This past 13 weeks have been great for me in gaining both experience and knowledge on filmmaking, in particular documentaries. It was tough work from day 1 trying to come up with ideas on a particular mode and topic that would fit a 5 – 8 min short documentary. After 3 weeks of pitching with Sean and searching for interesting stories, i was fortunate to come across the a film maker that was making a community documentary film about the bushfires of 2014 up in East Gippsland. I was fascinated with the film as it had some many people with so many stories. However, the most interesting story was the Mental health nurse, Birgit, who was running the interviews with the victims of the fires as a form narrative therapy. Thats how i came up with the idea to direct an observational mode documentary on how Birgit uses this therapy in that community film.
For the next 3 weeks, after seeking permission from the Birgit and the production crew, Prakash and I drove up 6 hours ,up and down, to Goongerah each weekend to film Birgit as she interviews the victims. This was certainly challenging as we had to cope with no form telecommunications, limited electricity and worst of all no internet. We had to rely on what we had learned so far till that day and improvise on the way. Prakash was their main cameraman for the crew and struggle a little on the first day as he was car sick due to the curvy roads. He was much better after that and improved dramatically through till to the end of the production. Being a director for the first time was certainly very exciting and scary. I learnt a lot working on the camera and audio, especially when doing the interview with Birgit, and learnt so much on interview techniques. The tips and techniques from the practical class with Steve and Sean really helped in getting the information i needed from a 45 min interview. I was also fortunate enough to get some found footage from the Macdowel family up in Goongerah that proved to be a great asset to my documentary.
Week 7, was now me and my editor, Giuliane, to sit and transcribe the interviews from nearly 800 hours of footage. We had Naveen and Edie to help us as well. By week 8 we had almost completed all transcripts but i felt that the story was not strong, especially after my KPI meeting. I sort helped from Alex and Aharon, to help me with bit of the story. My editor was the one who got me rolling when i was about to quit on this project by making an amazing sequence for the title. After seeing that, we sat down nearly everyday with a paper edit that we both worked on together. The paper edit was really useful and i should have done one from the start! Treatments are good starting point to come up with a structure but the story definitely comes from the paper edit. It helped so much in editing. We had a lot of characters to work with but we picked the best 4 and focused solely on them. That made it much easier to craft a story but we also had back ups if we felt another story worked better. We had struggles with the audio of recreating a bushfire but solved it quite first. The class screening of the rushes were certainly helpful in getting important feedback that helped make this documentary better. On screening night at SAE institute, the whole team was nervous. Our documentary was well received but i know there is still much room for improvement.
The 13 weeks spent making documentary has been so challenging and enjoyable at the same time. Working as a sound recordist on Alex documentary was great experience as well. I learnt a lot on animation and camera placements that were certainly useful to my documentary as well. Both are were crews were very small but we had a big team behind us for support. Aharon played a very key role in keeping both documentaries motivated as well add some of his feedback that was crucial for both films. There were many moments of frustration between both documentaries but we as a team pull through together. I have never been to sure on what i wanted to do in the industry but i certainly know that i want to be making more documentaries.