the new abstract!

May 4, 2010 — 2 Comments

The old abstract and the new ideas…

The project is to generate a coherent documentary out of fragmented footage and material, or found footage, with which I had no control over the production. The material was shot by non-filmmakers, about a specific subject, but with no coherent line of narrative or clear structure (essentially a series of anecdotes). Through research and study of fragmented narrative structures, found footage practice and cinematic theory surrounding documentary and montage, I will devise a structure and outcome that suits this material and subject. This process will provide insight into the making of documentary cinema and the problems it faces in the contemporary media climate, as well as explore innovative techniques for documentary story telling.

The first issue to address is the first sentence. I will no longer be generating a documentary out of the fragmented footage which I have been handed. Instead I will be generating a documentary out of any media, including media I produce myself, as I see necessary. The documentary will no longer be specifically about the broader subject to which the footage I received was aimed, but rather to a narrowed down version, which will be the biography of a particular character. So the new themes which need to take precedence in my abstract are biography and memory in documentary, rather than fragmented narratives and found footage. In a sense I am fulfilling the third sentence which is to devise a suitable outcome that suits the material. As I watched the footage for the first time over the last two weeks I asked myself what was actually there, present in the interviews. I mean this in a very literal sense, beyond subject matter and stories and anecdotes. Each interview was of someone remembering a distance past, with many discrepancies, with a lot of nostalgia and with some sadness as they remember an era that is long gone and far out of reach. The second half of the last sentence will need to change as well as the fragmented narrative theme has now taken a back seat. I must ask myself again why this project might be valuable to others.

Another framing concept I need to nail down is the various pathways into the project. Much like Ana Vas’ work from a previous year, I would like to present a film outcome, a theoretical framework and a textual analysis. All three aspects need to be integrated and need to be presented as if each component supplementary and supportive of the other. I feel that the theoretical framework needs to come next as I am at a stage where I can start experimenting with production and this aspect is not so urgent.

For theory and textual analysis I have re-visited the work of Chris Marker, Agnes Varda and Werner Herzog, primarily because they all deal with memory and its commitment to film/media and biography in various ways. Ross McElwee and Ken Russell are other documentarians who may open some pathways for my exegesis. Perhaps if I am able to analyse a particular body of work with particular reference to a specific theorist or critic (for instance, Bazin or Deleuze) and have the film outcome as my own representation of the ideas in the discussion. This is my new direction for research, and all texts found so far will be kept or eliminated depending on their relevance to this new goal.

The New Abstract…

The project is to create a biographical documentary about Lowell Morris, an influential Australian musician who’s career had a significant impact on the development of Jamaican music in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. I have already gained access to a significant amount of research into specific areas of Lowell’s history and have interview footage (shot by others, not myself) which will act as the basis for the documentary. Through research into cinematic theories surrounding documentary, biography and memory and textual analysis of a particular body of relevant films I will present an outcome that has significance in terms of the production of and story-telling methods appropriate to biographical documentary. This process will provide insight into the making of documentary cinema, as well as explore innovative techniques for documentary story telling.


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  1. Adrian’s question for the next few weeks… « A Blog by James Thompson - May 8, 2010

    […] the practice of creating the documentary together with any theoretical research. I have just redefined my abstract to help bring the two closer together, but really have just stated that the two entities will […]

  2. The Contextualising Blog Post « A Blog by James Thompson - June 4, 2010

    […] The New Abstract! Through constantly working through different problems and considering lessons and methods taught in Research workshop, I’ve tried to form the most solid base possible for my project planning and design. This post shows the significant moment where I was able to resolve joining my exegesis with project so that both can exist together as a more organic entity. Basically I saw that the filmmaking process needed to come out of the theoretical ideas, in order to be fed back in for reflection. This is rather different to the previous position, which was for the exegesis to come out of the editing practice of the found footage. Being Pragmatic and Realistic This post shows where I found the advice and inspiration to move forwards in the planning of my project. Herzog, What Have Ye Done? This post reflects the more playful and personal interest side of the blog, and also how the blog can serve to tie ideas together. This post was made when I felt like thinking about something other than study, but managed to lighten appearance of my blog, if for no other reason than some kind of self satisfaction. Some Thoughts on Design This post displays some independent thinking around how to approach the rest of the year looking for the best possible outcome. The irony was that later that week we had a presentation from one of the PHD candidates in Communication Design. He took us through many of the ideas that I had spent the previous day investigating for myself. Weird. […]

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