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Workshop day 2 – Test Filming and Feedback

After a comprehensive day of introduction to technical and theoretical aspects of documentation, the participants were eager to get out and test their new skills and knowledge.  In their respective team groups, they had a day to go out around the local area to set up shots based on the guides; tick-boxing each of the criteria for the training - setting a frame, interviewing a subject, creating ‘fillers’, being aware of audio and using differing camera techniques (zooms, pans, tilts etc).   Whilst filming this task the tutors  and translator moved between the 4 groups as they set up and started to film their first interviews and fillers. The teams abilities to refer back to the technical and conceptual guides when stuck on the stages that needed to be completed was encouraging and predominately the groups demonstrated complete competence and started to demonstrate individual creative choices - we must have done something right!











The groups choose to interview a variety of subjects- from market stall owners selling food to the local major (very ambitious) to the owner of the local football stadium.  We found that the residents of San Mateo were very accepting to the new flurry of camera crews adorning their small market town and were interested rather than suspicious of the cameras (as we have found in other countries). The local people were very willing to be interviewed, perhaps more so than in the UK, and young children looked in on the activities and only some of the elder Mayan women were shy at being filmed.

The day was long and the teams had performed very well, but the proof of the media pudding was the next days screening and feedback session as a group.

Post Production Feedback

This is always an interesting phase of the filming process. We have found before that when giving professional feedback on the work produced, a healthy balance has to be ensured - not to water down or negate criticism when warranted, but also highlight strengths and say everything will tact. The workshops are pitched as 'professional' as we want to ensure that students have a good grounding for future employment opportunities and we also find that this also makes it a more empowering experience for the participants. This discourse and requirement sets a healthy level of pressure and defines the participants to understand that they are working towards a level that reflects industry standards. It can be argued that this can create undue pressure, having an industry benchmark that novices are expected to match. Yet, the formula of comprehensive teaching and underpinning of each aspect with clear examples and reasoning for the standards to be adhered to inspires the learner to excel and work towards clear professional objectives.  Many a time someone will say "you cannot expect us (them) to produce work that good yet" but after a few days filming, most people understand that making documentary work look professional is not hard, making the film interesting is the hard part.  We found that in Guatemala the nature of the people is much gentler than in the UK; so although the feedback was hard but fair the way it was put across was slightly softer than we are used to back home. The open Q&A session with everyone encouraged to criticise and feedback, demonstrated all members had gained the vital knowledge of recognising good, and not so good, practise. Teaching the participants to be self-effacing and not too precious is very important for a media practitioner so they can take criticism that is not just adjudicated by the tutors but also the peers.  

The sessions are long; punctuated by breaks for coffee and lunch, so in effect the group stay together in one location for the duration of the day, sharing the filming, reviews, eating and discussions. This creates a dynamic environment of intense learning, but provides a domain that yields continuous stimulation. On a practical level this would not be sustainable over weeks of learning, but for a one week workshop it builds a creative educational environment, which is all inclusive of the practice. Eat, sleep and live documentary!

The standard of the practise work was very high, beyond ticking the box for each task, people had utilised those wondrous elements that are not seen or can be taught. They were using their own creativity and modifying and adapting, based on things they had seen/knew, reacting to the locations, conjuring up innovative ways of mixing styles and techniques. This was encouraged via the teaching phase where, although taught in a very methodical way, variation and creativity is constantly introduced. So once the foundations are learnt, the learners are shown differing ways to represent and document.  This creates a stimulus whereby the learner is encouraged to add their own signature and style - their angle on the story.

It could be argued that in such a short time-frame it is more important to ensure that the technical elements of filmmaking are focused on. But we have found that although the technical elements are an important underpinning, the creative elements are equally important. If you can get creative thoughts working alongside the technical this becomes the most exciting dual experience for the participants. However, creativity does initially need to be guided to ensure that they have the technical know-how to be able to realise their creative aspirations.


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