It’s All Over

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Ha ha! No it’s not, this project has been the start of a journey that could very well last a life time. Through the course of planning, filming and editing I have plugged myself in the world of visual anthropology and started thought processes in my mind that almost turn on subconsciously every time I view any sort of film now. Immortalised on the internet, my film will act as spark for thoughts concerning food, students and the culture that surrounds both.

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Controling Film

Over the past couple of weeks, we have all had the pleasure of seeing what work we had done upCtrl Film to certain dates during the term. In addition to this, we had the displeasure of receiving a wave of critique from our peers. To be fair, most of this critique was quite useful and has helped me in particular with selecting more advantageous shots. I had seen all kinds of shots over the many years I have feasted on some sort of television. However, being able to see, more so, to ask my fellow peers how they have used their camera skills makes filming seem even more real. It brings it closer to home, the same is true of editing film.

An acquaintance of mine recently sent me a film called control film which he thought might be useful to my editing process. The film details the story of Christmas preparations. The editor has managed to use very little footage from their own camera. Instead, the film comprises of borrowed footage and still images, all used under the narration of one voice to usher a main point through the video. It is similar to my film, on the grounds that both are about food and on the grounds that both are noctrl 2t employing a singular person focus. The main narrative is the topic, i.e. food, what I’m learning from the film as well as the feedback from my classmates are two main things. One is to ensure I have a clear narrative running through so that people get the point when they watch the film. The other is that the transitions from one scene to another should appear more seamless. As opposed to being quite rough, which is where they are at now. Anyway, there are many days left for editing

 

Moving Forward, But Slowly

Snails-Pace

On settling on what film to make I have set out to decide who it is I want to film and when exactly they need to be filmed. The trouble is, most of my participants are students at University, some of them being more busy than others makes it difficult to schedule shooting. In addition to this, there isn’t a plethora of equipment to be booked out so I have to work with my other class mates to see what dates are best for me. On a whole, I have to schedule time to book out equipment, ensure participants are ready and capable at said times and then finally make sure the filming conditions are sound. Only THEN can  I proceed to acquire my most precious footage to be later edited.

So far this process has not been manic, however I believe the more everyone gets into their filming, the more difficult the process becomes. So far I have filmed a few people and learnt a lot of things about filming. The first thing I remember learning in my filming process was something we discussed in class many weeks ago. One of my filming participants required me to have the cameras set up and rolling and then for me to leave the room. I would have thought it a bit weird, but I remembered in class we performed a contact exercise which acted as a metaphor for this exact situation. In the exercise we were meant to anchor particular parts of our bodies onto a persons hand.  Through this anchoring the person with the hands represented the camera and the body represented a participant. The hands were meant to feel when it was necessary to increase or decrease pressure in accordance with the will of the anchor without being verbal about it. Fortunately in my case there was a lot of vocal play as I had a rapport with the participant. However I realized it was in the best of both of our interest for me to make the request true. Looking over the footage later proved to me that the decision I made was the best as my participant was able to feel relaxed and say things which were pertinent for my film.

Other things I’m learning includes setting up all my equipment, the first time took a few minutes to set up everything and then make sure it worked properly. The second time I managed to mess up the footage from one camera, but my other camera saved me. After those times things have sailed smoothly since then. I’m looking forward to what new filming trials I come against.

 

 

Progress In Change!

Pupil-Progress

I have always known I wanted to do a film on food. The issue has always been what aspects concerning food I would like to hone in on and which persons I would include. My first ide
a was to look at company culture in a restaurant. Specifically back of house, I chose this path because I believe most people have a food experience and are unaware of what happens in the kitchen. Having a meal at a restaurant is quite an alienating process, in the sense that customers don’t give thought to the lives of those who are involved in creating the meal. Waiters, waitress and the like often get recognition as they are more visible, therefore creating this video would be an opportunity to expose the hidden elements of restaurant life. As splendid as the idea did seem, there were a lot of things to consider, the biggest of which would be that I’ll be filming insi
de a restaurant kitchen. This would be a concern to the establishments (but also to myself) as most kitchens are usually busy, the worry is that my presence would slow down business and thus have a knock on effect on the restaurant reputation.

Secretly! I believe this worry was one of the reasons I didn’t manage to gain access into the particular restaurant I had in mine. Of course there are many of restaurants in Canterbury. Even many more in the greater Kent area and the world!! However I was filled with fear of multiple rejections and I decided I wouldn’t have the time to deal with all of that. Instead I opted to change the direction of my project, it would still be focused on food, but this time it will be on an aspect closer to my heart. I’m still working on a name for the video but the core of it will be based on changes in cultural attitudes towards food. As a student myself, I have spent most of my university years in England, I spent a year in Denmark and I spent (non-university time) a summer in Cameroon. Through this changes I have noticed what Roy Wagner calls the invention of culture.

Invention in the sense that at every change in location, even from my Mothers house to my first university room, I invented a new food culture for myself. This in2015-01-20-IdeasMakeorBreakYourBusinessvention was based on what things I knew about food, what new things I learnt about food, and finally what ingredients were available to me. Over the years new factors came into play such as the economical options or the healthier options. As a result of comi
ng into contact with different factors the food that I once knew as constant kept changing. Understanding this experience led me to wonder what food journey the people around me go through. More importantly how their family and friends related to that journey and how it all feeds back into their cultural identity. All this things and more I plan to incorporate somehow into my video. I believe such a video will educate all how elements of culture are invented and more so how invented culture does not necessarily mean inauthentic culture.

Guarding The Gates!

12746348_10208310746867468_1406534341_nShooting off from the awesome film exercises, it became relevant to me that initiating and maintaining contact is of great importance. So I set out to email the proprietress of the location I had chosen to inform her about the details of my research. Fortunately I am acquainted with someone who works at the restaurant and she was able to speak to the owner on my behalf. In addition to this, I sent the establishment an email to brief them of my project.

On sending the email I was thoughtful in my choice of words as I was aware that anthropological jargon can be difficult to comprehend. I was worried about my anthropological jargon creating something that did not exist. In seeking out this particular establishment I was looking for some sort of family corporate culture. However I was wary of stating this from the on set, in fear of the establishment (consciously or unconsciously) creating a culture in order to make this film. I was more interested in seeing what was already present there.
Every anthropologist should acknowledge this phenomenon before going into the field and an element of this is communicated when gaining access.

Sending my first email was successful and I got an inviting reply, and I was instructed to schedule a time which would be convenient for me to come and discuss further my project.  Unfortunately I was not expecting to hear no response from her for 15 days! How am I supposed to plan my project in the absence of input from the owner of the restaurant. In despair I am reminded of John Campbell being rejected and ended up studying the Sarawaitingtkastani instead. It brings a bit of worry but a greater amount of excitement to how this project is going to unfold.

……………Excitement over!! It has now been  more than 20 days, I shall have to make like Mr Campbell and find something and someone else to film.

 

 

Exercising Film

Generally speaking, anthropologists do some research  before heading out into the field. This involves copious amounts of reading, which is in exception of up to 8 years of education spen24463123529_a1ece31bf0t at least one university. I have the privilege of experiencing a snapshot of fieldwork with this project.

The objective is to go out somewhere and find people (preferably alive) and film them. Seeing as none of us were professional film makers, we got tasked with practicing our film and photography skills. Unconventionally, the task was not concerning the quality of the photographs or the film but more so our comfortability with the filming process.

It was immensely daunting to run around the Marlowe building taking pictures and filming random people with our symbolic cameras. Yes you read that right, the cameras which look like cameras but they do not function as real cameras. A whole class of students armed with “symbolic cameras” facing their fears of taking the authoritative role of camera person.

It was a very anthropological experience, some were met with rejection, others met with blank stares of astonishment among many other reactions. What my team and I noticed was that people performed differently when they believed they were under the gaze of a real camera. This was specifically interesting because we had a range of symbolic cameras upon our person. Some of those cameras happened to look real and others happened to look not so real. However to some of the people who were subject to being under the gaze of the camera were not aware that there was only one real camera being used.24202706564_30a812f4a5_o

Exercising our film prowess was beneficial as I personally did not think about the initial interaction between camera, subject and cameraman. More importantly how this could affect the final film project in terms of the pace and content of the video. This exercise also alluded to gate keeping as a concept which I will be discussing in another post.

Two Sights, Okay Maybe Three.

argus-II-bionic-eye-second-sight-537x331One interesting aspect of anthropology is how theory is made practical through ethnography. This practicality manifests itself in the ways we think about ethnographic data as well as the form in which we approach such data. Having decided that I wanted to make a film about food, I was reminded of a film about photography I watched last year. Photowallahs is a film about the cultural and personal meanings of photographs as depicted by members of  a town called Mussoorie (India). In the film, the MacDougalls learn about how people react under the gaze of the camera and how this differs across various parts of the small hill station (Mussoorie) they based their ethnography on. The main point I drew from the film when thinking about  my film project was people being filmed whilst they were either being photographed or taking photograph. Capturing someone in action makes a film more visually appealing.

So, on reflecting about their film, it occurred to me that I could use a camera, to film people cooking and talking about food. This film project would then be viewed by people other than the participants.  Now there is a whole lot of seeing there, from the point of my audience, they will be seeing me through my photo wallahschoice in shooting and editing the video. The audience will also see the actual content of the video project as belonging to the separate individuals who were involved in the process of filming. In addition to this, there is a third view, which is actually not visual, it comes across as abstract and speculative. This is held by myself as the film maker and those viewing the final project. The view is made in retrospective questions such as, will my participants have acted differently if they were not under the gaze of the camera. Effectively questioning what images and footage the camera lens allows to exist in the form of the final project.

Being aware of these thoughts as a film maker, reminds me that I will be very present in whatever the final project looks like. It also alerts me to take care that the camera is not obscuring anything that might be significant for others to see. My current thoughts to culling this camera blocking effect, is to make the participants as comfortable as possible. Hopefully that will produce what the participants intend to produce, as opposed to what they think I require from them.

 

 

Symbolic Camera

DSC_0053The first assignment we were assigned for this module was to create a symbolic camera. This camera was meant to be a symbol of a real camera, and therefore could be made in any shape or form and from whatever materials we desired to use. Our starting pistol took form in looking at cameras made by previous students from years ago. The prospect of contributing to this archive  was enough motivation to make something amazing.

The following days were filled with torment. Indecisiveness caught me off guard and had me worried for days on end. When will I make the camera?, How would I go about such engineering and architecture? What would I make the camera out of? What camera model would I be working from? What story would my camera be telling? So many questions!!! All of which brought a lot of direction to mind. However it felt more like a road packed with traffic from all corners of a road. So I made a point to sit down and make sense of it all.

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My first port of call was the  first camera I vividly remember holding. I was 16 years old at the time and this camera belonged to my Mother. I can’t remember the model but it was a small silver box that became my companion at all memorable events. The colour of the camera body almost blended in with the flash and this relationship with light fed into my inspiration. I drew even more inspiration from my current camera, which is a Nikon D3300. The size of my camera plays an important role in distancing my face from that which is being photographed. This allows me to almost disappear from sight and let all attention be placed on the object of photography/film.

Keeping these things in mind I went ahead with a design for my symbolic camera. I choose an old amazon box, foil, some clear plastic and plain white paper to be my equipment for this project. The white background of the camera was chosen to draw attention away from the camera itself. The significance of a camera is in the lens and thus the photograph that is being taken. Therefore the too much attention should not be drawn to the camera. The foil covering the inside of the camera acts as a reflector of the light feeding in from the camera lens and the viewfinder. As it is a symbolic camera it cannot take real pictures. However I thought it would be significant to the task to ensure the camera could perform at least one function.DSC_0052

You cannot quite see clearly through the viewfinder to the outer lens, but the light passes through and is reflected in the camera. This assignment led me to draw more thought on the amount of intelligence that goes into creating a functioning camera. More so I found myself thinking about the skill that goes into handling such  an instrument. It was at the point I first found myself marvelling at what equipment I would be graced with for this project.