Shot In The Dark is a Netflix reality/documentary series that I recently watched. The series follows three groups of stringers competing to get the best footage of the nights biggest news story to be used on news stations the next day. While watching the series it really just outlined to me how far technology has progressed the media industry.
For the majority of history, an event would happen, reporters would hear about it, turn up to the scene, and the reports would always be retrospective. Unless the event was unfolding over a long period of time, or it was planned, then video coverage of the event would usually be quite scarce. The widespread introduction of cell phones with cameras meant that more events could now be caught on camera, however all obviously of amateur quality. In this series, the three media groups have their own police scanner and can therefore get to the scene of a crime or incident at the same time or sometimes even before the authorities. They arrive with their high-tech equipment and record the event to a high standard to then sell to news stations.
Initially, I was sat there watching the main characters listening to reports of a shooting or a car crash and being elated by the news and rushing to the scene, and I felt a bit uncomfortable that they seemed to be profiting from other people’s pain. On top of that was the fact that these were the stories that were going to be headline news in the morning, and hence stations would pay more for the footage. I felt almost embarrassed as a consumer to be sat there observing how these shots are obtained. Watching the news, we are always looking from the perspective of the camera, and do not stop to think whether the camera man is potentially exploiting this person’s pain, or in fact deteriorating the situation rather than helping.
However, as the series progressed, I became less disapproving of the stringers as their point of view was put forward. One of them stated how there was a need for this kind of news coverage and that they do not enjoy bad things happening, but they are filling an empty gap in society. He compared himself to the police, ambulance and fire services in that they do not want bad things to happen, however there is no escaping the fact that they do, and without these bad things they would be out of a job. From this perspective, their job seemed a lot more reasonable, although I did feel that selling the footage was exploiting the victim’s pain.
However, once again, this side of my concern was also put to bed when I really sat and thought about the position that they were in. We live in a world where people want news instantly. We have the technology for it, and therefore consumers expect nothing less. On top of that, without visual coverage of a news story, audiences get bored. Consequently, careers are being made out of events that would have otherwise simply been a loss all round. In that sense, 21st Century technology was providing these stringers with a means to bring in money for their families.
One poignant part of the series was a really bad crash that unfolded in front of one of the stringers. It was the middle of the night, and he received a report through the police scanner that a car had stalled on the fast lane of a motorway, but that the driver had gotten out. This is obviously a major hazard and a crash was extremely likely, so he went straight to the scene. He starts recording, and sure enough cars marginally miss the car, hitting things like the wing mirror. Then, the car’s lights go out, so now it is a very literal representation of a sitting duck. Low and behold, a few seconds later, another car crashes into the back of it and flames are everywhere. Here is where I gained respect for the stringers and stopped viewing them as people exploiting pain. He runs over to the burning car, with camera still in hand, but then realises that there was actually someone sat in the car the whole time. The documentary maker is obviously keen to capture the event, but both the stringer and the film maker put their cameras down (but still recording) to drag the man out of the flames. Once the man is safe the documentary man continues to film the burning car and public services arriving, while the stringer doesn’t film anything, losing his night’s wages in order to save the victim’s life. Here it is evident that although we are living in a media saturated world where instantaneous media continues to become a greater part of our everyday lives, we are not defined by what we see on our screens, nor are we secondary to our representations. We are still human beings with compassion and care for other humans, despite the constant bombardment of messages stating otherwise that we receive on a day-to-day basis.
Above is my homepage. Ideally the boundaries of the pictures would be the the boundaries of the user’s screen. Therefore, the quote page will not be shown immediately and only be revealed as users scroll down. Likewise with the Support the film and Get involved page. I have kept the front page very simplistic but wish to incise viewers with the stills of cinematography that I will be using behind the text. There is potentially room for another ‘page’ on the home page, possibly linking to amphibian websites or scientist research, however I do not want to provide viewers with so much information that there is no point in them watching the film.
At the top of the screen, not just the top of the page, would be a drop down menu bar in a 50% transparent black with the same font of white text as had been used throughout. Having the black bar slightly transparent instead of opaque means that it does not look detached from the rest of the page, and links in with the poster style of a slightly transparent frog in water.
The ‘About’ page has two sections to it, the first being a short summary of the film, and the second being a list of those involved in the film. The description of the film will be in a relatively large font compared to most synopsises due to the films length being only five minutes. Therefore I want to give away less information as there is only so much that I can fit into the five minute time frame. The second part with the role titles and names is to remove a layer of detachedness between us and the audience. As this is a documentary that I want people to watch and be inspired to help and get involved, I do not feel like placing the film on a pedestal and hiding behind it would be the most effective way to engage audiences. As it is my film, I have done the majority of the work, but I have had help from a few friends in editing and filming and therefore feel they deserve recognition in this part of the site.
The ‘Watch’ page of the website is very very simplistic. A link to the films youtube page will be embedded in the centre of the page, with the option to make it full screen. I feel as though it would be more aesthetically pleasing for viewers if there were less clutter around the video, and use other pages on the side to get additional information.
My final page is a ‘Contact’ page. As mentioned before, I feel it would be beneficial for viewers to have the option to get in touch to discuss any points further. I have also kept this page very simplistic as I do not feel a contact sheet requires many many sections.
Having the ‘Watch’ page as the third page on the site is important to me with my documentary genre. I want viewers to feel as though the film is one part of a much larger issue. Additionally, being a documentary and speaking directly to the audience, viewers are aware of the media they are engaging in, and therefore
I really really enjoyed this documentary about Edward Snowden and the massive data leak of 2013. Even without the documentary, this subject was very interesting to me as it really revealed just how much our governments use data and played into George Orwell’s ‘big brother’ type scenario. However, the documentary laid a different layer onto the story, and that is the actual personality of Edward Snowden and his opinion of it. It is quite easy to read details of the leak and automatically call him a criminal, but the documentary films Snowden over 8 days of releasing the data, quite objectively, and from this the audience can form their own opinion. Some see him as a hero, opening people’s eyes to the enormity of the power of technology that surrounds them, while others would take away that he is a criminal responsible for the endangerment of many many lives.
One aspect of the documentary that I found compelling was the very basic editing and shot types used throughout. The subject of the film was so unique in its content that they did not require special editing techniques or flashy images to intrigue the viewer, simply the story and a couple of cameras were enough to get the film a nomination for the Best Documentary Academy Award. this element was very impressive, particularly as the visuals of the film are not that engaging either, with the majority of the film set in a single hotel room.
Another interesting part of the documentary was its potential to create moral panic. This is a concept that I wish to explore in some depth in my documentary as I feel this would add extra punch to my message. Again, it is quite impressive how such a simplistically filmed documentary has the power to endorse such feelings in millions of people.
The music used at the start of the trailer with the tracking shot inside a tunnel has inspired me to use a similar style of ambient low pitched hum for the start of my film. I feel it has a lot more of a profound effect than silence in this instance and feel it could work equally as well with the black screen and white text shots at the beginning of my documentary.
For the poster I have gone for a very simplistic but representative piece.
I continued to gather footage for my documentary, both vital footage as well as additional filler shots. Overall I am very happy with my footage and feel I have a strong amount to complete the film. There are some shots that I already feel like I want to re-shoot before handing in the final product, but for the moment, I have all of the essential footage and can now focus on editing.
Twitter user @melsil raised an excellent point about the portrayal of Amazon Warriors in Wonder Woman and Justice League. The left was directed and styled by women, while the right was directed and styled by men. This has lead to Melissa Silverstein using the costumes as an example of how the male gaze can effect films. Evidently, the warriors on the left are much more modestly covered in comparison to the warriors on the right. This is something that effects media so much of the time, as the majority of media is created by men, but it is only when we see a male and female construction side-by-side that people realize how differently women are portrayed. This element of media is not so prevalent in my product as it only has one on-screen human, who is not someone to be portrayed as I would like as if they were a fictional character fitting into my ideas of gender representation. However, as my herpetologist is male I do feel that having a female narrator will be effective at leveling out the different voice types, to avoid both voices sounding the same and blurring into one long noise.
With the Amazon Warriors, it was pointed out that they are only dressed like that in flashback scenes, and that the ‘present day’ warriors in the film are dressed more like those represented in Wonder Woman. This gives me some sort of hope that even through the male gaze, women can be depicted in a non-sexual manner.
To further visualize my film, I have created an animatic. This was extremely useful as it allowed for me to really picture what my final product may actually look and sound like, rather than just being words on paper. From making this animatic I have realized a few things:
- I need more filler shots
- All of the shots work, however in some areas it would be beneficial to the excitability of the piece if I had two 2-second shots in some places, rather than one 4-second shot.
- The order of sections could be optimised
- Towards the end of the film I state how one-third of amphibians are threatened and 50% of Europe’s amphibians could be extinct by 2050, however I felt it was a little out of place and would be better suited towards the start of the film.
- Its shorter than I thought
- Although I stuck to the shot list as thoroughly as possible, sometimes there was not enough narration to fill the gap, and therefore to avoid any awkward lingering, I had to shorten the shots. This brought my piece closer to 4 minutes as opposed to 5.
- The emphasis on certain words is important
- Although I have graphs and visuals to help with my audience’s understanding of certain elements, I have realized that I will need to direct my voice-actor specifically rather than simply trusting them to do a good job. This is because in places it can be a bit wordy, and if they are not clearly distinguished between then for the viewer they all tend to merge into one boring sound.