creating a documentary on the topic of “community”, I was overwhelmed by the options available to me. However, due to the fact that the course was also investigating the topic of “social media” throughout the semester, I thought it would be appropriate to merge these two together, and create a documentary about the community of Facebook. This topic immediately intrigued me, because at first I was unsure of whether Facebook WAS a community at all, or whether it was simply a tool used to generate a “sense of community”. After much contemplation, I soon realised that Facebook COULD be described as a community, however in saying so it was important to mention that is is a virtual or online commmunity, and is inherently different to offline or real-life communities.

It was based on these discoveries, that I decided to create a documentary that would explore the characteristic differences of the online Facebook community, while also exploring community theory as a whole. To do this, I decided to create four mini documentaries that each had a different theme, and each related to a different concept evident within the community theory I had researched.

These four concepts (which are discussed previously in individual blogs) are:
– Community as a network or social system (Video 1)
– Community and boundaries (Video 2)
– Community and identity (Video 3)
– Community and social norms/habits (Video 4)

To make this concept a reality, I decided to interview a group of my own “Facebook Friends” who know the medium inside and out, and all have varying uses of the social medium. In an effort to make my documentary as engaging as possible, I specifically chose friends who I knew would enjoy being interviewed about the subject, and would have interesting opinions to share. I think this was one of the best decisions I made during pre-production, as I ended up being extremely pleased with the standard of content I was able to “extract” from my interview subjects. It was because of this that I encountered one of my biggest challenges – having way more content that I had first envisaged. While I stated in my learning contract that I would produce 4 videos that were 3-4 minutes each in length, after filming, I decided not to hinder the quality of the project by cutting everything down into tiny quotes. The result is four much longer videos (the first is 10 minutes, the second and third are around 7 minutes, and the final video is 5 minutes). While they vary in length I am quite happy with them, because the first one needed to be longer in order to introduce the topic.

Throughout semester, the ‘style’ or way in which my documentary was filmed has changed numerous times. Throughout my undergraduate degree, I have become accustomed to producing videos in groups and therefore having several crew members to assist with filming, interviewing and lighting. My first idea for filming the documentary subjects on a starkly lit, white backdrop (almost like an advertisement), proved to simply not be feasible. After much deliberation, I came to the decision to film the interviewees from the shoulders up, in their own “personal environments”. The intention behind this was to see the subjects in the area that they would normally use Facebook on a daily basis, and to create a sense of intimacy whilst giving the audience an idea of each individual’s personality. While I tried my best to establish spaces for filming that were relatively well-lit, all in all the lighting is not tampered with, and aims to give a realistic sense of each location.

Overall, the filming of my documentary went extremely smoothly. I believe this was most likely a result of my intensive planning of subjects, locations, camera techniques/shots and interview questions prior to the event. The only thing that really went diffently from what I expected, was the quantity of footage that was filmed. In each interview, I found myself getting carried away with asking questions, and momentarily forgot that everything I captured would need to be edited down for the final product. In saying that, the editing process was extremely lengthy. I may as well have moved into my friend Kara’s house, whose Final Cut program I was using to edit the film. All in all, the videos required 7 editing sessions to complete – each editing session being several hours long.

The addition of quotes, titles and music to my documentary made the final product far more polished. At first I was unsure if I wanted to use music within my documentary, but at the last minute I decided to source some Royalty-Free music and am thrilled at the result it has had. The two songs which are featured in my documentary were both found on freeplaymusic.com and are listed below:

– “Too Little Too Late”, from Tech Grooves Volume 8
– “Start Me Up”, from Industrial Dimensions Volume 2

By using the same music within each video, it is extremely apparent that the videos are part of a series, and are meant to be watched with the others. Interestingly, the biggest challenges I faced with this documentary was when I was uploading it to the internet. For some unknown reason, YouTube is not playing my videos correctly and the audio is playing out of sync with the video. In order to rectify this, I have paid to become a member of Vimeo and have begun reloading them onto it, with the hope that they will be compatible! I guess it the project wouldn’t be representative of me unless there was drama till the very last minute!!

Overall, I am extremely happy with the final documentary that I have produced. I feel proud in having successfully achieved what I set out to produce for this course, despite a hectic schedule of completing an Honours thesis at the same time. Despite the fact that I chose a documentary medium and process that was extremely lengthy and intensive in terms of work load, I don’t regret my decision. To be perfectly honest, I have impressed myself at the amount of content and information I was able to bring together about a concept that many of my classmates were dubious about. Having been an avid reader of my peer’s blogs – I have been able to carefully monitor their perceptions and input to my overarching project idea throughout the semester.

In addition to my documentary, throughout the semester I have made a concerted effort to engage with the three key topics we sought to explore (Social Media, Documentary and Community), and in doing so, have opened my world to new information and new technologies that I never new existed. One of the most significant ways I did this was by reading publications that had a specific slant on social media issues. I have used this blog to reflect upon relevant articles I read, divulge new social networks I discovered, investigate jargon terms that i don’t understand, contemplate information discussed in class, and comment on my general progress throughout the semester.

Despite admitting to a intense dislike for blogging at the beginning of semester, I have tried my best to be a ‘reflective practitioner’ and hopefully this is evident throughout my many posts.

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