In media can have on the public by the

In this piece of analytical writing I aim to reflect and
analyse my ideas and how my documentary film developed during production,
including the approaches I used throughout my film making process.

One of my main aims when I produced this documentary was to
study the effects that the media can have on the public by the way that they
represent many stories in the news. A very close friend of mine, Jeremiah St.
Fort, is the half-brother of Rio and Anton Ferdinand, two of the highest paid
and most well-known footballers in the UK, if not the world. In the summer of 2017
Jeremiah, Rio and Anton lost their mother Janice St. Fort to cancer. This was
in fact the second loss this family had suffered in two years as a consequence
of the devastating illness that is cancer. Rio’s wife Rebecca died of this
illness a year before his mother. Being close to Jeremiah I witnessed how many
journalists treated the story of his mother’s death, and in my documentary, I
wanted to reflect their treatment which I felt was dealt with very poorly. I
hoped that my representation of the family’s situation would lead my audience
to agree with me.

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A distressing time for the family was when an image of a
family photo including Jeremiah was put onto a news article which the family
had not given permission to use. This was at least inappropriate, and at worst
an example of sensationalist journalism. I then obviously started to think
about the numerous documentaries that have been made about celebrities who are,
as a consequence, affected by their exposure to fame and the public. However,
there seemed to be little or no coverage about how those family members around
them are affected by the intense media scrutiny and the public eye. Therefore,
this became the niche that I wanted to demonstrate in my very personal film.

Fernando Solanas, is
an Argentine film director, screenwriter and politician, his work is
predominantly based on political and social matters. I wanted to follow in his
footsteps and focus on the social issue of ‘bad’ journalism, an issue that is
prominent at this time with fake news. Solanas once said that ‘the important thing was
not the film itself but that which the film provoked’1,
which is what I wanted my film to do. I decided I wanted to show to the public
how it is not just the media that treats celebrities badly and for them to
reflect on this. I began researching the brothers career and discovered an
incident with John Terry and Anton, I then included this is my interview questions
for Jeremiah and this became a key feature in the film. 

 

As my film idea developed I realised
that the focus was going to be how fame affected other family members. John
Grierson, a pioneering Scottish documentary maker, who in 1926 coined the term ‘documentary’
in a review of Robert Flaherty’s Moana. Grierson also aimed to expose real life
to others through his investigative journalism.
This is what I wanted to do and also make
sure that I didn’t move away from the focus of my aim and reality.

 

During production, I used a range of documentary modes. By
using the Direct Cinema approach, I wanted to capture the reality of Jeremiah’s
situation and represent it truthfully to my audience. Direct cinema is a
technique introduced by Jean Rouch, an element of Direct Cinema I included in
my piece was hand held camera, one of the scenarios I decided to incorporate
this in was when Jeremiah and I went to where he used to play football when he
was younger. I chose do this here because I wanted to create a sense of
intimacy between Jeremiah and the audience, as it was an important place for
him in his childhood and still now. My many pictures of the family gave meaning
to the interviews and made it more interesting, I made sure that I intercut
fragments over the top of the interview, so that I felt it would make the
viewer more connected to what he was saying throughout. An example of when I
did this was when Jeremiah was talking about how he used to play for West Ham
United in their academy when he was younger. I used an image of him in his
football kit with his brothers that I found framed in their house. This could
have been just any young boy learning to play a game he loved. However, he had
the pressure of living up to the expectations of others with regard to his
potential career in the game. Was he expected to follow in his brothers’
footsteps? Would he be expected to be as good as his brothers? Would he always
be compared to his brothers? Although this is not an issue that everyone in the
audience could relate to on such a scale, they certainly could relate to the
issue of sibling rivalry and the unwitting expectations of others, especially
family members.

The form I wanted this documentary to be in was predominantly
interview, because I wanted to elicit the most information I possibly could out
of Jeremiah. I wanted to explore the effects that his brothers’ fame had put
him through his whole life. Interviews are after all central to the theme of
documentary making. I felt like this was done effectively throughout,
especially towards the end when Jeremiah is discussing the incident that took
place with Anton and John Terry. There were accusations that John Terry had
used racial abuse towards Anton during an Everton football match. The dramatic aftermath
was when bullets and death threats were sent through the door of Jeremiah’s
home, somewhere he thought was a safe place. Using interviews to expose this
truth, Jeremiah’s distress was evident in his facial expressions and his
distress clear to all, which would not have been as effective if I did not use
this mode of documentary making.  

By participating myself in interviews I followed the concept
of Jean Rouch. He was a French filmmaker who was considered to be one of the
founders of cinema-verite, which shared similarities with direct cinema,
another approach I used in my documentary. Rouch was a unique and original film
maker of participatory documentaries in the 1960s. Other documentary modes that
create convincing evidence for an audience include, Participatory, Expository
and Performative modes which were introduced by Bill Nichols’. In order to find
a way to explain the change of dynamics to the viewers I was inspired by
Nichols’ Expository mode which ‘addresses the reader directly with titles or
voices that propose a perspective or advance and argument’ 2, I chose
to feature the voice of god technique. I recorded a piece of narrative in order
to explain to the reader why the friends were featured in the film and who they
were in order to ensure that this became a smooth transition.   My
voice is clearly heard as I aimed to compare opinion generated by the media
about Rio and Anton with the reality of being a part of that celebrity family,
thus, also demonstrating an expository mode. My narration, voice of god,
demonstrated information dissemination to my audience. During the editing
process, I realised that I needed to make the transition from interviews with
Jeremiah to the interview with his friends, which is a major change to the feel
of the film as they are the only people who physically feature apart from
Jeremiah

One could argue that the performative mode I employed
demonstrated subjective truths, however, my unique perspective aimed to show
what was significant to me. My presence is visible, if only in my conversation,
asserting my message and discussing directly with my subject. In this way, I
can be seen to investigate, observe and expose the real-life effects on
Jeremiah.

John Corner, professor at the University of Liverpool cites
the five central elements of documentary making as being observation,
interview, dramatisation, mise-en-scene and exposition. Before I began filming
I decided in order to keep the focus on how the spotlight has affected Jeremiah
and not distract the audience by bringing in his brothers to interview. I
wanted to make it clear to the audience from the offset who Jeremiah’s brothers
were, and I wanted to do this in a way that highlighted their successful football
careers. In order to do this, I needed to use some found footage so during the
editing process I used parts of a compilation video from YouTube. In order to reflect
to the audience that their life isn’t perfect just like anyone else’s I chose
to feature a clip of a news headline saying that his mother had passed away.
Which although not my main focus for the film anymore I wanted it to be
featured as it was, and still is a huge part of Jeremiah’s life. This image of
the news article I put over the audio in the found footage where Rio is being
told that playing for Manchester must be better than anything in the world. The
technique I used to transition between these two was a fade, this worked
effectively as I felt added to the dramatisation element of my documentary
making.

Mise-en-Scene is an important element to documentary film
making Micheal Rabiger also states that ‘we are not fixed in whom we are’ 3 and
therefore neither should the mise-en-scene be. There were lots of different
settings throughout the film, they were predominantly in the house. I chose to
do this because I wanted to set the scene by showing the audience the reality
of Jeremiah’s home setting and family life. I did this by filming a tour of his
house, whilst going around with him and talking about some of the significant
objects to him and his family. The lighting I chose to use was just natural
light in their living room, which was where most of the interviews took place.
I did this because I wanted the viewers to feel like they too were with
Jeremiah and to make it seem more realistic to them.

In conclusion, when evaluating a documentary, you need to
compare your initial aims with your final outcome. I believe that the impact I
made on my intended audience was effective but not to the extent I hoped it
could have been. As a filmmaker, I was constrained by how Jeremiah chose to present
himself to the audience. Eliciting demonstrable emotion was challenging for me
at times, because I did not want to cross a line where he perhaps did not wish
to carry on with the filming process. A film maker has a responsibility to
provide evidence but to be sensitive I believe to the wishes of their subject.
An audience has a ‘right to know’ but I needed to be responsible when creating
the evidence to present the aims of my documentary to the audience. I was
pleased that the material I recorded spontaneously, at the rugby match, for
example, provided an immediate effect by use of my careful camera work.  The commentary by Jeremiah’s friends was
helpful evidence by witnesses in relation to the subject of my documentary.
Their reflections demonstrated just how far some people go to try to get close
to those in the spotlight and how they were a part of Jeremiah’s journey to
cope with being associated with celebrities.

Overall, I am satisfied that my initial aims were met and I
have learnt much about techniques that will intensify the impact of my ideas and
ensure that the audience understands mine and Jeremiah’s point of view.

 

 

 

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