Risk assessments

As i will be filming abroad in Dubai, as well as in various locations around London, I have devised a risk assessment plan in order to attempt to overcome any possible threats to my project.

Firstly, as my project relies on the information given on behalf of real situations-experienced by real people, it is vital that I arrange a set time and location with the actors. I have chosen three locations to interview the subjects of my documentary, all in their own homes. They have all given their consent to this and have given my dates in which I can film them. I found that it was best to plan this as early as possible in order to decrease the risk of them overbooking or incase they had other plans to attend to. One main problem which I have faced very early on is that two of my main subjects will actually be in a foreign country until the 20th of April, meaning I will have to put their filming on hold until then. However I am able to film a number of scenes before hand, meaning I will have the majority of my content hopefully edited by this point. Essentially the interviewee’s responses shape the narrative, therefore I am massively depending on their availability to construct my documentaries intention.

Locations

I will be filming primarily in North London- Palmers Green, East Finchley and Whetstone. These are all areas in which my interviewees live. I want to film partly in their houses as I want the audience to acknowledge the cultural differences in regards to their sense of style. My grandmothers house is quite traditionally middle eastern looking, where as my mothers is extremely modern. The interior design visually reflects many aspects of themselves, from the era they were born in, where they grew up etc. This gives the provides the audience with another dimension to the interviewee’s life, providing the audience with a better understanding of their culture. I will also be filming some transition shots of the Iranian New Year event on the 21st of March, in order to capture the large Iranian community in London. I have spoken to the event manager and he said he was more than happy to film. Initially I was thinking about interviewing a variety of people to see how many different opinions I could receive, however then I decided just to stick to my brief and follow one family. I think it makes it more intimate situation, as I hope for the audience to develop a sense of empathy towards the interviewees and the family as a whole. Therefore I will only be shooting shots such as the community socialising, including my mother who will be attending. My aim is present this documentary as natural as possible, similar to Clare Levy’s Across Still Waters. Clare filmed her subjects participating in ordinary everyday routines such as walking the dog, eating dinner, at the pub, whilst having conversations relevant to the topic of Retinis Pigmentosa. I have thought about some shots which I feel would capture the culture and routines of the families life such as: cooking meals together, sitting on the sofa debating, talking in the garden. This scenery would be suitable for the demonstrating the reality of their everyday life.

Equipment wise, I will be needing a cannon 700d DSLR, a tripod, a Tascam microphone and potentially a steadycam frame. My filming will be shot on the DSLR, however I have a feeling that I may need to hire out two cameras and tripods as in Across Still Water, many of the scenes alternated from different angles. I liked this effect as it managed to include all subjects in the scene, making it feel like the audience was looking at one person to the other. It feels more inclusive and adds to the ‘window into a world’ effect, as if the audience are inspecting or eavesdropping into a conversation.  One problem I may face is transporting the equipment from London to Dubai. I assume I will be able to check them into a suitcase however in terms of renting equipment out from university, Im not sure about their policy regarding filming abroad therefore I need to arrange an alternative option If I am not able to take them. I do have friends with DSLR cameras who would be ok with letting me borrow it, its just the tripod and Tascam which are crucial to both the audio and the framing of my documentary.

Overall, I think that I have arranged specific events quite early into the project therefore I should be ok with filming my desired footage. But people can be unreliable so the only scene I would not be able to re-film would be the Iranian New Year event. Whereas with my family, if I need to reshoot some footage, I can ask them to take 2 on the spot- as they would have agreed to dedicate a certain amount of their time to my project.

Initial Documentary Topic

As part my Dissertation module, for the last few months I have been researching the Iranian revolution of 1979, when the Shah was overthrown my extremist Islamic leader Ayatollah Khomeini. My dissertation focuses specifically on how women are using the internet as a platform for women’s rights activism, since the country began abiding by Islamic laws written in the Quran. In order to understand modern day Iranian culture, it was imperative to my research to explore the origins of where it rooted from. Since reading about the 1979 uprising’s of campaigns and protests against the Shah, by the Iranian people-and discovering the consequences of these demonstrations of what they thought would positively reform the country, has made me want to explore personal accounts of people who lived through the revolution.

Being half Iranian myself, has sparked my interest towards this topic. Reading books and memoirs which recite personal events during the revolution such as ‘Iran Awakening’ by human rights activist and Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, has not only taught me about my countries heritage and history (which I was previously not as aware of) but also inspired me to speak to my family about their experiences.

My mother was born in 1962 and was the second older out of four children. All her siblings were born and grew up in Tehran, the capital of Iran- until 1979 when her and her eldest sister were sent to a boarding school in England.

A brief history of Iran 1953-1979

Until 1979, during the reign of the Pahlavi family, more specifically when Mohammad Reza Shah was appointed by the USA and UK as the ruler of Iran in 1967 during a coup d’etat overthrowing Mosaddeq, as he had nationalised the oil industry in Iran, rather than in the hands of Britain and the USA. From this day forwards the Shah would be nicknamed the ‘Puppet of the west’.  The Shah introduced a development programme called the ‘White revolution’ which aimed to modernise Iran, for example roads, aeroplanes, education- however he was criticized for transforming Iran into an increasingly westernised country by inheriting western culture from America.

Although the reformations were supposed to increase his followers ands strengthen the his countries support, it was clear that the Iranian citizens public interest was not his priority. Many Iranians became increasingly frustrated with him as they felt as if he was neglecting their needs, especially the lower class. One particular event which outraged people was the celebration held in Persepolis in 1971 which commemorated 2500 of the Pahlavi family reign. This excessively extravagant event costing $40 million aggravated Iranian citizens as it undermined poverty, unemployment and homelessness which were very prominent problems in society at the time. Iranian wanted a new leader who would actually acknowledge the needs of Iranian citizens and society, instead of abiding to the orders of the West to keep them happy. In 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini, with sweeping support (over 10,000 people on the streets) overtook the Shah’s role as leader of Iran. From books such as ‘The return of Ayatollah Khomeini’ and ‘Iran The Illusion of Power’ it seems that there was no other opposition. Shirin Ebadi said that although she was anti-Shah, before she knew it she was pro-Khomeini without even realising it. As Khomeini was the only opposition, Iranian people sided with him- under the false pre-intentions.

During Khomeini’s deportation from 1977, he published a book named the ‘The Liberation of Means and Islamic Government’ in which he denounced any government in the muslim world which did not strictly obey the Quran- and the ruler being a tyrant. Heikal has presented Khomeinis ideals in his book ‘The Return of the Ayatollah’:

  1. Takhiliya: getting rid of the obsolete ideas and practices and Tahliya- the sweetening process, adding of new things
  2. Introduction of Faqaha: an islamic jurisprudence and Islamic law
  3. Imams: An islamic leadership position- the worshiping of leaders of mosques to replace government officials.

Heikal has argued that Khomeini was the right person at the right time, saying the right things, stating it was a ‘revolution for democracy, against autocracy, led by theocracy, made possible by xerocracy’ (139p)

In the years to come, Iranian citizens had began to realise how mislead they had been during the revolution by Khomeini’s objectives for the country. With the enforcement of the Islamic law, many women realised that many of their rights in society had been revoked, such as singing/ dancing in public, equal rights to men, the veiling of women. Khomeini was far more anti-west than anyone has expected, therefore cutting ties with America and England was a priority, thus leading to beginning of many sanctions imposed against Iran.

From my famillies point of you, over the years I have gathered from multiple discussions regarding this time period, that their main objective was to leave Iran as soon as possible. However due to hostile relationships between the west and Iran, it was extremely difficult for them to get Visa’s to leave. My Grandmother and her two youngest children essentially travelled to anywhere country that would issue them a visa, in the hope to get in England, whilst my Grandfather was still in Iran attempting to leave. Living in a variety of foreign territories for months at a time, not knowing the language, being exposed to drastically different cultures- whilst two of their children were alone in England, was an extremely stressful and daunting time for my Grandparents. Leaving their whole life behind in Iran- family, friends, jobs in a bid to escape the oppressive regime that they had though would positively reform the country.

Fast forward 37 years, and all the children have successful jobs and are living comfortably in different areas around the world. In my documentary I want to explore the different routes all the different children took since leaving Iran. I want to create an observational documentary which visually presents the memoirs of the family members. I think it would be interesting to compare the different paths all four children and the parents took since escaping Iran, and exploring their opinions towards the period of the revolution.

First Post of 2nd Project: Across Still Water

Last term, the class had a guest speaker come in and discuss future career options, relevant to our degree. Claire Levey- producer of award winning documentary Across Still Water, presented some of the work she had produced or been a part of producing. Claire has worked in a variety of different roles as well as different television shows, varying from Wife Swap to Life Proof (a documentary focusing on a serious relationship between two teenagers in a wheelchair). Across Still Water was the final and apparently the most successful film she showed us. The documentary explores the story of man living with Retinitis Pigmentosa- a degenerative eye disease which eventually leads to complete loss of sight. John (suffering from Retinitis Pigmentosa) has a passion for night fishing, however with the deterioration of his sight, he is forced to make some serious changes in his life in order to remain safe.

The documentary is filled with many aesthetic shots of the dark lakes in which they fish in, which are a direct metaphor to the audience of how limited John’s sight is. Other than the beautiful shots of scenery, one of my main admirations of the documentary was the way in which the interviews were styled. The clips where information was projected to the audience, were coordinated in a way which appeared to the audience as if they were listening in to a private conversation. Therefore no direct talking into the camera or hearing the producer asking the interviewee’s question, it felt extremely intimate. Although the conversations included in the documentary looked very natural, Clarie did stress that much effort went into devising specific questions to ask in order to extract the maximum amount of information from the interviewee’s. Thus verbal prompts were necessary to achieve the ‘un-staged’ atmosphere. Additionally, the editing of material made the story line clear for the audience- positioning all the footage of these naturally styled clips in a certain way which clearly presents the objective of the documentary, exhibiting or evening accompanying John through his personal journey of coming to terms with his disease.

As an observational documentary, Across Still Waters did not completely follow the conventional observational documentary which usually include voice overs, music etc, however in terms of creating a sense of intimacy and feeling as if you are peeping in on someones life- a window into a world, it definitely ticks all the boxes.

The foundations of Claire’s works are extremely inspiring as they all raise awareness to modern day issues in society, which don’t necessarily have enough coverage on broadcasted television.

I was always certain that for my final intensive production piece I would produce a documentary, but I was unsure what style I would like to film it. Now I have seen Across Still Water, I am certain that observational is the best way for me as I wanted to stay clear of the conventional interviewee looking directly into the camera talking and informing the audience method. I will definitely be framing the informative footage in a similar to Claire, as I love how subtle yet effective they are in informing the audience.