Was my documentary learning contract successful?

In Transient Spaces on June 4, 2009 at 7:29 am

I thought a good way to evaluate the success of my documentary would be to have a look at whether I did everything I planned. So here is my documentary learning contract, with comments in italics.


1. What is the community that you will make your documentary about?
Queen’s College. A student residence attached to Melbourne University. I attended Queen’s in my fist two years at university.

2. What interesting issues about community and identity will you be able to explore in relation to this community? (with reference to the theory you have read)
I would like to explore the strong bonds that communities can have. Queen’s is a good example of a strong urban community. Through communal eating, organised functions and living in corridors they maintain a Gemeinschaft level of intimacy and support.
I’m also interested in exploring the theory of delinquency and the way bad behaviour is viewed and dealt with in a college situation.
Finally I want to explore the insular nature of Queen’s as a community. The closed off and feeling of exclusivity that a close community can generate.

I feel that I explored all of these issues in my three mini-documentaries.

3. What theorists will you incorporate into your documentary? (summarise the ideas you will engage with)
Communities in modernity are not the same as the communities Tonnies describes. It is quite possible to have an urban community, Queen’s is an example of one. They function effectively and meet the general criteria of a community.
Despite being in an urban setting, Queen’s hasn’t become corrupted. Tonnies views on community are no longer appropriate, (were they ever?) to society. By looking closer at Queen’s College I want to demonstrate just how effective an urban community can be.
Delinquency, what the administration (middle aged white men) views as delinquency is often diametrically opposed to what the students think.
Jensen sees delinquency as due to the “absence or breakdown of communal institutions”. Which is why I want to explore whether students and staff believe there is a problem with delinquency at Queen’s, and what causes it. Queen’s is a community that is organised and involving, and I would suggest is not an example of a “breakdown”.
I am guessing that most student will say there isn’t a delinquency problem and the staff will say there is. Which will be an interesting result when you look at with the theory of delinquency in mind. And the criticisms of the theory as being developed by conservative men who don’t really understand the group they criticise.

I’ll also be looking at borders within communities, as described by Delanty. Who is inside a community and who is outside. How welcoming a community like Queen’s is of outsiders and what form the borders can take.

The themes were infused through the documentary but I deliberately didn’t make them conspicuous. Considering my main audience is going to be young people, students, and members of social networks like youtube and facebook I didn’t think it was appropriate to have a heavy theoretical approach. Instead through the interview questions I asked and the footage selected I included the documentary theory in a subtler way.

4. Why are they relevant / important? (a critical analysis of these ideas in relation to the community you are documenting)

Tonnie’s views on communities are outdated, he holds rural communities on a pedestal. But there are many urban communities that can function just as effectively as those in an urban environment. Which is why I want to explore what makes an urban community work; the things that make it a great group to be involved in.
As many of the students at Queen’s College have come from rural backgrounds they have an interesting perspective. As they have been exposed to communities in both settings and will be able to reflect on what makes a successful community with this in mind.

I think the view of delinquency is very interesting, especially as you can have diverse views within the same community. Considering that the term was invented and largely explored by white, male, academics it’s no surprise that the Master and VM appear to have similar views.

Whereas the students would define delinquency as for more serious and anti-social issues. They don’t condone extreme drinking practices, and the General Committee does discipline people who put themselves and others at risk through excessive drinking. Students don’t see drinking as an act of delinquency, rather certain individuals who take it too far.

In regards to nudity, this is something that the Master has in recent years taken a very hard stance on. He has said that any student caught naked in Queen’s will be kicked out and he did this at the end of last year.

Nudity is a big part of Queen’s culture. Often after College events students, males and females, will strip and run around Melbourne University’s football oval. It’s called doing a “Nude Main”. People aren’t made to feel uncomfortable if they don’t want to participate, plenty of people don’t. But those who do have been outraged at the Masters rules. They consider it a freedom of expression, liberating, freedom. The Master sees it as pure delinquency.

Issues such as this would be interesting to explore in the documentary. Two completely different opinions within the same community on a certain behaviour. The difference of opinion became so strong that a vote of no confidence was considered against the Master. This is a very serious issue for the people in the community.

The idea of borders is very interesting to explore within a community. Generally communities are thought of as warm, welcoming, inclusive places. But this often only applies to those already part of the community. To those outside the community they can feel ostracised, unwelcome and intimidated. It will be interesting to see what those within the Queen’s community think exists in terms of borders.

5. How are you going to introduce their ideas? (in terms of the structure of your documentary or the argument you are proposing, how does the theory come in, and where/when?)
Because of the structure of the documentary I think I will have each theory discussed in a mini-documentary. So people can click on a video link and see each theory discussed separately. They will be an edit of interviews, images and footage from Queen’s events.

Along with this I will have links to Queen’s Colleges online presence. Youtube, Facebook, etc.
In this way it will be a fragmented documentary, but people will be able to explore in pieces. And look at the part that they are most interested in.

This is very much how the structure of the documentaries ended up.

6. What is the structure of the documentary? (this could be a short treatment of the way you see your documentary unfolding)
Presented on my blog I will have links to various websites that Queen’s has an online presence. Similar to the example of skittles.com I put on my blog.
Along with this there will be three mini-documentaries. Each exploring a different theory and theme of life at Queen’s College.
This is a multimedia documentary and will be published in a wide range of social networking sites. In this way I will be able to reach a larger audience. Each website I publish the different elements of the documentary on will have a link back to my blog, which will function like a homepage.
Below is an outline of the three mini-documentaries:

While my blog entry that included the documentaries and links was nowhere near as slick as the Skittles.com example. But I included all the elements I wanted.

Exploring the theory of delinquency

-Footage of “bad behaviour” at Queen’s, drunkenness, rowdiness, etc.
VO 20th century sociologists stigmatise some groups because they don’t fit the mould of their values. What really is bad behaviour? Is it a hard and fast rule, or is it all about your perspective. Students and staff have (opposing, similar) views…
– Master’s comments on anti-social behaviour.
(footage of examples of this)
-Students response on what makes anti-social behaviour
(footage of examples of this)
-Seb Brown got kicked out at the end of last year. A short interview with him describing whether he believes his behaviour was anti-social and whether the punishment was justified.

Exploring the theory of Borders in the Delanty reading.

-Footage of Queen’s gates and fences
VO Physical fences sometimes indicate the borders in a community, but more often it is an unspoken thing. Most communities have some degree of seperateness to society. Some are welcoming of new members, others not as much. The very intimacy within a community can be a border to outsiders.

-Master’s view of the insular nature of Queen’s.
-Footage of students singing “Queen’s for sure, the greatest college…”
-Students view, is it exclusive? Are people made to feel left out if they don’t belong to Queen’s community? Stranger Danger problem.
-Footage of some of the whole college events
VO Big groups can be intimidating simply by their numbers. Despite individuals being welcoming at Queen’s the intimacy of Queener’s can amke visiotrs feel unwelcome.

Exploring Tonnies idea of what makes a successful community

-Footage of people having a good time
VO Queen’s is a successful urban community, but what is it that makes it work? Does living together give Queen’s an advantage against other uban communities? Is Queen’s unusual for urban communities?
– Master’s response
-Students response
-Footage of students eating together, socialising

Surprisingly these plans are very similar to the final outcomes. I expected I would drift further away from my original concept. But considering the amount of time we had to create the documentary, there wasn’t really enough time to be changing your plans mid-way through.

7. What is the style of the documentary? (you can refer to documentary theory if you know it; if you don’t, discuss how you see the relationship between you the documentary maker and your subject, and how that will influence the work you produce. Examples of other documentaries will be relevant) are you a member of the community
I have been a member of the community, but am now a Wyvern (alumni) of Queen’s. This of course means I have a bias. I am going to present both sides of the issues I explore. By interviewing the administration as well as students and providing both responses together I will enable the viewer to make up their own mind.
As I’m no longer an active member of the community I have the advantage of reflection. I can see what worked well, and what didn’t. The good and the bad. I will attempt to convey this through the documentary.

I tried very hard to allow the viewer to form their own decisions about the issues being explored. While I do have opinions, I didn’t want that to guide my editing. Feedback from those inside and outside of the community has indicated that this was pretty successful. Hopefully after watching the documentaries you will feel you’ve seen both sides of the argument and are able to reflect and form your own opinion.


8. What type of media will your documentary consist of (eg audio files, text, stills, video, animation etc) Video, still with text and audio over the top.
The primary part of the documentary will be three edited mini-documentaries.
There will be images with a voice over to introduce each documentary. Then the interviews will be edited together, with footage of various Queen’s events spliced through.
Supporting this will be a slideshow and links to various social networking sites where Queen’s already has a presence.

I didn’t include a slideshow. In the end this seemed a bit redundant. Flickr already has everything available for easy viewing. So I decided to embrace social media and allow it to do the hard work.

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)?
The three mini-documentaries will be short enough to be published on youtube and facebook. I’ll use flickr to create a slideshow as well as link to any already existing Queen’s photos.
I’ve contacted the person who took the footage of Queen’s events last year and he has agreed to sign a form allowing me to use his work.
I’m going to send out a facebook message to everyone who is in photos I have myself taken alerting them that I would like to use them online, and asking if anyone would not like to be included.
Any images I use will need to be resized to whatever the standards are for the various social networking websites I’ll be using, see further down for their specifications.

I decided to not include any photos of people that obviously showed their faces while they were doing extreme things. I used a lot of footage of myself as I felt more comfortable exposing my own past behaviour. At several stages during the edit I took out footage or photos that I thought people might not want shown. It was a very difficult process because I didn’t want to sanitise the project. I really wanted it to reflect what the community is like. So it was a fine line, and I hope I succeeded in not offending anyone!

I got permission from Nathan, head of the video committee to use their archival footage, and attributed it to QCVC in the credits.

10. What are your skills in making this style of media?
I can operate a video and still camera. In my undergraduate degree I have edited photos and video and done page layout and web design.

11. Are you enlisting the help of any crew during the production phase of your documentary?
At this stage I’m planning on doing all of the filming and editing by myself.

Got a bit tricky with some of the filming, but overall was fine.

12. Will you need to borrow technical equipment from the Applied Communication techs? If yes, what do you want to borrow? When do you want to borrow it?
A video camera, tripod, batteries, microphone.
I want to borrow in Week 8 for the student interviews. And In week 9, on the 28th April for the interview with the Master.


13. What talent do you need to get release forms signed for?
Phil Woodward: filmed events at Queen’s last year
Professor Runia: Master of Queen’s College

Michael Currie: General Committee member at Queen’s College

Jess Hickey: Wyvern of two years
Seb Brown: kicked out of Queen’s in 2008

And I will possibly interview a fresher at Queen’s as well.

I interviewed Tess Sidnam instead of Jess. Tess is still at Queen’s so it made the interviewees even, two alumni, two residents.

14. Are you going to interview any minors? (if yes, you must get their release form signed by their parent / guardian)

15. Do you need permission to shoot on location?
Yes, I have contacted Queen’s College to see if I’ll be allowed to film on their grounds. I am still in negotiations for an interview with the Master, if all goes well, I will interview him the 28th April.


16. What software do you need to edit your documentary?
I will edit my video footage on Final Cut Pro.

17. Do you have sufficient skills with that software?
Through my undergraduate degree in Journalism I have used this software several times to edit news stories.

18. Do you have sufficient access to that software?
I can access this program in the Communication editing suites as well as in the Labsome Honours room.


19. What social software environment will you publish your documentary to?
I would like to publish it across a range of different social software platforms. Using my blog as a launching pad I will send people to Facebook, Flickr, youtube, myspace, google.maps etc.
Similar to the example seen at http://www.skittles.com/default.html. They have a main page and then link to various social networking sites to see different aspects of their product.

This all happened, except for myspace. I had technical difficulties and in the end decided it’s not the place that I’ll get the most viewers anyway. My target audience spends more time on facebook and youtube.

20. Is the media you are creating appropriate for that environment?
I think so. Web 2.0 is all about ease of communication, involvement and different mediums. This will hopefully reach a broad range of people by using so many different platforms.

21. Have you become a member of that environment?
I have been a member of facebook and myspace for some time. I’m a recent member of the other social networking sites.

22. Have you done a ‘test’ publication?
Not yet, but I have already used many of these social software websites in the past. I will upload a test onto youtube, and flickr by the end of Week 6.

I never ended up putting up the test. I think I got way too involved in the filming and editing and didn’t prioritise it. In hindsight not the best move, because I might have run into technical difficulties. Luckily no issues!

23. Does the environment stipulate any limits (eg file size, dimensions, file types, copyright, legal issues) that you will need to meet?
Facebook: under 1024 MB and 20 minutes.
Myspace: There is no time limit, however each video must be under 500 MB.
Supported file types: avi, asf, dv, wmv, mov, qt, 3g2, 3gp, 3gp2, 3gpp, gsm, mpg, mpeg, mp4, m4v, mp4v, cmp, divx, xvid, 264, rm, rmvs, flv, mkv, ogm.
Youtube: Up to 1 GB in size. Up to 10 minutes in length.
Flickr: videos are limited to 90 seconds in length, and 150MB

24. Are there any competitions or other deadlines that the environment imposes?
No , these sites can all be used at any time.


25. Have you got copyright permission for all the content you use?
Only through Phil Woodward’s footage. But I will ask him to sign a form giving me permission to use his work.

I generally used my own footage and images. And I also got Nathan’s permission, the head of the QCVC. All the music was from Creative Commons and I attributed it to the artist in my credits.

26. Do you have an appropriate credit list that attributes every work and everyone involved?
I will ensure to attribute all of Phil’s footage to him.

Actually to the Queen’s College Video Committee.

27. There is no defamation or slander?
I will ensure while I’m editing that anything that could be defamation or slander is edited out.
28. Any other legal issues?
None that I can think of at the moment!


29. What are the most likely things that could go wrong with your project?
The Master could decide to not allow me to interview him. This would be very unfortunate as I really need to be showing the administrations perspective of the Queen’s community.

Luckily this didn’t happen!

30. What is your back-up plan if these things occur?
I will film it without an interview of the Master or filming on Queen’s grounds. Through interviews with Queener’s and Wyverns I’ll attempt to express the Queen’s community accurately. I would attempt to find someone that was sympathetic to the administration point of view so the documentary wouldn’t have too much bias towards students.


31. What is the date of your rough-cut showing?
Week 11 in the tute


32. What is the final due date?
Week 12 in the tute, Friday the 29th May


33. When do you intend to start post-production?
Week 10

I started a bit before this, I was editing my first interview before I’d finished all of my filming.

34. When do you intend to start production?
Week 8

This was achieved.

35. Given your production start date, have you already booked any technical equipment you need?
I have gotten equipment hire forms and have filled them out, I will get them signed in the Week 5 tutorial. Until I confirm dates for the interview with the Master I can’t lock in that particular date. But I will hire them for a day in Week 8, and tentatively for Tuesday in Week 9.

Got them signed a little later. But ran into no difficulty with hiring equipment.

36. How do these dates work in with assessment deadlines from other courses?
Communication Revolutions: Essay due Week 5, essay due Week 10,
Research: Blogs (ongoing), Essay due Week 14, Research assignment Week 8

There are two assignments due while I’ll be filming and editing. I’ll have to make sure I’m organised with these and get them done ideally before their due dates. As I know that filming and editing tend to monopolise my time!

It certainly did monopolise my time to some extent. But I made sure that I had been organised with my other subjects work before I started editing. So there was no big issue for my other classes…just my social life.

37. If you are using talent, does their availability suit your production schedule? The students are quite flexible with their time. Using social networking sites like facebook I’ll be able to easily set up interview times.
The Master will be away until the 27th of April. I have an interview tentatively booked in for the 28th. This is a week after I will have begun production. I will have already interviewed the students by this stage and he will be the only remaining filming to take place.

It was all fine.

Overall I’m quite happy with how everything has turned out. I’ve lots of feedback from a wide range of people. It’s great to have your work “live” online and seeing people’s responses. Lots of work, but a good experience.


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