The work I am producing for my employer is a factual, behind the scenes documentary-style piece of film. So for my research, i decided to familiarise myself more with this field of film.
To start this research process, I went back to basics by asking myself ‘What is a documentary?’
In the words of the oxford English Dictionary , it’s ‘is a nonfictional motion picture intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record’.
Simply put, it’s a film that focuses on fact and truth, recording events, locations and people, with the intention of telling people how to do something or simply providing an accurate account of something that’s happened or happening.
In terms of the film I was producing, this meant a film focusing on a particular location and group of people: it meant giving a factual account of how and why the course at Broadway is run.
For inspiration, my first point of research was behind the scenes documentaries. These can be commonly found as extra features on the DVD’s of big motion pictures or sometimes as accompaniments to a television series.
An example of the latter of these categories is this clip, taken from BBC nature documentary series ‘Planet Earth live’.
The clip shows a behind the scenes view of a camera crew filming Meerkats in Africa. There is a rough parallel between this and the film I am producing Broadway: Both portray people carrying out filming and feature interviews with the camera operators. The difference is that the BBC crew shoot involved animals, whilst the footage I would be recording was only based around filming people.
One thing I liked about this clip and others that I watched from Planet Earth live is how direct the camera is with the crew on the shoot. Much like the Meerkats involved in the scene, there’s no ‘secrecy; Everyone is aware of everyone’s presence, but in an informal way. There’s no feeling of anything being scripted,it’s all spontaneous. And at the same time, the camera crew filming from the behind the scenes side don’t have to hide to capture anything ‘occurring naturally’. it’s engaging as a viewer because it draws me into the close-knit relationship between all the crew involved in the shoot, and almost makes me feel like part of the family. I want to emulate that in my film: i want people to get to know the students on the Broadway course and be able to identify with certain members. Maybe they remind the viewer of them-self at a young age, or maybe they simply like the individuals character or charm or sense of humour.
On a location shoot as part of my placement, I employed the same strategy. Whilst I captured some brilliant moments that might not have happened if the students knew my camera was rolling, I got a lot of my material by simply engaging with them as they went about their tasks, basically conducting mini interviews with them as they worked.
Ultimately, this helped teach me that a behind the scenes documentary shouldn’t just be distant from it’s subjects, but it should get in close and actively feature their input as much as possible.