Documentary Treatment and Visuals

Subject

My grandfather was born on the 25th March 1948 in the city Nadiad which is located in Kheda District, Gujarat, India. He began school up until the 8th Standard at Sonarola High School. However, due to his parents’ small, tailoring business they had to shift to another village. He passed his matriculation exam in 1964 and then joined Nadiad’s College for further study. Unfortunately, after a few months he had to leave college, as his family’s condition became extremely poor. Even though he wanted to study further, financial struggle erupted. His dreams were to become a Chartered Accountant.

He became a typist.

Story/About

“When a human is born on Earth, God always sends them with a purpose…”

The documentary will heavily be about how a simple person’s life began through such struggle and crisis. He had an ambition, but couldn’t study further. Therefore, he had to get a part time job, which included being a Junior Clerk (far from his dream) whilst taking care of his siblings. Yet at one point he managed to turn his life around in a difficult era.

I also want to integrate that personal, family side. Of how he is happy, settled down with his family and has achieved the position of being a Bank manager. The documentary will show this person with a real story of having an ascribed status. Also referencing back to Britain, and how he has a family abroad whom look up to him.

Towards the end, he will recite his quote. As during the point of struggle in his life, he always questioned; “What is my purpose?”

Now his purpose is what defines him.

His journey began with struggle. But ended with happiness. This is the story of a helpless, brave typist who became a hard working bank manager.

Visuals

To begin the documentary, I want to use the airport as an establishing shot. As my granddad comes out of the terminal doors, I want to shoot his and the family’s initial reaction, emphasizing the relationship but also immediately creating that emotional impact. The first shot would be a plane landing, which will gradually fade into his welcoming.

The establishing shot located at the airport will fade into the interview, where my granddad will begin to talk about his story.

In terms of visuals, I have a few ideas of the types of shots I could use to match his dialogue. I would definitely integrate old and new photographs of himself younger, with his family, his wedding. Moreover, I could use a slow panning shot on a sentence or two of the letter he sent me. This would heavily make those words stronger and create a memorable visual.

With reference on the personal family aspect, I may use Skype to show the distant family relationship. As well as this I will play around with some family panning shots, showing us gathererd around the living room looking at his photographs. Also, I could use shots of me and my sister with my Grandfather, simply spending time with him. These shots may be of him telling us his past stories or simply us sitting beside him looking at photographs.image1

Since, my Grandfather’s story is mainly based around India and the locations based there, it would be quite difficult to capture those aspects. Having said that, I have decided to use shot of him at the park, sitting on the bench, walking, panning shots of him thinking and several close ups. This would portray him emotion, thoughtfully capturing his persona but also give an interesting visual to the film.

Visually I want the documentary to be quite calm, slow paced with several close ups, medium long shots and pans. Therefore the film will mainly be focused on the interview with fading in transitions of these visuals mentioned above, where appropriate.

In terms of setting the soft mood and pace, I will use orange/warm lighting to lit the subject and the room. I am planning to shoot the interview in the living room, as this conveys a family ambience but also seems relaxing. In the frame I may include some objects which are out of focus, for example a family photo frame or a clock to represent time, hence complimenting the title.

Below is a short 30 second clip filled with various photographs of my Grandfather.

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5 thoughts on “Documentary Treatment and Visuals

  1. Meera,
    I have been through all your blog posts, some excellent stuff here. In terms of the P2P on your Grandfather you have a great story, character and visuals. Altogether you are really engaging well on this project. You have outlined some of the visual content which is good but what is the overall visual style? I need to get a sense of location, lighting, audio, pacing. You mention mood music but the piece should do without it. Try to avoid illustrating what he is saying (i.e he was a typist you show him typing) this is to literal. If you have a rich source of personal photographs then use them. The idea of the letters is a good one. Will we see a shot of you and him together?

    Covering a lifetime in 3 minutes is a challenge so do not try to fit too much in, better to tell a few tales well than cram in a lot of information. Look at it as a visual mood piece rather than a biography.

    1. Hi Ken,

      Thank you very much for having a read of my posts, I am glad you like them. With the Documentary we are all set for shooting the interview scene tomorrow. My idea was to shoot in my house, in the living room. However, he will be placed in front of a white backdrop, therefore nothing will be in the frame except for him. I was struggling with locations as I wanted somewhere which reinforced his personality. (Of course if I was in India, then location would be easier) Having said that, thats why I decided to choose a white backdrop connoting simplicity. However is this too simple? I keep asking myself. Maybe If I shot him in the kitchen, against a light blue wall, sitting on a leather sofa be better? Or in my garden on the bench?

      In terms of lighting, we have decided to have two bright white lights and a reflector. I also have at home a large orange/warm light (which we are going to test on the day to see if it works).

      Yes, I completely agree with you on the fact that illustrating his narration would be too obvious. Therefore, visually I am definitely going to use strong photographs. I am also going to shoot short clips of him walking in the park, standing in the middle of the bridge and sitting on a bench. These shots will visually make the documentary more interesting and will fade in and out from time to time.

      I did manage to get a few videos of him coming out of the airport doors with his suitcases, as well as me and my sister hugging him and smiling (representing reunion). You mentioned whether I and him will be a shot together. Well I had a few ideas, one being that it begins with the airport, fading into the interview and ending with a slow pan revealing me and my sister sitting beside/near him (suggesting how he is telling us his story). This would end with me and my sister (or just me) going up to him and looking through his photographs, pointing and smiling – which soon blurs out and finishes.

      I really want to make this documentary compelling and heart-touching. He has an amazing story, and even whilst he’s here he always just sits down and starts telling the family past stories.

      Lastly, I was going to do the documentary in English. His English is good, but a little broken. Though this may make the story more interesting. Moreover,I was also going to shoot the interview again in Gujarati (using subtitles), as he speaks more fluent in that language, plus I wanted two copies of the film. Do you think that English would be better or Gujarati?

      Thanks Ken for giving me some advice!

      1. Meera,

        Just a quick response as I am going through 77 blogs!

        No no no to the white sheet. Its cold, too much contrast and unreal. The living room will be fine if the lighting is moody enough.

        Outside interview – you will have audio problems (ie birds, traffic, planes) and it is not intimate.

        Of course Gujarati would be better if he is more comfortable.

        The idea of the photos and you and your sister is a good one.

        Good luck!

  2. Meera,

    I am reposting this from our emails as its an important question you asked that is relevant to all and worth reading:

    Hi Ken,

    Just a quick question. For the documentary would you recommend the interviewee/subject looking directly at the camera or slightly off screen? I was initially going to do it directly looking at the camera, however after research, a few articles and blogs state that having them look off screen is better. On the other hand, some say directly at the screen creates a more personal view. I’m quite confused.

    Regards

    Meera

    Meera

    who ever is asking questions needs to have the cheek of their face touching the camera lens so that the interviewee looks ever so slightly off camera. in this way he does not return the viewers gaze but we see the life in his eyes.

    Ken Fero

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