One primary obstacle when producing a documentary film is there aren’t any professional actors for the roles. This is to maintain the nature of documentary films, and that the main purpose is to document the facts, to preserve factual elements of the historical actualities, a reality that is “more profound and certainly something with a more important social mission” (Renov 1993, p.65).
Most non-professionals don’t act, and these are the challenges that documentary filmmakers might have to face when approaching them to speak about the narrative description of a script. I think it is about a general understanding of documentary concepts and the ability to learn or to explain personal perspectives in reference to their subject-matters. By this, I mean to explain to actors why do you want to make another documentary film? Why it is so important for our society to start talking about it?
The documentary is different to so-called story films because one is dealing with a different set of values and methods of productions. All the recordings produced by the camera work, the composition, many smooth movements and angles, the speed that follows actions and appearance of persons and things are in a particular way governed by the manner of delivery of a visual message in the editing process. Very literally, this type of production is mostly based on “a method in which editing is the film” (Reisz, Millar 1968 p. 123).
Typically however, the fundamental difference between making a documentary versus a story-film is that, while in story-films the main concern is the development of a plot, “the documentary film is concerned with expression of a theme” (Reisz, Millar 1968 p.124). The documentary doesn’t have the advantage of keeping the audience excited by telling an intriguing story in order to generate interest and suspense in the audience. The interpretation of a theme is a matter of the creative process and it requires a personal judgement, an opinion or careful thought from the director and the film editor.
And this film should be focused on creating a theme that is presented in a stimulating way to hold the spectator’s interested at any given moment on the subject of homelessness and the chance to get over it. Because in a documentary the theme is only merely the starting point which demands a specific interpretation, “it is in the manner of the presentation, in the aptness and originality of the visual associations, and in the purposeful editing, that the film will gain its interest” (Reisz, Millar 1968 p. 124).
As it turns out, in making a documentary film the director has no actors to express himself, the creation, and development of content requires the skills of an editor. For this reason he or she must explore somehow to convey all the fine shades of meaning through the creative use of audio-visual materials to help achieve the most impact. Typically, the approach involves a greater freedom of interpretation and in contrast to fiction film, “the editing process must begin long before the film reaches the cutting rooms” (Reisz, Millar 1968 p. 125). It needs to have the structure of a final form of a screenplay format.
This “editing” is often a strategic imperative, where “most ideas for films will occur at first in general form, but it is only by then asking yourself why? – why a film on that subject? – that you will begin to evaluate the potential” (Crittenden 1981, p. 37).
The Making of Loop Of Us
The filmmaker Lukas Nikola worked to build the construction of a complete narrative of the Loop Of Us (10 mins short film) from the beginning in the pre-production to post-production, where the visual and audio material is creatively organised on the timeline to convey meaning, ideas and emotions. Although it’s true that a subject like “homelessness” encourages creativity, and a unique experience, the complexity of the theme remains a huge challenge for the filmmaker of the first documentary film.
A few of the biggest challenges when working on the Loop Of Us will be finding an appropriate balance between script structure, interpretation, and obviously to show enough interest in the original presentation. We find it necessary to make these actions in order to present all these facets of the theme, such as tactical alterations in mood and to find some sort of tempo and rhythm.
There is a great deal of extensive production work in order to make the film really interesting with tasks requiring an eloquent flow of shot juxtapositions, and a convincing impression of a continuous play.
- Script structure
- Originality of the visual association
- Purposeful editing
It’s interesting to know that some directors find it natural to work alongside cinematographers, film editors or sound designers on a film that can help adapt the script in the post-production stage in order to develop and achieve their film vision. This process involves changing the script, so in the editing room they can influence what shots have to go and what shots can stay to be used in the film structure.
Making an edit and working on a film with a script that is constantly changing can be a real challenge. The film-maker must know when to stop with its development and just go with the selected structure in order to build the theme. Because it’s a collaborative approach, the aim is to make it “good enough” to effortlessly glide past through the stages of post-production. In fact, the visiting speaker at BU, Ian Sutherland, is of the opinion that the job of the editor is “to make it good enough, be it in an idealistic notion. What is good now is not good maybe in 5 years from now”. Mr. Sutherland pointed out that film is about an emotional response. It’s a never finished process.
It’s important for the editor to be able to tell a story in an original and expressive way that makes it “enough and as good” for others, because “the film’s merit will rest on the quality of the treatment, not in the spontaneous entertaining power of the theme itself” (Reisz, Millar p.124).
a. The script guides the audience around two characters and possible interaction between them.
The main idea of the film is to follow two characters that have or had in the past the same issue of being homeless. One got over the struggle and describes how it was to be homeless in the past and what steps he took to overcome this situation. Another contributor is still homeless and after 1.5 years, however, only has hope that one day the journey on this particular path will change for him. There are many hopes involved in the fact that these type of painful situations will not last forever. This subject has complex evolved phases on the problem of homelessness. It touches the differences in our society that will allow the audience to face the truth about the problems in the homeless population from our modern culture.
Meanwhile, the director Lukas Nikola wants to find out about individual cases and aspects that can contribute towards homelessness. The film aims to convey complex emotions such as a sense of the physical discomfort and pain, the expressions of daily verbal and non-verbal interactions in regards to issues that are also problems of the wider society. Finally, what is their struggle really about and how to get over it?
b. The use of mix voice overs and sound effects to enhance the overall atmosphere within the scenes.
Late in the film when the first contributor brings us to the place where he lived in the past and speaks about it in front of the camera, although it has used voice over there are left some sound elements related to the image of the speaker. This approach is frequently used in documentary, Mr. Nikola says, and he wants to purposely allow the speaker to express ideas while suddenly interrupting it with voice over.
When the first contributor starts to talk, of poetry of the play is recalled, and it is no longer necessary to listen to the story, since the voice over is more interesting. Consequently, once the characters in a role start talking and saying their first words, the voice can now be faded down.
This method serves to establish a different creative treatment of sound and visuals faced with changes in the level and quality of sound that “have to be accomplished by a sort of audible dissolve or fade rather than by a simple cut” (Reisz, Millar 1968 p. 258). Since changes in sound must in a film be recorded as actual changes and must be adjusted corresponding to relatively a subconscious mental process, “they must be accomplished gradually in order not to disturb the audience” (Reisz, Millar 1968 p. 258)
c. Voice-over poems used in three parts to demonstrate the construction of poetic forms and rhythm.
In the beginning, middle and the end of the film, we use voiceover to help produce an enjoyable narration. The second section of the poetry brings together in the foreground thoughts, hopes, and feelings, it shows how the second contributor walks between new modern buildings to convey the impression that our very limited way of living is short. Our mediocre lives are very small when related to the original macroscopic system, and the soundtrack used here should matter. It helps to create a certain atmosphere fuelled by a choice of images in a distinct way, while building up these magical moments that make us to feel the entire atmosphere of a narrative produces a state of cosmic history.
Color Difference for Poetry
The intention for selecting different colors for the poem in the edit, where the poetry voice over plays, and the rest of the film is of course one way to emphasise more these moments in the film. However, a change in tonal quality at the beginning and the end of the film, for example, to use a yellow tone where the poetry plays, can compromise the original visual features that work well as they are at the moment. TThese dark coloured shades are part of the attraction that are influenced by the surrounding tonal values that overall maintain the atmosphere and, remain in balance.
The difference in color can be used symbolically to provide leitmotifs that can play a very important role throughout the entire work. Although, color values are very much subject to fashion, to make the picture look fancy, especially with the poetics of color in the film to produce an aesthetic treatment of cinematic color tones, and “some films employed color to set off their characters against each other or from the background, while others attempted to fuse them with the ambiance. Colored lighting and filters that produce a particular color were also used to affect the mood of a scene or to establish a stylish look” (Brinckmann 2014, p.15).
More important than color difference is the composition of the picture, and how the director of the film is able to build an amount of artistic level of credulity to create a story that highlights the flows of information. Samuelson is of the opinion that “bad operating destroys the illusion by subconsciously informing the viewer the he is watching a contrived situation. Uneven pans and tilts, follow-shots where the moving object does not remain at a constant distance from the edge of the screen, bad composition, tops of heads cut off, awkward cuts across people’s legs, these and many others” (Samuelson 1984, p. 180) are several visible signs of bad camerawork and editing.
Often, in order to create something highly expressive this process is slightly complicated all the way from filming to editing. After all, “putting together a film is a complex process, and anyone successfully engaged in it will tell you that the greatest enemy, assuming good material, is anything that inhibits a positive work rhythm or stifles the development of momentum” (Crittenden 1981, p.61).