..............,.........Project MA 21st Century Media Practice

“The film drama is the opium of the people…down with bourgeois fairy-tale scenarios…long live life as it is!” Dziga Vertov

TASK-The verite piece must be a real story about real people. We are not looking for television formats or fabricated spectacles. The essence of any engaging documentary is a story, strong characters, strong imagery and a journey, conflict, resolution or crisis that we follow through the video. These should be your guiding principles when researching and producing your piece. We want you to really explore a more fluid approach to image making in conjunction with a multi-layered use of audio to build a simple soundscape. The film should be three minutes long and should be sensory in its approach.

The breif was to create a Cinema verite film, for myself it has been a case of relearning, less thinking, reflecting and developing experience. This blog is about the exploration into verite both in the past and present. I have reflected on how I have been challenged, what my experiences are and how sensory ethnography is something I want to further research and apply. This is a historical account of technical application, meaning and practice into Cinema Verite.

Back to the Dark Room

Back to the Darkroom.

My first film of cinema verite was not really cinema veriete. I found myself in a situation whereby, I had thought to much about what I was doing. In the stageing of asking Jon to process some negatives. Even though it was part of his role, it wasn't necessarily natural and in the moment. However this opportunity, did on a technical level, allow me to experiment and think about narrative.

The Panasonic GH4 is a mirrorless, micro four-thirds camera. I will admit that it is a totally different camera to use. And the technique and the environments you use them in are important. I found that in low level light it slightly failed to perform, even with the correct lens being used, ISO and shutter. I found as well, that due to the view finder not giving a "true" filter to the view finder, some of my photos were under-exposed. Where it did perform well was in the Photography Lab, where the lighting is very white, bright and continuous. The camera performs well in these well lit environments and outside light. Therefore I know that this is not a reflection solely on the camera. I think this is down to how I use DSLR's and its about retraining myself to use these types of cameras, where appropriate and to master a new type of camera, which leads to a new way of filming.

The Wardrobe Master

The film "The Wardrobe Master", was my first objective Cinema Verite film. I decided to film my colleague Kieran Steward, who spends most of his time creating costumes for theatre performances. His Wardrobe is an emporium and labyrinth of stories. I had spent around 2 hours recording him, cutting out patterns for waistcoats. People were coming in and out, wanting alterations, asking questions and there was no clear narrative being captured here.

Then Velcro Happened.

Then Kieran discovered some velcro, hidden away in a cupboard. All of a sudden this eureka moment happened, and the narrative took a natural course of direction. The content became more interesting. I think I captured Kieran working fluidly, whereby there was an initial original thought and the process of creating, was not essentially a thought out process. He knew organically and intuitively how he was going to create this piece of costume.

Cognitive fluidity is a term first popularly applied by Mithen in his book The Prehistory of the Mind, a search for the origins of Art, Religion and Science. The term cognitive fluidity describes how a modular primate mind has evolved into the modern human mind by combining different ways of processing knowledge and using tools to create a modern civilization. By arriving at original thoughts, which are often highly creative and rely on metaphor and analogy modern humans differ from archaic humans.- (Mithen, S. J. 1996)

Technically I don't think that this is my best work. I find that the depth of field is limited, due to the lenses I decided to use that day. The space that I was filming in was not the most easiest to navigate around in. For Kieran it is his space, and this creative chaos works for him.

To summerise the Wardrobe Master as a Cinema Veriete piece, I hope it captures the creative thinking of someone who is quite sporadic, who can work with instruction, but actually when given the opportunity to create, they do so, so very well.

The Lighting Designer 

"The Lighting Designer" is a film about another colleague of mine Jon, who works as a Skills instructor in Theatre. This particular day he was rigging for the production of "Hell Raiser". I spent around 2 hours filming and once again it was particularly busy, lots of noise, lots of people coming in and out. Also Jon's job isn't just process of doing one thing, he will be rigging it up himself, directing the technical team within the space, whilst also giving skill instructions to students working on the production.

Fish Eye Lenses were used to incoporate the space that Jon works in. The lens its self was quite soft focused on the outer edges. And is more designed for macro shooting.

In hindsight of editing this it shows the many aspects of Jon's job, but fails to focus on one clear narrative. Technically it is more experiential, in the application of filming. Which is the polar opposite of the Wardrobe Master.

Many Stories, not one clear narrative.

When editing the lighting designer, I came to a point where I made a wrong choice on the narrative of the film. What I should have done is focused more on the part where the students are learning about the filters and gels. I was tempted to show the clips where the students are left cutting gels and it leads to a funny conversation. I decided not to do it because of the brief, I felt it lead away from Jon. However these students are part of the story and essentially, that is what Jon is there for. So it should have been more about his legacy in the narrative more than the many roles.

Monks of Wat Bo.

The Monks of Wat Bo was created from achieved footage filmed in April 2015. As described in the blog link above. I felt that I had been maybe filming using a Cinema Veriete style and hadn't actually acknowledged this. I wanted to revisit this footage, as firstly I hadn't really done anything with it and I actually wanted to analyse my own work. When I wasn't necessarily really thinking about what I was doing, and it was more of a case of just "being" with the camera and present in the moment.

I am not really a fan of the stablised version. I did it because some people had commented on how "shakey" the camera was. So I placed a warp stablisation on it, technically it makes it look, very "trippy" and it cuts a lot of the shots in. I actually think it really removes away from that "raw" look. Some people really liked it, but for me I wasn't so keen.

Submersive Documentary

When I compare all of the films, I have created this term, the monks still sits as my strongest piece. I feel this is more, to do with the environment I was in. The sounds of the chant and the image submersion the audience gets when watching this.

All of the monks, seem to have one identity, which is of course the orange robe & shaved head. The only thing that sets them apart is their age. The original monk we see banging the drum in the first shot, becomes lost in the one identity of a monk, when all the monks come together to pray.

If I was to submit this film as my final peiece for the the zero project, I would increase the chant by an extra 20 seconds to bring the time up to 3 minutes. Firstly the feedback I have had from people, who have watched it, have actually said that they get completely submereged into the film, especially when their sensory to the image had stopped and they are just left with the sound chanting.

When I have played the film to an audience, I have made sure that they are sitting in a dark room, with either head phones on or the sound turned up. I want them to be totally submerged in the experience of watching it. For me as a photographer I have never taken away the actual physical moment or ambience of the place, as photographs don't allow for this.

This is where the photograph comes to life, and the audience members are viewing a place, feeling the sounds as well as hearing them. I want the audience to leave the film, feeling calm, like they have had an new experience and been privy to something special.

JUST shut up.

I like to talk, however when I am filming or photographing, its the one time when I am silent. I feel I am inside the camera and my thoughts are not present. The environment and colour of my surroundings play a massive part in my own creative methodologies. When filming the Monks of Wat Bo, I was applying myself more as a photographer, and during the raw clips, you can hear the shutter clicking. I now have an understanding what Roach means by term shoot,shoot, shoot. And if I were to do this again, I would make sure that would only film.


I believe that Balog is correct in what he is quoted as saying. To add to this I would say that cinematography solidifies the emotion. By applying theories such as Veriete and direct documentary, in filmmaking it is a way to transport, human feelings through submersive ethnography.

Submitted Piece

I have chosen to submit the Monks of Wat Bo for my Zero project. I feel that this was the most submersive of all the films. The way that individual identity of the monks banging the drum, is lost in the identity of all monks.

The monks of Wat Bo is a time capsule and like all cultures, these traditions have been time- capsulated for centuries. In a way it is beautiful that Cambodian Monks have managed to keep their identity considering the genocide that took place between 1975-1979. The Khmer people lost two-thirds of their population. Many of these people were, academics and creatives. So the fact, that an essential part of Khmer culture such as Buddhism survived, is a testament to their belief system. It was carried through a period of time, when the Khmer Rouge tried to implement at Utopian ideology, and stripped away all life & identity.

Beyond the wider scope, technically and submersively it is interesting. I have now increased the chant time without the image, to 45 secs. This means the audience is left with a sound scape and if viewing this correctly,( earphones and lights off environment) they will become totally submerged in the experience. My only technical problem with this is I want to further develop the way I have overlaid the chant, to take it up to three minutes.

From the zero project, I feel I have more grounding in the creative theories of documentary film making at a grass roots level. I certainly need to experiment more with what I am creating and this experience has identified that environment is very important for that freedom to explore and create.


Famous quotes at BrainyQuote (1971) Available at: http://www.brainyquote.com/ (Accessed: 20 November 2015).

Harry Fabel (2013) Man Of Aran. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iK2PaU_g7g (Accessed: 27 September 2015).

Pink, S. (2010) What is sensory ethnography by Sarah Pink. Available at: http://www.ncrm.ac.uk/resources/video/RMF2010/pages/18_Sensory.php (Accessed: 20 November 2015).

Stanford Pursuasive Tech Lab (no date) WHAT IS CAPTOLOGY? – Persuasive Tech. Available at: http://captology.stanford.edu/about/what-is-captology.html (Accessed: 27 September 2015).

Tech.London and sensory Media (2014) Sensory Media. Available at: http://www.tech.london/startups/sensory-media (Accessed: 27 September 2015).

http://monoskop.org/ (2015) Sensory ethnography. Available at: http://monoskop.org/Sensory_ethnography (Accessed: 14 November 2015).

www.mitpress.mit.edu (no date) Available at: http://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/titles/content/9780262630580_sch_0001.pdf (Accessed: 20 November 2015).

www.pbs.org (2015) Timeline: The history of Cambodia and the Khmer rouge | enemies of the people | POV. Available at: http://www.pbs.org/pov/enemies/photo_gallery_timeline.php (Accessed: 20 November 2015).

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Beck Stewart

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