Despite some problems getting the final few shots I wanted for this film, I have managed to make a 3-minute film that I am reasonably satisfied with.
First of all I trimmed down the interview to sound chunks that I could work with and focus on 5 main areas – Dinara’s mother’s speech about when she was born, how Dinara spends her free time, her work, her embroidery and plans to become a mother, as well as a personal message from Dinara to listeners. These I then reduced down to just 4, since I did not feel that it was really necessary to include more images of Dinara working (my last work was accused of being repetitive) plus I was trying to keep the time frame down to around 3 minutes (my last work was apparently overly long). The interview material I have selected gives a general idea of how Dinara lives, her quality of life, her values and dreams, without getting bogged down in detail. In reading about disability issues, I have identified 3 chief areas where disabled people experience most discrimination and oppression (exclusion): occupation (conferring identity), being a burden on society and perceived (or ascribed) asexuality. These 3 issues are broached by my chosen subjects, either because they are being educated, working and earning a salary, are married with children or are planning to be. I do not necessarily want to make one film about each of the issues, I think it is more important that the subjects touch on multiple issues. As such, Dinara mentions the fact that she works, and we see that she is an active consumer, that she has a creative hobby, but the most important thing for her at the moment is to realise her dream of having a child. My other subjects also discuss and relate multiple issues, which in fact are interrelated since they are intertwined and all in fact reflect back on notions of identity and perceived quality of life (something else that I have been researching). Dinara has an education and a job, but this is not her personal message at the moment, and since this is a collaborative work, it is important that she has control over how she is portrayed and received.
Since I have changed tack from my last project and decided to create these films more as illustrated narratives, the images are more closely linked to the speech of the subjects. In this sense the images aim to convey a sense of normalcy or everyday about the subject matter, rather than any attempt to show stylised imagery. I have read a lot of material on common media stereotypes of disability, as well as views on what makes positive imagery of disabled people, and this has informed my style of shooting as well as selection of images. Thus Dinara is seen from the same level, not shot from above or below; the images do not focus on her disability as the central focus (in many of the images I have not included the wheelchair in the shot); she is not presented as either pitiable or heroic, while the assistance she is being given is not condescending (I have not shown her being fed, just being pushed in her wheelchair). Similarly, the material I have selected from the interview gives an overall idea of Dinara’s quality of life, she presents herself as multi-dimensional (working, shopping for clothes, fun-loving and sociable), fallible (it took her a long time to learn embroidery), human (her desire to become a mother). I have left the interview materials largely unedited (apart from removing longer pauses or hesitations) and the pictures have not been overly Photoshopped (little colour, contrast and saturation correction) so as to keep a natural, snapshot feel to them.
In much the same way as Chris Marker’s still photo films, the images appear on screen for about 4.5 – 5 seconds each (depending on content, with those easier to read shown for slightly less time) and I have refrained from using any effect other than fade to black or white (no Ken Burns, pan or zoom effects this time), again in an effort to keep it simple: the main message of the film is in what the subjects are saying, not my interpretation or orchestration of it. I have been reading about personal narratives, image-text combinations as well as documentary ‘realism’ to inform my approach to structure and input.
To avoid the technical issues I had with subtitles in my last projects, I have used closed captions hard-coded onto the film. These I have deliberately made large for those with impaired vision (something that I noticed when I looked at the work of disabled filmmaker David Hevey), and I have used a similar font size as standard in my own films, for them to be inclusive. I have tried to reduce the titles to smaller chunks and leave them on screen for longer as well. Although this may intrude on the images, I think that the text is no less important than the images in this project, since it is the actual narrative that my subjects want to tell about themselves.
I am concerned that at the very beginning (00:02-00:04) there appears to be too much visual information on the screen. Since I added Dinara’s name in Cyrillic, an extra subtitle is required to translate it, and then Bibigul (Dinara’s mother) starts speaking. I’m not sure if there is too much happening at once visually. I don’t really want to make the lead-in any longer than it already is, but that may be the only answer if the Cyrillic script is to stay. The other alternative is to remove the Cyrillic and go back to a Latin font, obviating the need for the extra subtitle.
As I have been working closely on the subtitles, getting the timing and synching satisfactory, I am now unable to comprehend how the film works a whole piece. What I’m interested in getting tutor feedback on is how the piece works visually: is there enough time to read the titles and take in the images? How is the pacing of the film? Should there be longer pauses between the sections? Are the text slides on screen for too long?
I am also concerned about the sound level – is the volume high enough?
Although this film has information regarding the cause of Dinara’s CP, I will not be repeating this ‘public service announcement’ formula for future films. I have not explored the reasons for my other subjects’ conditions. I don’t want to create a ‘template’, since it may become repetitive. I have also only used still photography in this film, since Dinara asked me not to film our interviews (she doesn’t like the way her face muscles contract when she speaks). I plan to use moving film in the other parts of the project.