Script 2

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I have now compiled a script that is something detailed enough for me to make a storyboard from, and then eventually the final film. Having decided what questions I want to ask the herpetologist, it was easier to decide what footage would fit certain sections. Furthermore, I decided what specific narration would create the biggest impact on the audience. This may still need some tweaking in order to create the most effective audio possible but at the moment I am happy with the current outline of the film.

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Dove Advert

Recently I came across a lot of angry twitter users that were posting about a recent advert that Dove released on Facebook. The advert appeared to show a black woman turning into a white woman, and historically this concept has been used to portray black people as dirty that can be transformed into white people if they scrub it away.

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Knowing that Dove had been called out before for racist remarks such as branding for their products to be for ‘normal to dark skin’, I blindly followed the idea that this was another marketing disaster by Dove. However, it was then risen by another twitter user that the full video was in fact not racist, but as Dove had already taken it down, people were only seeing the main screenshot of the first two models being circulated.

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After discovering this, I realised that I had made a judgement without knowing the full story and felt that this was a clear example of the power of social media. Although I feel that Dove could have done some very basic research and questioned whether having a black woman turn into a white woman was the best idea, I do not feel that any indication of white superiority was given off by the piece in its entirety.

I feel that this is an element of society that has become and will continue to become more and more prevalent and it is important that we are sure of the whole picture before making assumptions about situations or events.

Test Shots: Cotswold Wildlife Park

At the weekend I went to the Cotswold Wildlife Park as their website stated that they had a good collection of various amphibian species. I used this as an opportunity to see what kind of footage I would be able to acquire without special access, and how easy it might be to capture a still shot of a frog for long periods of time.

The filming was rather difficult as most of the amphibians were behind glass, and therefore the shots had reflections in them. However, when holding a shot for an extended period of time, there was generally a good amount of movement, so hopefully I can input any frog actions that I may want, and by over-filming, I will be able to acquire at least one shot of my desired movement.

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Above are stills from some of the shots that I took. As it is clear to see, the reflections in the glass really draw all of the viewers attention away from the frogs. This is something that I really need to fix for my final product so that it looks as professional as possible. When filming for the real film I will need to request special access to amphibians so as to hopefully not get a reflection of myself in the glass. However, as an initial exploration of the logistics of the film, it went quite well.

Script

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I have researched layouts for scripts for documentaries, and they adopt a slightly different style to most film scripts. The most common layout I observed was a table layout, clearly indicating the time, visual and audio.

I have made a very rough first draft of a script including some of the main ideas I want to include in my film. At the moment the main elements that need some work are the details of shot types/content and the length. This is something I am going to explore and see what different ways I can improve in these areas.

Documentary Interviews

In my documentary I am aiming to get a frog expert or someone who knows a lot about amphibians to have an interview with me. For this I will obviously need to set up the camera effectively so that there is no need to reshoot as they may not be able to. Therefore I have researched different ways that interviews in documentaries are carried out.

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In the above set up, they have various cameras capturing the same footage but from different angles, consequently allowing for them to change between shots in the finished piece to decrease repetition.

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In this next set up, they have two cameras shooting different people, the interviewer and the interviewee. This makes it clear that the interview is a conversation between two people and could be useful if I have a presenter instead of just a narrator. Furthermore, the doctor is in his work attire, immediately outlining to the audience his profession, while the interviewee is dressed smartly, presenting the piece of media as a well established and professional piece of work.

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In this documentary about Russia’s royal family, the setting is visibly grand and ornate with the doorway and walls having gold lining on them. This is a technique used in many documentaries to reinforce the theme of the text even when they are not necessarily on the scene of the action or main events.

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In this film about a wolf sanctuary, they have interviewed the owner in her own territory where she keeps the wolves. This keeps the documentary flowing well and ensures that the interview footage is not detached from the rest of the film.

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The above interview differs slightly from the rest I have looked at for a couple of reasons. The interviewee is not definitively placed in either of the two vertical fringing thirds, and his environment is not specific to either a university or an obviously environmental location. However, as the setting is quite dull, the disaster theme of the documentary is carried through, and emphasis is placed more heavily on the words that he is saying instead of his attire or surroundings.

For my documentary, the location and framing of my interview may be subject to change depending on who the interviewee is and where they work. This may then consequently effect what time of day I need to shoot and how to best acquire good quality sound.

Initial Research Summary

After analysing all of the short films, posters and websites in the documentary genre, there are a few key aspects that I have found were consistent through many of the texts.

The first and most dominant feature is the use of primarily sans-serif fonts. Although serif fonts have been used on occasion, typically the posters, websites or captions adopted a very militant style of font. I believe this is due to the nature of sans-serif fonts being quite minimalistic and devoid of any distracting features. Consequently, the audience’s attention is directed towards the content of the media.

This leads me onto the next thing I found, more predominantly within the actual short films themselves, and that is the decision to ensure that viewers are coherent with the content from start to finish. Although the posters and websites may occasionally be vague or question raising, the documentaries themselves were very clear about the points that they were raising. This is something that I would like to adapt into my own film as I feel that a sense of ambiguity may allow for greater satisfaction or appreciation when the reasons or answers are given.

Finally, the most poignant feature is the parallel between the imagery and narration/text. In the films, if the narrator was talking about the sun, there was a shot of the sun. On the posters, if there was text saying ‘ICE MAN’, there was an image of a man in ice. The websites played extremely well into this feature as their navigation bars allowed for the audience to see exactly what they wish to know, which is always accompanied by other relevant media.

Features which all/most of the documentaries included were:

  • Narration
  • Facts
  • Description of how the situation is bad
  • Description of how viewers can help
  • Rhetorical question
  • Interviews

Overall, I have collected some great ideas from these existing pieces of media, and they have solidified by understanding of the conventions of real media text for the documentary genre. In my film I hope to adopt and adapt all of the above features in order to create a film that is easily recognisable as a documentary, but with its own originality.

Target Audience Research

q1

My first question ‘How old are you?’ was not useful on its own, but rather in relation to the other responses given. As I primarily shared my survey link in my peer group, 93% of the respondents were under 30. Consequently, when analysing the rest of the results it is important to keep in mind that this is the opinion primarily of people under 30. However, this does not make my research any less useful as my previous secondary research showed that this would be my main demographic.

q2

As a documentary is not really swayed towards one gender or tother, this question was largely just for me to get a broader understanding of who was answering my survey. If I were to make a rom-com, then the gender of the respondents may affect what I include in my film, however with a documentary I want to present the facts regardless of who is watching. Obviously it will be aimed at adults as opposed to children, but the content would be largely the same whether the viewer is 18 or 50, male or female.

q3

For this I wanted to get a sense of the level of education that my audience may have. Not for patronising purposes, but to better understand what the audience would find interesting. Someone in education may be watching to learn and expand their knowledge, however someone in full time work may simply enjoy watching documentaries as a hobby.

q4

With this question I was pleasantly surprised with the percentage of people that regularly watch documentaries. 79% of those that took my survey had watched a documentary within the past month. This gives me reassurance in my secondary research that the young adult age group is the primary audience for documentaries.

q5

As a documentary, I am pleased that the respondents have chosen ‘informative’ as the most important documentary quality (55%). I was somewhat surprised that ‘controversial’ was the next most popular with 18%, however in the growing age of social media and access to views and opinions of anyone with an internet connection, it is understandable that a growing amount of audiences want these alternative viewpoints to be explored further.

q6

The respondents ordered the importance of elements in a documentary:

  1. Narrator
  2. Interviews
  3. Statistics
  4. Presenter
  5. Graphs/Graphics

I feel that including a narrator is important to a lot of viewers (7/10) as it allows for the information to be spoon fed to them without them having to read or interpret everything that is shown on screen. This is not a bad feature for a documentary to have as it is important in most documentaries that the audience is kept coherent with the information they are being given. The next two, interviews and statistics, scored quite similarly with 55% and 52% respectively. Having interviews with experts in the field that you are exploring is a very simple way of giving the documentary an authoritative feel as an expert would be deemed as a trustworthy source. Similarly, having statistics is another way of making the film formal and informative, however it is also helpful for the viewer to compare numbers and facts to build a broader understanding in their head.

q7

I was not shocked by the answers to this question, with 85% of all respondents stating that they were not aware of the decline in frog populations. This is quite troubling, however it is beneficial for me as I wanted to create something that had not been explored in great detail yet, so with this being a fairly untouched subject there is a lot of room for me to gather the most important and interesting facts and compile them into an original piece of media.

q8

  • 21: Informative
  • 11: Interesting
  • 9: Boring
  • 3: David Attenborough
  • 3: Factual
  • 2: Fascinating
  • 2: Shocking
  • 49: Other (including):
    • Surprising
    • Conclusive
    • Knowledge Packed
    • Entertaining
    • Trees

The fact that 21 people chose the word informative is really quite clear that people expect a documentary to deliver information. Other popular words such as interesting, factual and fascinating are all aspects that I aim to include in my film. One word that I do not intend to incorporate is ‘boring’ which was the third most used word. I wish to subvert this expectation and make an extraordinarily informative and engaging documentary. I found it interesting that someone answered ‘tree’ as I think it is quite evident that when people think of an environmental documentary, very often they automatically think about trees and the ocean and forget about some of the smaller but just as important elements of the eco-system, such as the frogs.

q9

For this question, I had a few people ask me why I had not included an option saying ‘neither’. However, I did this as I felt that this would be an easy cop-out answer for many people to chose, despite the majority of documentary films being made by men. I carried out some primary research using Rotten Tomatoes’ Top 100 Documentary Movies and analysed 50 of them. From this I found that 31/50 (62%) had a primarily male screen presence, 7/50 (14%) had a primarily female screen presence, and 12/50 (24%) had an even mix of both. Consequently, I feel as though the respondents have answered quite in line with what I would have expected, as the 24% of documentaries with a mixed male/female presence would have been split, bringing the female option up to 26% and the male option up to 73%.

Cowspiracy: Poster

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The poster for Cowspiracy is very simplistic with a single picture and only four words. The close-up image of a cow’s face is an extremely fitting visual for the film’s content. This gives the audience a very clear idea of what the film’s about, as they could have used a still from a scene from the documentary, possibly from an interview or of a burning forest, but instead they have kept it simple and highlighted the primary cause of all of the issues presented in the film, evidently all relating back to the title. Furthermore, this allows for all information in the film to remain uncovered, leaving the audience to question ‘what is the cowspiracy?’. The left hand side of the cow has an exposed image of the earth, seemingly a weather pattern, which is undoubtedly in relation to climate change, as the documentary suggests that cows are largely responsible for it.

The title Cowspiracy is a pun on the word conspiracy and therefore the cow part of the word is in white when the rest of it is orange. As the image is quite dark, the white effectively stands out to ensure that it is legible, similar to the orange which is also a relatively light shade. A similar effect has been used on the tag line below: ‘The sustainability secret’ although in a reverse effect. The word ‘secret’ has been singled out as the only word in orange, informing the audience that the cowspiracy is not known to many, and that by watching the documentary the secret will be uncovered to them.

As well as highlighting the effect that cows have on the climate, the documentary also explores the horrendous way in which cows are treated. This is hinted to with the cow on the poster being behind bars, denoting being in prison. This is what it is like for cows, especially on dairy farms, as they live their entire lives impregnated in order for them to produce milk and never experience the beauty of nature.

 

Target Audience Research

This graph was produced by Participations: Journal of Audience and Receptive Studies as a part of their ‘Roller-coasters and Reality: A Study of Big Screen Documentary Audiences 2002-2007.’

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Although outdated, their data offers quite a clear demographic of the type of people that watch documentaries. The largest age group is the 25-34 range, followed by its two surrounding ranges; 20-24 and 45-54. Surprisingly to me, the teen age range is the second smallest. Rather naively I assumed that as I am a teenager and I watch documentaries that many others like me did as well. This information changes my idea of my target audience as I think I will move the lower boundary up slightly.

Furthermore, their data shows that 90% of the documentary audience were university educated. This is not surprising to me as clever people tend to want to learn and enjoy obtaining knowledge. However, this does mean that my documentary cannot be a blase piece on why frogs are in trouble, it will need to have well researched facts and evidence in order to be interesting for an educated audience.

Of course I am going to conduct my own research to get some primary evidence on my target audience. Some ways I can do this are:

  • Online Survey
  • Focus Group
  • Interview
  • Questionaire

At first I feel an online survey with SurveyMonkey will be able to give me a broad idea on what the general audience for my film could be, as well as finding out what draws people to watch documentaries, if they do so. It will be interesting to find out what elements of documentaries they like, as I can use this and adapt it into my film to make it more appealing. A possibility for a focus group would be getting a documentary of a similar genre to mine and making them watch a part of it. After, I could ask questions about whether they enjoyed it or what they thought could be improved.

In my survey I will use primarily closed questions as this is more easily transferred into a graph and can therefore be viewed quite easily. However, a few open questions will be useful for instances where there is more than just four possible answers to one question. This will allow for my research to have a more personalized approach as well as purely demographic.