Capitalism – a love story: review

June 3, 2010

I watched Michael Moore’s latest documentary “Capitalism – a love story” last night and for me it suffered from the predictability of the Michael Moore documentary formula.  It tells the story of the corruption of democracy since the 80’s and acts as a call to action for the “people” to stop letting the top 1% of wealthy America steal from their pockets.  It illustrates how shamelessly banks, with the help of elected officials have been getting away with shocking schemes to make them rich while the real people of  America are having their homes taken away from them and middle class families are finding themselves on the street.

The problem for me is that the format Michael Moore uses is so predictable.  In his earlier documentaries I felt myself barracking for Moore as he attempted stunts such as citizens arrests on high ranking officials, but in “Capitalism – a love story” when he tries to do the same to an AIG board member it didn’t evoke the same emotion.  Similarly when he put crime scene tape around the banks it was more a feeling of “oh…. he’s doing that again”.

There is no doubt that Michael Moore has a skill of bringing documentary to the masses.  He makes statistics interesting and cuts through complicated politics to get to the meaning and consequence of policy.  For the sake of the masses I just hope in his next documentary he shakes things up a bit.

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Presenting: Mothers’ Group – a shared journey

May 28, 2010

Mothers’ Group – a shared journey is an online documentary about the women who are part of my mothers’ group.  This insight into their community explores the challenges of being a mother in today’s society, the social pressures associated with the idea that “women can have it all” and the journey that these women have shared.

It is has also been posted on Facebook and will be available to view on the ABC Pool, MyTribe project page.

So….how did I go?

May 27, 2010

I posted my documentary on YouTube last night and it was a very strange feeling.  Had I really finished. And more importantly, is it any good??  If I look back to my Learning Contract I have achieved most of what I set out to achieve.  My participatory documentary manages to tie in the theory of Miller and Rose and the manufactured community.  It also explores social pressures that can oppose community, hello Tonnies.

I didn’t interview the Maternal & Child Health Nurse or the Membership secretary of Fairplay as I stated I would in the learning contract. This however was a considered decision rather than a hasty omission.  Given the time restraints for an online video I didn’t have time to develop another dimension by adding outside thoughts and opinions.  I felt that one of the strengths of the documentary was that it let you in to the inner circle of a community.  I think an outside presence would have lessened that experience.

In terms of publication, it is on YouTube and also Facebook.  I could not organise to get it on the Playgroup Victoria website in the available time.  I have joined the ABC’s Pool and have been trying overnight to upload my video to the MyTribe project – unsuccessfully!  I will keep trying though!

Overall, if I attempted a similar project again I would set out with a much more defined plan and structure.  I became quite overwhelmed when after my interviews I was left with almost 1.5 hours of footage which I had to get down to under 10 minutes.

I think with film, it is incredibly hard to finish something.  There is so much detail and so many different ways you could do certain aspects if you had more time.

I enrolled in this course for a challenge and to put myself outside my comfort zone and it certainly gave me that.  The lectures made me think and the documentary certainly tested me in a number of areas. Hopefully it has all been worth it!

The Modern Family – some quick thoughts

May 20, 2010

I think it is worth commenting on the success of the new TV show The Modern Family.  This is a new show that airs on Channel 10 on Tuesday nights. It is based on the lives of 3 families – one quite conventional (mum, dad, 3 kids), a gay couple who have just adopted a baby, and 2 newly weds (a 50+ man and a beautiful Columbian woman in late 20’s or early 30’s and her 8 year old son).

What makes it relevant to this blog is that it is filmed as a mockumentary.  I think this has a lot to do with its success.  It has a sense of immediacy and authenticity that many of the American sitcoms that were so big in the 90’s failed to achieve.  In the typical sitcom you know that by the end of the episode everything is likely to be resolved.  Modern Family leaves you feeling that these people who’s lives it revolves around might not have the answers.

Documentary is the perfect medium for this show because the voyeuristic feeling it gives the viewer allows the creators to show their characters warts and all, which potentially gives a whole new dimension of family life that is not often seen on television.  I found it very refreshing.

The community pick and choose

May 16, 2010

I have been thinking a lot about our ability today to pick which communities we belong to.  It is all really about priorities – I choose to be a part of mothers’ group because it is important to me.  By choosing which school to send their kids to, parents choose the type of community they want their children to be a part of.

Because there are so many choices today the idea of an organic community does not work.  Even in terms of a community based on where you live, choice plays a huge role.  You may choose to shop at the local shopping strip within your community, or you might for convenience sake choose to do your shopping at one of the big supermarkets at ten o’clock at night. That choice has an impact on local communities.  Being a part of your local community takes a concerted effort. It has to be important to you for it to happen.

This however is very different for the Kenyan women we saw in the Kevin Bacon documentary.  She has no choice. In fact it could almost be said that her community acts as a barrier. She is born into her community and it would be the norm that she stays a part of it until she dies.  This community will be a part of all of her life stages.

In our society we tend to choose the community we want to be a part of at each stage, whether it be the school our kids go to, the social clubs we join, and even the retirement village we will end up in.  It is more like a web of communities, all intertwined but entirely separate.

Staying on track, mostly

May 12, 2010

Last night I filmed my third interview.  I have four to go.  From the interviews I have so far I slightly confident that I will be able to mount my argument about society pressure on communities.  There will however be a large focus on the role of being a mother and the emotions that go with that.

I have been finding it hard in my interviews to ask further questions when people are opening up about emotional topics.  I guess that is one of the challenges of making a participatory documentary.  As I am a part of a circle of trust I don’t want to push people to talk about issues they may confide in the group about but are intensely personal.  I am certainly no Tracey Grimshaw!  I do however feel that as a participatory documentary maker there is no way I could cross that boundary and the people involved need to know you respect how their story.  These women have entrusted their stories to me and it is very important to me that I do them justice.  I think the goal to do so will intrinsically shape my documentary.

The First Minute

May 6, 2010

Last week we looked at the importance of the first minute of a documentary.  The first minute really must reel the audience in if you want them to keep watching.  We were set the task of finding an online documentary to show in class. Not the whole thing though, you guessed it, only the first minute.  The documentary I have chosen is made for television but also features online on the ABC iView website.  It is called Grumpy Old Women http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/docs

This documentary’s first minute has a number of elements I would like to take on board when putting together mine.  I think what attracted me initially is that it is personable.  It lets you know imediately that we will be hearing the stories from these women.  I like how they use the split screen to introduce the characters faces. This would work well for a shorted online documentary because time is limited.  Within the first minute the flow of the documentary is also established – there is the voice over when other footage e.g. historical footage is shown followed by short bites of answers from the women. This is repeated throughout the documentary.  The pace is set, which is quite fast, but I think that suits the light heartedness of the documentary.

This documentary has really influenced me in the way I am thinking about producing my own for a number of reasons. Firstly, I am interviewing 6 women so I will be taking inspiration from how the Grumpy Old Women documentary is produced to give them all a voice but not letting it get too messy or crowded.  I also like how everything about it is light hearted. In my documentary people talk about many emotional topics but ultimately the joy of motherhood should shine through.

Public Spaces Online

April 14, 2010

I completely agree with Jenny’s comments that online social sites such as Facebook are not a community. I think this is where the name of the subject, Transient Spaces, comes into play.  Facebook is not a community, it is a space, a forum, a public space for people to communicate with others what they want to share. You are not part of someones community just because you attend the same park as someone else.  Just as you are not part of someones community just because you use the same online forum. 

If some park goers formed a regular dog walking group they might utilise Facebook to keep in touch however their community is still their dog walking connection at the park.  Facebook is simply a tool to facilitate communication.

Documentary Learning Contract

April 2, 2010

CONTENT

1.     What is the community that you will make your documentary about?

My documentary will be about my mother’s group.  I became a member of this group 3 years ago, after the birth of my first daughter.  Of the 10 original members 7 of us still meet every Wednesday afternoon.  The other 3 are still in contact through social nights out, facebook, play dates and birthday parties.  The group was initiated through the Maternal and Child Health centre, which is a function of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

2. Why do you think it is a community?

Mother’s group is a community because it is a group of women who interact regularly as a unit.  Members identify with each other through a shared understanding of motherhood.  It is also a unit of trust and support that has grown stronger with time.  The women in this group are all very protective of their community and its members.  It is valued as being something important in their lives.

3. What theory about community have you read that is relevant to issues in this community?  Summarise the relevant ideas.

The theory I have read that is most relevant to the issues in community I want to explore include Tonnies theory of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft and Miller and Rose’s ideas about a community being constructed, especially in political contexts.

Tonnies theory draws upon the idea that community (Gemeinschaft) and society (Gesellschaft) are ultimately opposed.  Tonnies focuses on community occurring organically in a rural setting.  Community cannot evolve in the city where the evils of consumerism and capitalism fuel society.

Miller and Rose also hold to the idea that community and society are opposed, however they are not talking about it in the rural/city that Tonnies focuses on.  They are looking at the way ‘community’ is being used by society.  They talk about the term ‘community’ being used by politics, a new platform to administer a collective existence.  Miller and Rose’s theory also opposes Tonnies because they look at community being manufactured rather than something that is organic.

4. Are you in agreement or disagreement with these ideas?

I think these theories both have their merits especially if you take into context when they were written.  They seem to work well together in demonstrating the journey from Tonnies thoughts written in the 1950’s which to us seem very old fashioned, to Miller and Rose’s highly questioning 21st century views of community.  I do not believe that in 2010 Tonnies views are relevant anymore to community but that is probably because what he was warning about has happened – society (the city) has gobbled up the organic communities he writes about.  The disintegration of community has led to the realisation that the benefits a community provides to society are important and now society (particularly governments) see it as their role to construct them.

5. How can you use these ideas in your documentary?

I am going to use these ideas to form the framework of my interview questions.  I am hoping to draw out from interviews the conflict women feel between belonging to the community of mother’s group and keeping up with the pressures of society (mortgage stress, managing careers, stay at home mums, body image).  Society and community seem to conflict with each other because many of these pressures are created or exacerbated by public policy.  Is the government trying to counter-act these pressures by manufacturing communities of support?

6. What is the structure of the documentary

I will be producing my video in a traditional linear structure however it will be using many hypertextual functions to maximise its audience.  It will revolve mainly around the interviews of the members of my community as well as an interview with the Membership Secretary of Fairplay (the volunteer group that administers the playgroups in Fairfield) and an interview with the Maternal and Child Health Nurse.

The link to this video will be embedded in my personal blog and it will be viewed in YouTube.  I will also be using Facebook to start a “group” about the issue.  I am going to approach Playgroup Victoria about the possibility of having the link to the YouTube video embedded in an announcement about the documentary in the websites “latest news” home page feed.  The ABC Pool’s, My Tribe media project will also be explored as a possible place for republication.

7. What is the style of the documentary?

As I am a member of my community I have decided to work on making a participatory documentary, as defined by Nichols.  I think an anthropological approach to film making is a good fit for the documentary as I have been part of this community since it was formed and in turn I represent it.  Interviews will feature as a large part of the documentary as I attempt to explore the social issues within this community.  By taking such a personal approach my challenge will be to maintain a critical view throughout the project.

TECHNICAL

8. What type of media will your documentary consist of (eg audio files, text, stills, video, animation etc)

The documentary will consist mainly of video with stills being spliced between interviews.

9. Given that your documentary will be published online, how will you tailor production and post-production to be appropriate (eg image size, frame rate, design issues, copyright)?

I am going to be producing my video in iMovies which has Tools that tailor your video specifically for YouTube.

I will have no copyright issues as I am using all my own material.

10. What are your skills in making this style of media?

I edit all my home video footage at the end of each calendar year.  I have also managed website content professionally so I understand how to use hypertext effectively.

11. Are you enlisting the help of any crew during the production phase of your documentary?

No.

12. Will you need to borrow technical equipment from the School techs?  It yes, what do you want to borrow?  When do you want to borrow it?

At this stage I would prefer to use my own equipment.  I have a Panasonic SDR-H250 video camera.  I would like to explore using the new audio editing feature on iMovie that includes background noise reduction and voice enhancement that simulates a studio microphone.  I will de bringing this into the tech tute to test run.  If this isn’t up to scratch I will explore other options available from the school techs.

PERMISSIONS

13. What talent do you need to get release forms signed for?

I am planning to interview the member’s of the mother’s group, a Maternal and Child Health Nurse, and the Membership Secretary of Fairplay.  I will have multiple copies of the release for on hand for each interviewee to sign.

14. Are you going to interview any minors?

I am not planning on interviewing any minors however they may appear in the background or in video footage.  I will have release forms signed by their parents to allow their images to feature.

15. Do you need permission to shoot on location?

No.

POST-PRODUCTION

16. What software do you need to edit your documentary?

I am going to use iMovies to edit the software.

17. Do you have sufficient skills with that software?

I have used iMovies a number of times before to edit home movies.  I will be trying to use some different applications within the software but find that online Mac tutorials are very helpful.

18. Do you have sufficient access to that software?

Yes.

PUBLICATION

19. What social environment will you publish your documentary to?

I will be publishing my documentary on my blog, YouTube, Facebook (using the share application with YouTube)) and possibly the Playgroup Victoria website and the ABC Pool’s My Tribe media project.

Another possibility is Wikipedia.  There is currently no entry for ‘mother’s group’.  Will explore whether this would be appropriate.

20. Is the media you are creating appropriate for that environment?

I believe so.  YouTube is a general environment and the documentary’s success in being viewed will depend on good “signposting” to direct the audience there.  Facebook will be a great forum in addition to my existing online community there are a number of ‘mother/parent’ focused groups I could target.

21. Have you become a member of that environment?

I am a member of Facebook but will need to become members of other mothers groups and also create my own.  I am not yet a member of YouTube or Wikipedia.

22. Have you done a ‘test’ publication?

No.

23. Does the environment stipulate any limits (eg file size, dimensions, file types, copyright, legal issues) that you will need to meet?

YouTube has a file size limit of 2GB and 10 mins length.  It is compatible with iMovies (.MOV) file type.

Facebook will be sharing the file from YouTube so as long as it is published in YouTube it should be able to be viewed from Facebook.

Wikipedia prefer photos to be in JPEG and videos to be compressed using Ogg Theora which is a free online compression software.

LEGAL

24. Have you got copyright permission for all the content you use?

So far I am not planning on using any material that is not my own.

25. There is no defamation or slander?

No.

26. Any other legal issues?

None foreseen at present.

RISK ASSESSMENT

27. What are the most likely things that could go wrong with your project?

The most likely thing that could go wrong is that I don’t get the responses I am looking for in my interviews to link my documentary to my issue/conflict and theory.  I think I will have to have a very clear plan of where I want the interviews to head, without manipulating them at all.  Preparation will be very important.

28. What is your back-up plan if these things occur?

I could still run with the issue by introducing media articles and anecdotal reports that talk about societal pressures on mothers to give some direction.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT

29. What is the date of your rough-cut showing?

Friday, 21 May 2010

30. What is the final due date?

Friday, 28 May 2010

31. When do you intend to start production?

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

32. When do you intend to start post-production?

Thursday, 13 May

33. Given the production start date, have you already booked any technical equipment that you need?

NA

34. How do these dates work in with the assessment deadlines from other courses?

Quite well.  My other subject has an assignment due 2 days before starting production and then the final assignment due Monday 31st May.  I will be juggling the 2 assignments at the same time over 4 weeks.  Given the 4 week timeframe, with good time management this will be a challenge but not un-doable.

35. If you are using talent, does their availability suit your production schedule?

I have made a time to interview the Membership Secretary from Fairplay on Friday 7 May.  I still need to lock in the Maternal and Child Health Nurse.  There will be 2 sessions of Mother’s Group during the production stage. I am going to split the interviews over these and send an email asking which date they would prefer to try to lock in attendance on one of those days.

The search for an angle…

March 12, 2010

Since this mornings lecture and the following tute and discussion with Jenny I have been on research journey that has filled me with some optimism about pursuing the “mother’s group” direction for my documentary.  The discussion in the lecture about the conflict about Gemeinshaft and Gesellschaft moved me in the direction of questioning whether societal influences conflict with the notion of community, in particular that of the mother’s group.  Is the pressure to return to work one that is at conflict with the “mother’s group”?  Or do Tonnies rather dated views only highlight  the differences in the community of today?  We are learning that community is not confined to the rural setting as Tonnies argues and there are many examples of it in the city.

I would like to explore the idea that perhaps the “organic” community is diminishing and being replaced by communities of interest, such as my mother’s group.  Are these communities manufactured and developed?  The amount of job advertisements for ‘community development officers’ in governments and not for profit organisations would suggest this is true.

I have found a number of papers commissioned by the state government as well as for organisations such as Playgroups Victoria that look at the benefit the community of mother’s groups provide to families.  So my next step is to sift through this information to find some substance that can give this documentary some ooompphh.