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.