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Film it

'Film transforms the way we see the world' - Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

What we see with our eyes isn't the same as what we see through a camera lens.

We cannot pause life, which is a pity at times. Nor can we fast forward or rewind it (again, be handy). We can't turn it black and white. Add more colour. Adjust the crop. Speed it up, or slow it down.

But with film, we can clearly do all those things. We can also tell stories with just a few frames. Sometimes we can find a story in the footage where we didn't even know there was one.

You often hear documentary makers talking about not really knowing what their story was about until after they'd shot their footage. For many that meant being in an edit suite, sifting through the rushes..

That's because film helps us see the world differently. We can pause a fleeting glimpse. Zoom in on a hidden smile. Notice a sly look. Refocus on a background character. Crop in on an important object. There can be a multitude of things that previously seemed inconsequential.

In filmed interviews, people often reveal themselves without realising it - through body language or eye movement. As human beings we're wired to pick up on these visual cues and interpret them, whether the other person wants us to or not.

So when you're stuck, trying to find an idea, make a film about it.. Rest assured, no one needs to see this film.

This can be done a few different ways:

  1. Make a 1-2 minute selfie-documentary, where you speak to the camera about the problem you're trying to solve. Talk about ideas you've had, or read background material out loud, or just say how you feel about the subject matter. This might sound silly. But think of it as a mirror - except one that's capturing what you see, so you can play it back to yourself and observe it objectively.

  2. Film an object that's important to the problem you're trying to solve. Do a voice-over of what you're seeing. Or give the object a voice - what would it say if it could talk? How might it answer back?

  3. If there's a person at the centre of your creative problem, film them if you can, and talk to them about it. Or get someone else to play the role and ask them questions instead.

Now watch your video. Play it back. Slow it down. Pause it at key points. Make it faster. Change anything you want, like the colours or add a filter. Crop the frame. You can do most of these things with a phone camera app.

Whether it's you or another person is in the video, notice everyone's body language. See what words you or they hold on to, what areas get sped past. What do their eyes do, or yours?

You'll be surprised at where your focus goes. It's not to say that the answer you're after will be revealed in glorious Technicolor. But your thinking will probably look a lot different at The End.


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