A Retrospective

Now it has been a couple of weeks since I finished my film and I can atleast say I am more positive about it than I was before. I am still not sure whether the humour in it is understandable, or that the narrative structure flows all that well. However, looking back I can say I enjoyed what I did. I enjoyed exploring how I related to anthropology and I think that even if nobody else understands it, with what I had available to me (in terms of time, tools and experience) I did alright. My film has a lot of flaws, and I certainly am not eager to share it with people, but it was a great learning experience which helped me understand my own feelings towards anthropology.

With hindsight, I think that I can see a few of my mistakes, listed here as a warning to anyone else who is starting out in their own journey:

1. Know your limits. It may sound cliché, but it is true. I jumped right into the deep end, attempting to parody and explore a discipline which I still am a novice at. Particularly making film, a low-concept streamlined film is a whole lot easier to make. In my film I had lots of ideas for cool shots and fancy cuts, but in the end while I managed to do certain things really well, my narrative structure was based around key scenes, without much thought for how they link together.

2. If you are going to critique, be familiar with the subject. My aim was the critique ethnographic film, even though I had never made a film before. Now I have, I would be in a better position to be critical, but even now I don’t think I have enough experience to effectively do justice to my original concept.

3. Don’t be scared to do something that pushes the boundaries. Knowing the limits of your abilities is one thing, but you shouldn’t be afraid to push the boundaries when it comes to your concept, you just need to be realistic about what you can do in your timeframe.

4. Don’t be afraid to fail. It may just be wishful thinking on my part, but I doubt that anyone’s first film is going to be great. Being able to see that you have failed or not achieved all your goals is a fantastic thing- it shows that you have taste. My film failed for various reasons, but I have made those mistakes and in future I know which pitfalls to avoid.

5. Do the film you want to do. As much as I feel that my film failed (that is not to be negative, rather than dislike my film as I did before I now objectively feel it wasn’t what I wanted- but that’s okay). What made is successful was that I engaged with anthropology and I enjoyed making my film. Doing a film you care about is the most important part. It hurts more when It doesn’t live up to your expectations, because it was so important to you, but it will mean more to you than a film on a subject you aren’t interested in.

So I hope those tips are useful. They are the main points I’ve taken from making my film. With hindsight I still cannot look at my film itself positively, but I can look at the experience positively.

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The end of a journey

So I have finally completed my film, available here for your viewing pleasure:

I can’t say I’m too happy with the outcome. To put it simply, I feel that a great deal of the humour involved requires explanation. I am reminded of the famous E.B. White quote “Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process.” I knew when I begun that this is where my film would succeed or fail, and sadly I’m not too sure that to an outsider, the humour or themes explored would be evident or easily understood.

Bringing it all together

So I have come across a major problem: Adobe CS2 does not support the .mts file extension used by the camcorder I used. Scouring the internet has only yielded conversion software that’s either malware in disguise, or something ridiculously expensive for software that I would only use once, for one singular task. All is not lost though, I have settled on using Sony Movie Studio. I was wary of using software by Sony, a brand not traditionally associated with quality movie production. However, after playing around with the software a little I see that it is actually quite powerful and well suited to my needs. I will also be recording my narration this weekend, after which I will begin the editing process.

Some of my inspirations

So I’ve managed to find my main inspirations on Vimeo.

BabaKiueria:

Ongka’s Big Moka

They are quite dissimilar films. In analysing the main components of both films, it is clear that neither of them hold much similarity. BabaKiueria follows a family, Ongka’s Big Moka follows a singular man on his journey. Babakiueria explores relations between different groups and in particular power relations. Importantly, it follows those without power, in BabaKiueria’s world the typical white nuclear family. Ongka’s Big Moka, however, explores a man’s personal journey to demonstrate his own generosity. More importantly, it follows a person who is effectively in power. Ongka himself is a Big Man, someone who is a de facto leader.

In other news, I have finished filming now. I managed to film everything in 3 days, which was a lot of work and exhausting, but I have my footage now and all that is left is to edit it. This is a reflief particularly as I ended up filming later than I had originally hoped, as unfortunately when I planned to film my friend Joel, who I used as my main actor was ill. Currently I’m considering which software to use for my video editing. Adobe CS2, while outdated software, I have used before and is also available for free, so I will likely be using that.

How it all began

When I asked myself what kind of film I wanted to make, I was particularly inspired by BabaKiueria, a short film which explored the relationship between white people and indigenous people in Australia.

In researching what made BabaKiueria good, not only as a comedy, but as a form of social commentary was the aspect of role-reversal.  http://www.d.umn.edu/cla/faculty/troufs/anth1604/video/Babakiueria.html is a (very) short article giving basic details and reviews of BabaKiueria. This brevity helped distil the basic ingredients of BabaKiueria, and from it I discovered what I would need to focus on if I wanted my film to be effective as a comedy.

From the beginning, I knew I would have to create a mockumentary, using a script and knowing all the events beforehand. My film would be less about people and be more about anthropology itself- how it is conducted, how it can selectively (particularly ethnographic film) highlight certain parts and therefore create a narrative distinct from reality.  A good example of this would be Ongka’s Big Moka, perhaps the second biggest influence on me making a film. In Ongka’s Big Moka, the audience is clearly shown who the hero of the story is. While a documentary, there is a clear narrative of protagonist/ antagonist and the protagonist overcoming problems.

How does all this tie in to making a mockumentary then? From inception, I knew the two most basic parts of my film: I was going to focus on something mundane and I was going to reverse the roles of protagonist and antagonist. I needed to focus on something mundane to distance my film from a ‘regular’ ethnographic film- much ethnographic film is based on exciting or foreign events or places, and what made BabaKiueria effective was its focus on the mundane day-to-day lives of its characters. Switching the protagonist and antagonist around was fairly easy. It required my protagonist to be unlikeable, uncharismatic and my antagonist to be the most relatable character.