Summarizing the process of my project

Since completing my project, I feel like I have faced some difficulties along the way although I do think I have managed to convey some key themes which I have theorised in my original intentions for my film. Generally, I would say that filming this alone has been one of the biggest difficulties, as initially I wanted the film to be quite visually stimulating. However working alone has meant that I was limited in capturing a variations of shots- within the interviews and the transitional/location shots. Despite this problem, I have realised that my documentary is more of an informative film rather than visually aesthetic. I am aware that the interview scenes may consume maybe too much of the film, however I do feel that they are necessary and quite vital in terms of the audiences contextual understanding of the documentaries storyline. Another concern of mine is the consistency of the sound volume and quality. Because I intended to gather the majority of the information from the interview footage, when I wanted to overlay sound with some transitional clips, it was quite difficult to extract valuable parts of information without other members of the family making a comment or some kind of sound in response to it. Therefore the manipulation of sound was quite tricky, in terms of eliminating background sound to make a some sentences flow and sound clear.

For sound I used Adobe Audition, which I had never used before to achieve clarity within the sound and reduce background noise. Audition- a software which is specifically designed for sound manipulation allowed me to effectively reduce background room noise, in a much more noticeable way that the Premier sound effects. Although as a result of this sound reduction, which was crucial to the quality of my sound due to a constant ringing in the background (maybe a kitchen appliance), sometime the interviewee’s vocals went slightly tinny or echoey. I do think that it does sound better than the previous original Tascam clips, which sounded quite muffled and slightly distorted.

In terms of presenting my project, I initially wanted to put it on Vimeo and create a website with some background information so the views gain a more in depth understanding about the narrative. However due to the content regarding the political status of Iran, my family specifically asked to me to keep the video private and to not broadcast it online as they feel that it may prevent their ability to travel to Iran, in the future. The information they provided was not aggressively critical, yet it could be interpreted as anti-regime on behalf of Iranian officials, therefore I do not want to jeopardise their safety by posting it online. Due to the export settings for a DVD format, the video has lost some quality, therefore I will also be sending it as a Onedrive file (which is much is higher quality)to the the module leader Nigel Newbutt so that the examiners can download the file. Not only is the quality better with the HDM settings, but also the DVD tends to lag sometimes- which isn’t a post production error but a technical error involving the speed reading of the dvd on the computer.

The name Rooted in Memories: What Was Once My Home, derives from the themes of belonging through recalling memories of what Iran used to be, and the confusion of what someone can call home, if they are basing it on a past society which no longer exists. Home- for diasporic people is usually a place of security and comfort, in which they their mother culture can be protected. Thus the definition of home can be understood as quite a emotionally conflicting term for them, regarding how they intend to perceive their national.

Overall, I feel that I have created a documentary which fits within the framework of accented documentary/film, exploring emotions which link to diasporaic people, such as displacement, belonging, ‘situatedness’ and cultural milieu. The structure I have created throughout post production has narrowed down an hour and a half’s worth of information/conversation in order to demonstrates theses themes in the most direct and informative way within the 9 minutes of film. Although I have slightly strayed away from framing it exactly like Across Still Waters, which is purely a naturalistic observatory documentary, I found it extremely difficult to work alone and achieve this. The lost footage played a large role in this adaptation of documentary narrative, as I could not replace the interview footage shot in Dubai, after leaving. Thus found footage was an integral part in disguising this loss. Mainly, I am pleased with the extent in which it informs the audience about Iranian history and culture, which I was told during the feedback sessions.

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Feedback session

Since exhibiting my project at the Arnolfini, I received some constructive criticism which I have acknowledged in order to progress my work. I devised some question for the observes, drawing on some key features of my documentary to find out if I am fulfilling my intentions. Such as:

-Is it clear the reason why they left Iran?

-Is it difficult to keep up with the subtitles?

-Do you understand the family relations?

-Is it visually pleasing? Do the interviews go on for too long?

-What themes do you pick up from the storyline?

The general consensus was that it was easy to understand, and people were quite shocked by some of the information given in the interview footage- which I was pleased about as I aimed to evoke that emotion through the methods of surprise. Although some people said that the interviews went on for slightly too long, which I was concerned about. Therefore I will be filtering the interview footage further in order to stay on track with the narrative, in way which is straight to the point. Audio levels seemed to be the most common comment, in terms of needing to balance it as apparently it jumps from quiet to loud consistently throughout the film. I was actually leaving sound and colour correction levels as the final part of my post production process, as I did not want to waste time doing it along the way, if I was going to have to cut things out. I will be adjusting the levels of the sounds and colour at the very final stage of editing. In terms of it being visually pleasing, I received some comments regarding how I decided to split up the interview footage, with clips of relevance to the conversation. Including visual aids to the interview audio to visually stimulate the audiences understanding of the experiences they went through. Furthermore I am extremely pleased with my decision to include found footage in the film, as people responded very well to it and may actually include more as I still feel it lacks variation within some sections of the interviews.

One person picked up on the speed of the subtitles, saying that it was hard to follow both the visuals and read the subtitles due to the pace in which the interviewees are speaking. Unfortunately there is not much I can change about that, but perhaps when I eliminate some footage which isn’t vital to the telling of the story, it will provide more time for people to acknowledge the videos as I will be decreasing the amount of interview time. Lastly, some people were asking questions about the relations of the family. Therefore I think that I will include names and family relations to one another in the initial scene, so that people understand the links.

The audiences age range was quite broad, therefore the feedback I received were from both people of that generation who remember it being reported on the news, along with a younger generation who were unaware of the entire situation. However both responses seemed agree that It was interested insight to an insiders perspective, as although it is a reasonably old event, it is fascinating to view how it still effects people all these years later. I was very pleased with this response as that was my intention, to use my documentary as an outlet which informs and educates the audience about the historical movement has effected the families national identity and how the cultural shift has shaped who they are today.

The use of subtitles

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Due to the lack of the ability to speak English, my grandparents spoke in Farsi throughout the interviews, leading to the majority of the interview conversation audio spoken in Farsi. By everyone speaking Farsi enabled my grandparents- who have the most knowledge about the Iranian Islamic revolution of 1979, to participate in conversations in which they could express their opinions and perspective towards the situations they faced as a result. I was always aware of the possibility that the interviews maybe spoken in their first language, which I admired as it conveys a sense of authenticity, adding to to the cultural divide which they experience living in a western society. Furthermore subtitles will be a key feature in my documentary, as Nancy Kalow has highlighted the importance of subtitles in strengthening the bond between the audience and the onscreen subjects, ‘This is true even if a speaker of another language needs subtitles, which are superior to audio dubbing that was typical in the condescending educational documentaries of the past. Many people who watch documentary videos are interested in hearing actual voices and expressions, and they are comfortable reading subtitles’. (Kalow, 2011). Some problems I have encountered since transcribing the interviews from Farsi to English, is that the speed of the interviewee’s conversation is quite fast and therefore the subtitles appear quite quickly meaning that the viewer may be more focused on the subtitles instead of the actual visuals onscreen. However this problem cannot really be fixed, as I cannot slow down the speed of the video, therefore I have decided to really limit the interviews down to the most interesting clips which the audience can extract the maximum amount of information from. By eliminating the footage which tends to potentially go off tangent or perhaps expand or repeat a comment already made, gives the audience more time to actually view and appreciate the framing. The combination of visuals and sound are crucial to the connection that audience builds with the character, furthermore the each element is equally as important as the other in contributing a portraying their personas. Therefore if on is more prevalent that the other, the onscreen character lacks a wholesome representation, leading to the weak connection and interest on the audiences behalf.

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Transcribing the interview’s was quite time consuming, however it massively helped me in the organisation of audio and camera files, whilst helping me to determine what audio was most valuable to my narrative. Having the entire interview typed up- with the file names and times, instead of attempting to memorise certain parts from the Tascam file, allowed me to efficiently link the camera footage with the audio footage and visually review the strongest information provided in the interview. As my aim with the audio was to condense the 80 minutes of interview into around 8 minutes, the visual documentation made it simple to decide what was most beneficial sections were, in order for the audience to understand what the historical, cultural and social situation of the interviewee’s, in the most direct and concise way. However this strategy also had some cons when aligned with footage. Audio manipulation to achieve this furthermore disrupted the continuity of the footage, entailing quite obvious jump cut edits. Although the benefits of shooting off two camera’s enabled me to supplement other footage of the opposite sit of the sofa, presenting reaction shots to cut up the difference in shots. Generally, I feel that using subtitles contributes to the storyline of my documentary or cultural preservation and national identity, in foreign territories, as Egoyan and Balfor argue that ‘the idea of subtitles animates discussions of translation, otherness, representation, national identity and the tasks of cultural interpretation’ (Egoyan and Balfour,, 2004, p.24).

References
Kalow, N. (2011) Visual storytelling the digital video documentary the center for documentary studies at duke university. Available at: https://documentarystudies.duke.edu/uploads/media_items/visual-storytelling-the-digital-video-documentary.original.pdf (Accessed: 8 May 2016).
Egoyan, A. and Balfour, I. (eds.) (2004) Subtitles: On the foreignness of film. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.