Factual Programming: Research Log
Extensively looking at examples of the codes and conventions of factual programmes along with the techniques used within a varied number of documentaries has led to the natural conclusion of putting into practice what we have seen into the production of our own documentary. As the subject of this programme is based entirely upon one of our choosing, preliminary concepts were conceived to help generate possible topics to explore. Below are 3 of the strongest ideas;
1) University Life
As we reach a transition period from college education to degree-level, the notion of exploring how an individual deals with that change and the challenges and experiences they face starting this stage in their life. Having a friend move from Birkenhead to Wrexham to pursue a Fine Arts degree would allow me as a film maker to follow her during the beginning of her life at University and discuss issues, with her and those around her, about areas such as moving away and preparing for lectures etc.
2) Chester FC
Focusing on a local interest story led me towards the city’s football club. Not only could local’s opinions be taken about the club, the somewhat turbulent past that saw this phoenix club rise from the ashes of Chester City; thanks to the fans. A home match could be documented as well as trying to secure interviews with figures such as manager Steve Burr and the players.
3) Video Game Industry
Over recent years, this relatively new platform in comparison with films or literature, has become more accepted in popular culture- thanks to advancements in technology and the levels of interaction now possible. There are literally dozens of individual sub-categories that could be investigated including gamers, the commercial aspect and more negative areas like gaming addiction and the preconception that video games promote violence in those who play them.
Deciding to focus on the subject of the video game industry for this documentary, the next stage is to research into areas that will add authenticity and depth to the content and its overall production.
Research takes many forms, especially when dealing with a film project. These aspects include such things as cornerstone facts and figures to storyboards and pre-production schedules to plan shooting. With such a wealth of history and hundreds of individual stories that could be focused upon, a collection of images will be sourced to help generate ideas and hone in on generating a tone for the documentary. From the mind map above, we can see the controversy that games such as The Evil Within and Manhunt have created over the years with the use of extreme violence and continuous connections created between people who play video games and violent tendencies- and in one high-profile case in 2004, Manhunt was blamed for the death of a teenager in Leicester. Lara Croft is also present; representing how females are portrayed in a still male dominated industry. Then we move on to the brighter aspects; from sales figures in comparison with that of Hollywood blockbusters, that is proved by A-list actors such as Kiefer Sutherland associating themselves with upcoming releases, and event exhibitions like E3 which create worldwide interest in companies showcasing their newest products. The research above is taken from the ESRB (Entertainments Software Rating Board), and is a comprehensive overview of some of the statistics associated with those who play them and a run down of some of the industry figures that will inform some of the key arguments based on the success of the gaming sector and the demographics; in particular, female gamers. The above piece, taken from the BBC website, is a prime example of how even though the games industry is hugely influential yet still isn’t seen in the same light as Hollywood. This can be used to highlight the fact that although video games have made huge steps within popular culture, it is still seen as somewhat inferior to platforms like film and television. The link above takes you to gameindustry.biz’s piece from February 2014 about the rise in digital sales in video games thanks to the continued improvement in technology and data storage. As part of the retail section of the documentary, I will raise some of the facts mention in the piece to a representative of a video game retail company about whether physical sales have been damaged. Above is a link to MLG (Major League Gaming), which is the largest organisation for eSports that boasts the largest online tournament with 9 millions users registered from around the globe. This can be used as the prime example when talking about this sub-topic. To show the prize money that is available for e-sports, the top ranking tournaments were sourced from e-sports earning, to show the prize funds to competitors. These figures can be used within the questioning structure. This article written on The Guardian’s website in August 2014 by Charles Arthur and Keith Stuart looks at the rise of eSports and the popularity it has with gamers and spectators alike. Again, it will be used to reinforce a line of questioning that supports gaming as more than just a recreational activity and into the realms of serious competition that is worth hundreds of thousands of pounds in some cases. The above article taken very recently is again another financial example of what the creative industry and video games contribute to this country; bringing in £8 million an hour to our economy. These statistics of how the industry affects Britain will resonate more deeply with my intended audience.
The documentary Video Games: The Movie (2014) was something that was watched to gain inspiration for my own documentary and also to collect key quotes and statistics from some of the leading figures in the industry. After hearing meaningful soundbites from people like Hideo Kojima (game producer) and Cliff Bleszinski (game designer) were of areas that I wanted to touch upon in my own documentary beforehand. After hearing that drama students within college would contribute to voice overs for our projects, I thought it’d be a good idea for certain students to read some of these quotes over library footage.
Meg Jayanth’s piece on The Guardian’s website, taken from September 2014, aligns itself with the documentary’s section on female video game players. Her main focus looks at the changing landscape of the demographic of video game players; with over half of all those who play are female. Yet, the video game companies are still treating them somewhat as the minority. This built up my research of gaining a greater understanding on the female perspectives of gaming’s and shed light on the disproportionately of the gender in this sector.
‘bigfishgames.com‘ present data ranging from the past, present and future of gaming in the form of infographics; taking information such as the top game producers and the skill sets in which professionals have to possess in order to work in this occupation. This was used to help build a greater knowledge of the subject and see trends or points of interest I may not have collected otherwise.
This book by Matt Fox titled ‘The Video Games Guide’ is a comprehensive guide to video games spanning many generations, and was the source used to add information on some of the titles mentioned in the documentary.
The final major source is taken from polygon.com and served to give numerical facts on one of the biggest titles of recent times, Call of Duty. The game is renowned for being universally popular due to its multiplayer modes- and will allow me to use aspects from this source to build my section on this evolution of gaming, and in particular competitive tournaments.
Chester The city of Chester will form the backdrop to the location shots featured in the documentary; breaking up the piece from the video game footage and relaying the digital side back to how it affects society. Also, wanting to speak with someone from the retail sector about gaming, GAME in Chester has been chosen, that has yet to be confirmed at this time, but the hope is for a representative to speak on camera and answer some pre-prepared questions. Relating to this, some of my low angle shots that would have the Eastgate Clock prominately featured will now have to be relocated due to maintenance work taking place on the structure. After scouting the city, a spot by the Chester Cross will now be the location for these shots to be filmed from.
West Cheshire College The majority of filming will take place at West Cheshire College where resources and filming locations are plentiful. After initially wanting to have the Bunker Room as the place where the set would be designed, the green screen room was made available that seemed a better option and more spacious. To give an air of professionalism, props were sourced like the standees pictured above and an Xbox 360 for my interviewees to play whilst interviewing is commencing in some scenes so that it is more relaxed and hopefully more enjoyable for an audience to watch.
Above are all the questions formulated to the groups in which I wanted their opinion from. These groups were gamers, girl gamers and those who work in retail associated with video games.
Firstly, the gamer questions were divided into 3 key areas; obtaining a personal response in relation to them so an audience can connect with them, their understanding of eSports and competitive gaming and finally the notion of games being seen as violent.
Using statistics taken from sources gathered throughout the research stages to make them more extensive that increases the openness that the interviewee can draw upon.
The questions posed to the female gamer are driven primarily on the agenda of gauging their views on how they see themselves and their gender as a demographic under that umbrella.
Please note; due to no one in that profession being available for comment, so these questions were not included in the final.
Those questions however, were more hard-hitting than the previous two and due to the figure in question being in a position of authority, they could be more forceful in terms of delivery and themes.
After gathering the majority of the projects research and having a basic outline for the documentary, the next stage was to cement that structure into a finalised script. Knowing the areas I wanted the programme to cover, they were arranged in logical order that would give the documentary a natural flow; first looking at the commercial side, gaming itself and then finally the controversies sounding them. The script is vital as it is what will drive the documentary; the narration over the course of the piece will inform the view and bridge individual scenes together. Our preliminary research looking at other well-known examples like Senna and Michael Moore documentaries is that a strong voice guiding the viewer helps them to be pulled deeper into the purpose of the film. The script also has directions that will aide the production and editing of the final piece; for instances transitions or when an interview needs to fill a certain segment.
The voice over will be recorded using Soundtrack Pro and the audio will be played over edited footage in iMovie.
Voice Over Inserts
Wanting to give a feel of professionalism, I had planned for 3 spots where I would quote industry-renowned figures relating to this theme; including Hideo Kojima and the former Head of Marketing for Crystal Dynamics which were comments I wanted to include, but due to obvious reasons would not be able to appear directly in this factual programme. To counter this, I had the idea for drama students to provide voice overs to give those words more character as it would differentiate from my spoken word as well as making the whole documentary’s production seem on a much grander scale.
unfortunately, due to time constraints and the Production Manager unable to secure a meeting with any drama students, these sections had to be removed. Instead, one quote will be kept and shown in a visual form over library footage- with the intention to force the audience to engage with that quote and see the connection with the video played in unison with it.
Next, the process of turning the script into the finished product. This was done through a storyboard, whereby the individual scenes are depicted with information attached to them like duration of scene, shot size and audio options in the attempt to prove a reference point for when filming does commence so that we know what to film and how it should look.
Below is the original storyboard that was drawn up; with an effort to be as elucidated as possible, in regard to detail and the variety of shots that could be incorporated into the film;
A production schedule was put in place to help organise filming and plan in advance what scenes would be shot when. This is equally important when factors such as arranging interviews with a third-party need to be convenient for both groups of people. This table, showing information including the equipment needed, type of shot that will be performed and people involved in that particular scene, is a critical log that serves to increase efficiency and order.
When carrying out a project of this scale, both the physical, legal and ethical risks need to be considered so that they can be foreseen and no complications or issue arise during the process of filming. Firstly, all quotes would have to be transcribed in context and the appearance of these individuals as part of this documentary would have to be cleared by them- giving permission for the content to be used. This is why consent forms have been drawn up so that there is a record of this agreement and both parties are happy to proceed. The equipment that will be used, including cameras, lighting and computers must adhere to safety regulations and that they are used in the correct manner. Finally, whilst filming out in public areas, care must be taken as not to endanger them in any way or put myself or crew in dangerous situations that could be avoided.
Wanting to keep in line with ethical and legal implications that would present itself in the professional world, a consent form was drawn up by myself so that those featured in the documentary agree to being recorded and understanding the purposes behind it.
Care was also taken to ensure that those under the age of 18 had their parents or guardian’s approval to appear in the making of this factual programme.
All consent forms can be found in the physical research folder that will accompany the documentary final piece.
Once all the footage was collected and the audio for the narration had been recorded, it was time to edit the entire feature together using iMovie. The following key stages of the creative process were screenshotted and commented upon accordingly;
The first stage started with creating a title screen and logo for the documentary. Wanting to keep it simple, yet relevant to the subject matter, PRESS START was decided upon as a name because it signifies aspects of gaming and entertainment. The ‘Play’ logo was also incorporated to represent this connection.
Editing began by using a title sequence to tie in with both the subject and the impending title sequence. A cinematic approach was taken by using Metal Gear Solid 4‘s unique opening. A quote was also found by game producer Hideo Kojima (who made MGS4) to incorporate the general theme of timelessness games now have in our culture.
Next, the start of placing my own recorded footage began. As you can see, this was overlaid with both a soundtrack which was sourced by myself using MP3 converting sites on the internet and the narration recorded using Soundtrack Pro. Artists used included HEALTH, Modest Mouse and Dead Man’s Bones.
In this part of editing, you can see how library footage taken from YouTube which precisely interlinked with the narration, to bring those words to life and help the audience connect and understand more about the themes expressed.
Editing for Fiona Bank’s interview sequence was fairly simplistic; adding a title in the bottom left corner for her name and ‘role’ within the documentary. A further point to make was that the same font was used throughout the documentary (DIN Condensed Bold).
Transitions such as Fade Black and Fade White representing an end to a sequence for the audience- or in the case above, the start of a new one. Initially aiming to print out a selection of female protagonists and use a pan shot to increase the footage taken by myself, the decision was made to use images sourced from the internet. To generate a ‘male gaze’ perspective, Ken Burns were used to pan up and down the female characters. Alongside this, ‘Foxy Lady‘ by Jimi Hendrix was placed over this to give an over exaggerated perception of the sexualisation of women.
Prior to the scene in question, a statement by the company issued by Ubisoft relating to events effecting one of their female employees was read out by the narrator. Text deemed important of worth were timed to appear on-screen due to it being rather substantial- helping the audience absorb the information better. Now, a device used on a few occasions was to let library footage drive the narrative and present themselves as an opening to a sequence like Jessica Nigri’s Lollipop Chainsaw advert was.
In this next phase, a photograph of myself as a young boy was used to start off the monologue that was initially meant to be said to camera but unfortunately certain factors prevented this from happening. All library footage used in this section I personally wanted to have a direct connection with me- even if it meant at the expense of video quality, as was the case with that taken from Soul Blade (15:19) but still served to illustrate points made and brought to life my childhood experiences with this subject.
Clair de Lune (as used in films such as Giant and Ocean’s Eleven) was selected to encompass this nostalgic part to the factual programme. A byproduct of this was to create an almost melancholy feeling- wanting to go back to those times. Hopefully, people of my generation may feel they can share in this connection.
Bringing the documentary to a close, the response of Fiona and Josh answering the question of where they envision video games to be in 20 years time identifies the opening statement and synchronizes perfectly the theme I wanted to create of video games being immersed in our communities and culture.
The final scene chosen was interesting- which, taken from the storyboard, sees a cowboy shot with the person in the foreground holding a controller and a female in the distance. A grained effect was placed over the footage to give an aged look and share connotations with spaghetti westerns that the documentaries sub-title was derived from. As discussed in the codes and conventions essay, it can be portrayed to show empowerment to women in the video game industry by Saskia’s muscular pose to camera.
A credit sequence was made that showed who featured in the factual programme and the roles I took in part of the production. A disclaimer was also made at the end in regard to copyright of library footage used. The closing credits featured a song from Scott Pilgrim Vs The World’s soundtrack which generated a retro feeling to pay tribute to the history video games rest upon.