Trouble With My Documentary…..

Throughout the 8 months I have been working on my documentary ‘The Price of Life’ I have been faced with quite a few problems from finding interviewees and stories to editing and I am pleased to say that I have learnt a lot from this experience. As Alan Rosenthal says,

“Everyone knows that things will go wrong-that the weather will be foul, that cameras will break down, that planes will be missed, that cables will be lost, that food will be lousy and that tape recorders will go out of sync. But if you can remain calm and humorous and calm under those situations, then things will be alright” (2007:201)

I have to say it has been really difficult to stay calm with these situations but I think overall my documentary has come out well considering and I am happy with the outcome. However, whilst I thought I was done and the editing was complete, I was sadly mistake as I noticed some of the sound was not quite right and the credits were inaccurate. As I really want this documentary to be the best that it can be I was going to sort out these minor issues and finish it. But this is where things started to go wrong once again.

Screen Shot 2013-06-14 at 19.36.35Yesterday my hard drive broke and whilst normally this wouldn’t have been too much of a problem, my laptop doesn’t have the space to hold all my HD video files and so they had to be stored on that which means I can’t re-edit anything anymore. I’m really annoyed about this because I feel that these mistakes are really letting the overall programme down. Luckily I constantly export the movie file every time I finish an editing session just in case something like this happens as it has taken a lot of effort and I don’t want to lose it all completely. This means I did have a version to hand in for my journalism deadline but it’s not one I am completely happy with and just wish I could have made those changes. Although with this version we managed to sort out the sound problems there was nothing I could do about the mistake in the credits. This is not too much of an issue but I would have like it to have been perfect.

Documentaries are incredibly hard to make. They require a lot of patience and a lot of time but are very fulfilling throughout. As an aspiring wildlife documentary maker this experience has been very enlightening and despite the many problems I have faced, I have never wanted to do this as a career more than I do now. I am going to re-edit my documentary once I can have my hard drive recovered as I am determined to make it as good as I possibly can.

Rosenthal, A (2007). Writing, Directing and Producing Documentary Films and Videos. 4th ed. USA: Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data. 201.

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Dogs, Dogs Dogs- A Couple of Doggy Interviews

Over the past week whilst I have been at home in Preston I have filmed a couple more interviews for my documentary about the issue of dog abandonment in Preston. I think it’s important for me to look at other areas of Britain when I am talking about how the recession is having an impact on pets as it is a national issue and I feel that simply focusing upon South Wales would be a little bit restrictive.

Preston City CentreThe first interview I conducted was on Monday with Andy Howard who works in the Environmental Health Department at the Preston City Council headquarters. I originally contacted him about the possibility of filming alongside one of the dog wardens and he seemed very interested in being a part of my documentary. I am glad about this as he gave me the facts and figures I needed. For example, according to the Stray Dogs Survey commissioned by the UK’s largest dog welfare charity Dogs Trust has shown a distinct dip in the number of stray dogs collected in Preston compared to the rest of the UK. During the interview Andy talked a lot about this and about the microchipping events the council runs which he thinks is  a key contributor to this doggy decline. As far as I am aware this interview went incredibly well and I got a lot of information from a different  perspective and I know that this will help with giving my documentary more depth.

My only concern with it is that we were filming in an office which was not the most interesting of locations and the way he was positioned meant that the light was shining onto his glasses. Although this was the only quite place in the building we could film and him being seated in that position was the only way that  I could position the camera and frame him well, I am disappointed and would have liked it to have been better quality. Nevertheless, I do not think that it is so bad that it will have ruined my documentary and the quality of what he is saying is good anyway.

My second doggy interview was on Friday with a dog warden, Sonya Wheeler, and after having some difficulty managing to locate her due to various council building being closed down I feel that it went really well. Unfortunately, the office we had to film in was a little bit small which meant I couldn’t really position her differently but by physically bending down to interview her on the chair meant that she was well framed anyway. I would have thought that as a dog warden you would want to highlight the problems with stray dogs however after it taking months to find one to talk to I knew that this wasn’t the case and in this interview, although I tried my hardest, I did get some rather short answers. Despite this, I also got a couple of good answers about the specific breeds they see more commonly than others and why she thinks this is so, which I think will be a good direction to take in my documentary.

In terms of the cutaway shots I got, due to the building being relatively tiny and plain there wasn’t that much of a range and I tended just to get a variety of shots of the same things. I am pleased with my set-up shot of Sonya though as she is walking to the dog warden van and getting in it which I feel is a good introduction to what she does. I would have liked to have got some footage of her collecting a dog on the streets as gaining this actuality element would have really brought something to my documentary however with the numbers of stray dogs going down in Preston, Sonya informed me that it is quite rare to collect one nowadays and with the limited amount of time I had, it would have been too difficult to wait around. I do think that what I do have, however, is ideal for this section of the programme.

Overall these two interviews have been a success and I feel that by getting a different angle on dog abandonments and looking at one area where the figures are going against the national norm is going to really broaden and deepen my documentary.

Paws-ing For Thought: Filming At The Society For Abandoned Animals

This afternoon I took along my mother Susan McGarrie to help me film at the Society for Abandoned Animals in Manchester to show how smaller pets like rabbits and cats are also feeling the effects of the credit crunch.

We arrived there at about 12:00pm and upon arrival I met Aimee Ennis who I was to be interviewing. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, the woman I was supposed to be talking to was unable to make it and although had mentioned to me that I would be interviewing Aimee instead, hadn’t actually mentioned it to Aimee herself. Luckily, she was fine with me filming her and so the interview went ahead.

It was decided that the best place to do this would be the cat part of the centre as it was flooded with light and I was also able to get the beautiful cat artwork in the background as well.  This worked really well and I am really pleased with the outcome as it looks clear and well framed and one of the best interviews I have yet. Aimee knew exactly what to say after I’d shown her the questions and talked a lot about her experiences with abandoned animals. I know that I will definitely be

Volunteer Aimee Ennis has felt the impact of the recession on pets herself

able to use this footage in my documentary and it is really beginning to take shape. She also attempted to hold a cat throughout the interview but cats being cats, it wouldn’t stay for the whole thing and leapt of half way through. This has concerned me a little bit in terms of the editing as I don’t particularly want it to jump from her holding it to not holding it but there was nothing I could do and I’m sure I can make it work.

One thing I was really pleased with was the interview I managed to get with somebody who was at the centre to put one of her cats on the waiting list to get into the centre because she was on benefits and couldn’t afford to keep it anymore. Finding somebody who was in this situation is something I have been struggling with for a while now so to get an interview by chance was perfect. This

Lisa Morris is having to part with one of her cats due to financial pressure

has taught me a lot about keeping my options open whilst filming as you never know when other opportunities come along.

After the interviews, me and my mum filmed quite a bit in the cat section in order for me to get the general shots I needed. Whilst I filmed the cats, my mum encouraged them to play at the window which was really helpful and I managed to get some really good and useful shots.I also managed to film a family coming in to collect a cat they had adopted and I am planning on using this to show that some animals do have happy endings. We then visited the rabbit centre where I feel I got some more good shots of the many rabbits there, which I am hoping to use to illustrate that it’s not just cats and dogs being abandoned like many people think. I think the bunnies knew they

The rabbits certainly played up to the camera!

were the stars of my documentary as many of them came to look at me and even yawned and drank their water as well (I’m going to use these shots for the ahhhhh-factor).

I was intending to filming another interview with Aimee where she talked about her dogs and their stories as they are all rescue dogs. However, this didn’t quite go to plan as my camera’s memory card proceeded to run out of space. After deleting some of my shots, which I really didn’t want to do, I managed to get back about 5 minutes worth of space and so I had to rush the filming as fast as I could. I really am disappointed with this as it would have been perfect but due to my rush it was badly framed and there were also people shouting across her even though they knew I was recording. Looking back I probably should have made it clear that I need them to be quiet but as we were all getting it done as fast as possible it was quite difficult to get a word in really.

Aimee and her rescue dog

I have learnt such a lot today not only about the animals and the financial pressure the society is under but also about filming. I know I need at least one other memory card now to reduce the risk of this situation happening again!

Horsing Around! Filming For My Documentary- Part 1

Today has been rather hectic today to say the least as myself and Codie filmed two more interviews for my documentary ‘The Price of Life’. As I am now going to be looking at the crisis of horse abandonment as well,  one of these interviews was at the Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies Monmouth at 9:00 am which meant that we had to be up at 7:00 am to get there in time. Quite difficult to do but it is definitely something I am going to have to get used to!

When we arrived at the centre we were introduced to Rebecca Telfer who took us down to the bottom fields to meet some of the recently rescued horses who had been abandoned in Bridgend. This included three young colts called Jigsaw,

We were introduced to Jigsaw and Puzzle, just two of the many rescued horses at the centre

Puzzle and Wellie who seemed very keen to be involved with the filming and even came up to the camera for a sniff. After we had filmed for a while in this field with Rebecca she then went to get Wellie’s halter so she could hold on to him whilst I interviewed her. I really wasn’t expecting to be left in a field with the horses so I was a bit worried that something could happen however they were very calm and simply wanted to see what we were doing.

When it came to the interview, I first asked about Wellie as I am hoping to focus upon this little colt’s story for my documentary. In doing so I found out that he had been bullied by the group he had been found with and had no mother which meant that he couldn’t reach the food and was starving. Looking at him, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly sorry for him as he also suffered from a number of skin

I first interviewed Rebecca Telfer about little colt Wellie

diseases as well. This part of the interview alone has really made me think a lot more about what can and should be done to help as no animal deserves to suffer like this at all.

After this, I then spoke to her about how the issue of the horses being abandoned in Bridgend and South Wales in general affects the centre and the strain it is putting on them. Rebecca told me that it was really putting pressure on their resources and that they are being forced to turn away some horses because they simply cannot afford to cope with them all anymore. This was ideal for my documentary as whilst I am aiming to get across the affect that the recession is having on the animals of the UK, I also want to show the impact it is having on the people involved as well.

Following the interview, I spent quite a bit of time getting some general shots of

These horses seemed very curious about me and the camera!

the sanctuary including the some of the other horses at the centre well. This included some which had been rescued from Rhoose not so longer ago and they seemed very keen to investigate me and the camera! Rebecca then took us to meet Arthur, a little 2 week old foal who had recently been brought in after being rescued in Bridgend (again). It amazes me how people can be so cruel to these creatures and I want to do them justice to encourage people to help make a difference. The owner of the SWHP Jenny MacGregor also came out to feed Arthur which meant I got some perfect shots of the care they give to the horses there. However, whilst we were recording this she began talking to Rebecca about the fact that somebody had just rung up to report another abandoned horse in Bridgend. I really wanted to investigate this further and find out exactly what happens when one is found but I felt it would be slightly intrusive and didn’t. Looking back I think it would have really benefitted my documentary but I’ve learnt a lesson here and will definitely think about taking these opportunities further in the future.

Visiting the SWHP today has been such an eye opening experience and the

Little foal Arthur had been rescued not so long ago

footage I got is definitely going to benefit my documentary. I am going to make sure that I get across the work that they do here and the pressure they are under in the hope I can get more people to help them and the horses. I can really see how I want to structure the documentary now after visiting and I am looking forward to getting stuck into the editing!  Now for interview 2……

Horsing Around! Filming For My Documentary: Part 2

After leaving the Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies, we made our way from Monmouth to Bridgend in order for me to get some general shots of Laleston where there have been reports of wandering horses on roads and in gardens  and also film my second interview with Bridgend Councillor Cheryl Green.

Driving around we found that it was pretty difficult to find these abandoned

Filming the horses we came across in Bridgend

horses  although we did manage to find some other horses and a sign warning people to close the gate to stop wandering horses getting into the cemetery. Not exactly what I was aiming to get but I know it will all be useful when it comes to the editing.

Eventually we came across a field with quite a few horses in it which looked as though they had been abandoned with scruffy coats and the patterning of gypsy horses, the most commonly abandoned breed. As we approached the barbed wire to get some shots of them, we noticed that it had been cut and mended rather hastily. This really makes me think that they were either put in here in an act of ‘fly-grazing’ where owners who can’t afford to feed them let them feed for free on private land or they had been put in here by authorities to get them out of the road and out of gardens. I’m really pleased with the footage I have of them as I know that it is ideal for this section of my documentary. Managing to find the abandoned horses has been a real achievement and will demonstrate the problem exceedingly well in the programme. I would have like to have got some closer shots of them as they were far away so are rather small but at least I have them and it’s better than nothing.

Some of the horses abandoned in Laleston, Bridgend

After a quick spot of lunch, we then went the Cheryl Green’s house at 15:00 to interview her about what she thinks should be done about the problem and how, as a councillor, she thinks it is affecting the area. I was a little bit worried about her two dogs as they were banging and barking at the door which could have affected the sound quite a bit but other than that the interview went really well and I got some really good answers I can use. I think after these interviews, I am really improving on my interview technique. In the past I tended to write the questions and just stick with them rather than listen to what people were saying and ask them about their answers. However now I know that I take what they say into consideration and talk to them about it which has resulted in better responses and subsequently better material for my documentary. As I am aiming to make documentaries in the future, being able to interview people well is a vital part of this so I am glad that I am improving on this.

Cheryl Green, Bridgend County Councillor, knows what impact horse abandonment is having on the community

Once we had been introduced to her two dogs and watched how they go and ‘speak’ to the horses in the field next door, we then left Cheryl’s house to film some more general shots of Laleston from a different direction. Unfortunately at this stage it had begun to rain hard which meant I couldn’t really get very many shots and I am rather annoyed by this but I think I managed to get enough to create a sequence so it’s not the end of the world. In hindsight, it would have been good to have got a shot of the Laleston sign to introduce it in the documentary but since it was quite a way down the hill and we had the equipment to carry (and it was raining), it would have been really hard. I think I should maybe have tried harder though I know I can do well without it.

Overall, today’s filming at the Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies and in Laleston has supplied me with a lot of good material for my documentary and I will make sure that I make the best of it. I now want to find out more about the plight of the people and the ponies involved in this abandonment crisis and I am determined to encourage people to want to as well.

Dogs Trust Filming: Take 2

After deciding that the footage we got last time wasn’t high enough quality for my documentary, myself and Codie revisited the Bridgend Dogs Trust centre today to reshoot the interview with Rhia Stankovic-Jones and get a couple more general shots of the kennels and the dogs. This time I had my Canon camera which meant that I was able to film in much higher quality which I think is going to really benefit my documentary.

When we arrived at the centre at 2pm this afternoon we waited for Rhia and then made our way across to the room where we interviewed her last time. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great at all unlike last time so whilst I would have preferred to shoot in the yard, it was a bit to cold and rainy too. It wasn’t much of an issue as the room was flooded with light so she was still well lit, I just would have liked to have a more open location.

After reviewing the last interview, I chose to have Rhia standing up as last time I was standing over her causing her to look up and she also looked a bit uncomfortable.  I found that this interview went a lot better than last time and I am really pleased with the answers she gave. Although I am in a bit of jeopardy with the doc at the moment, she spoke a lot about the recession having a direct affect on the Bridgend centre which is going to be extremely useful to back up my statistical points. I do think that the background is a bit bland as she was just standing against the wall but as last time I wasn’t able to get the entire Dogs Trust poster in shot making it look a bit badly framed, its an improvement.

We were then allowed to wander around and get some more footage of the dogs in the kennels, again with two cameras. I used my Canon 550D whilst Codie used the Z1 which meant that in a short space of time we were able to get a considerable about of footage and some really good shots. Just like last time there were more adorable little puppies, Jack Russells just like my dogs, and I was incredibly tempted to take them home. They really played up to the camera, staring intently into the lens with their big puppy dog eyes and so did the rest of the dogs. I don’t know how anybody has the strength to resist them!

The few hours I spent at the Bridgend Dogs Trust today were really productive and I got some shots that hadn’t even occurred to me to get last time, including the ‘Welcome to Bridgend Dogs Trust’ sign which will be ideal to introduce them. It would have been easy to just accept the footage I had before and use that but I want to make sure my documentary is the best I can make it and by putting in a little bit more effort, I hope it shows in my work.

Dog-umentary filming- Dogs Trust Bridgend

Another morning of filming today as I filmed another part of my documentary about the effect the recession has had on the abandonment of animals. This time I went to the Dogs Trust Rehoming Centre in Bridgend along with Mirella Burgess, Rebecca Konig and Codie Stephens as my crew.

Rhia Stankovic met us when we arrived and was incredibly helpful throughout out time there, as she has been throughout the organising. She introduced us to Bruce, a 5 year old collie who has been at the centre for 3 years. I can’t believe nobody wants him because he is such an adorable and loving dog. I want him myself! We filmed him being walked around the grassy area which I am hoping to use as an establishing shot and then him playing in a room upstairs. All of this footage seems to be useful so as I have a lot of good shots of him playing which I think will contribute to the empathetic side of the viewers.

Stop, Paws, Think…Pitching My Journalism Documentary Idea

This morning I pitched my journalism documentary idea ‘An Unwanted Gift: The Animals Abandoned At Christmas’ and I think it went well. I had to pitch to Head of Factual at ITV Bruce Kennedy as well as my lecturer and the rest of my class. Due to this, I felt a bit nervous standing up there especially as I was chosen to go first but once I began speaking my confidence increased because I knew my idea inside out.

After I had got through everything and shown the trailer I had created for my documentary, I was given feedback for my idea. I was told that I had some good stories in my pitch, which I should expand on further and rather than focus solely upon the pets abandoned at Christmas, I should look at the wider aspect of the effect that the recession has on them in general. I had actually been looking at doing this at the beginning of the development stages but decided to look more at Christmas as I was initially hoping to film around then so felt it was more appropriate.

I do think that my documentary will be a lot better centred on the recession because it means I can explore a lot of different directions. Luckily, in the interview I have already recorded at the Cats Protection Centre in Bridgend the recession was talked about so I think I will still be able to use it.

Today has made me realise that pitching isn’t as scary as I was imagining and going first and being thrown straight into the deep end actually helped me a lot. If I hadn’t gone then, I think the nerves would have been a lot worse. Standing up there in front of everybody and pitching and idea that I am really passionate about made me see that if you are that invested in something and have worked hard on it then everything will work out. I have learnt a lot about the direction that I should take my documentary in and I am already getting started in this now.

If I could change anything I would work on my speech delivery because I think I spoke a little bit too fast but once the other pitches are underway, I think I will improve a lot. I never thought I would say this but I’m surprisingly looking forward to the next two!

Never work with animals (especially your own!): Documentary Filming

Over the Christmas holidays, I attempted to obtain some footage of my dogs Jack, JJ and Millie for my documentary. As my documentary is about the abuse and abandonment of animals especially around Christmas, the idea was that I would use them as a positive example of how pets should be treated. However, not everything went to plan. Initially, it took a while to get them to stay in the room and not be afraid of the camera and once they were used to that, things seemed to be going ok….but not for long. Not only did I have to dodge balls of fur flying at me as they ripped open their little presents, I also had to try and get some decent shots whilst not getting in the way of my mother who was trying to prepare the Christmas dinner and organise everything. Filming on Christmas day certainly wasn’t as much fun as I had anticipated it to be! After I finally managed to film Jack getting involved with Christmas, sitting at the table in a Christmas hat I decided that that was probably enough for one day.

A couple of days later, there was an attempt to get the dogs bathed and clean before people came round which I thought would also be a great opportunity to show how well ours are looked after. Again, this didn’t go as well as I imagined. JJ in particular looked more sad than happy and then ran around so fast it was a real struggle to keep up with him! Looking back at the footage, it became clear to me that the only way I could film them really enjoying themselves would be to walk them so we took them to the field for a run about. Big mistake. They all got so covered in mud they had to be bathed again but at least I managed to film them having fun.

Another highlight of this filming was definitely the dog choir that arose when a signing Santa Claus was placed in front of them. To begin with, JJ just stood and barked continuously at it but Jack soon joined in, howling like a miniature wolf. After a while, Millie also joined in until it was absolutely chaotic! This went on for ages and ages and I managed to get some pretty good shots of it all which should look good in the documentary. Jack also did his best to help, standing on my back as I tried to film an over-the-shoulder shot of Santa and howling.

Although it was a bit trying at times, filming my dogs was quite an experience. I learnt a lot about filming with pets and all the issues surrounding that (especially health and safety with dogs leaping about around the equipment!) What I can say is this; the phrase ‘Never work with animals or children’ is not necessarily true but working with your own animals…well that’s a completely different tail!

Paws For Thought: Preparing For My Documentary On Animals And The Recession

For my major broadcast journalism project I have to research, write, film and edit my own documentary on a recent news issue. I have decided to make mine about the ‘post- recession’ effect on the abandonment and adoption of cats in South Wales following the recent news story about the 6 kittens abandoned near the Bridgend Cats Protection Centre. (http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3870051/Suffocating-kittens-br-dumped-in-handbag.html)

Today I contacted the manager of the Bridgend Cats Protection, Sue Dobbs, to see if  it was possible for me to film in the centre and whether she would be available and happy to be interviewed. I would ideally like to ask her about the story of the abandoned kittens to see it from her perspective as it was her husband who found them in the bag as well as the more general issue of the abandonment of cats and the need to re-home them. I am hoping to also include information about how to adopt cats from the centre and the importance of doing so as I feel that it would benefit the centre and would inform the public on what to do if they are looking to adopt. Hopefully I will be able to film there and interview Sue as it would be really helpful to have somebody directly linked to the influential story within my documentary!

In order to ensure that I can cover both sides of the ‘argument’ of cat rehoming, I would also like to get in touch with somebody who has had to get rid of a cat themselves if they will allow me to interview them on camera. Likewise I am also planning on talking to people who have adopted cats to discover their opinions on the adoption and abandoning in the current economic climate.

In researching for my documentary, I have discovered that WalesOnline has already written an article about the issue of animal rescue centres being put under pressure to re-home the sheer amount of unwanted kittens. Hopefully, I will still be able to continue with my documentary as I feel that filming any animals is an advantage to helping me achieve my aim to become a wildlife documentary maker. If not, I will just have to find a new subject because any documentary making experience is helpful anyway especially working under pressure. Fingers crossed for the cats!