For this project we were told we had to make a documentary. Our theme was ‘Campaigns for Social change’. Our documentary had to be about something we would like to change or bring awareness to socially. It’s a really broad topic, so it was really hard to decide what I wanted to do my documentary about. I’m passionate about many things and there’s a lot I want to change or bring awareness too. So I spent a long time trying to decide what I wanted to do (and figuring out if it was doable for someone who’s still very new to documentaries). I made a list of subjects I’m interested in and made notes about what angle I could go with them. At the end I had a couple of ideas. One of the ideas I had was to make a mockumentary about abortions. Me and a classmate of mine knew that this was a huge topic and we wanted to understand why people are against abortions, but we were told that doing that would be really hard and we weren’t recommended to do it especially because we’re still very new to this. My other idea was to make a documentary about Syria. Syria was a topic that I always felt like no one really knew about. I knew that being from there my view and knowledge of the situation is very different because it’s something that has affected me and my family personally. When you hear about it on the news it’s very overwhelming because it’s really complicated and it’s a lot of information to take in. After thinking about it and realising that not many people know what’s going on, I decided to do my documentary on that. Another classmate of mine wanted to be part of it and help me. It’s a very huge and relevant topic right now, and I knew doing it alone would be really hard, so we teamed up and made it our goal to make it the best work we’ve done yet.
We first presented our proposal to the class. We gave them a rough idea of what we had in mind of what we wanted to do. After that we got to work. To start the project, I of course had to do a lot of research. Syria is a huge topic and it’s important to really understand how the civil war started and how it is what it is today, but before I started on my research on Syria, I started doing research on documentaries. In order to make a documentary I have to understand the structure and different styles of documentaries. There was no way I could get this done right without having a good understanding of it. So I first researched the different styles (Poetic, Expository, Observational, Participatory, reflexive and performative documentaries). I then watched a lot of documentaries trying to identify what style of documentaries they were. I made a lot of notes about the different documentaries I watched listing the conventions they use. I tried to watch a documentary every other day, making sure they’re very different to get an idea of the different styles. After this I did my case study comparing 2 documentaries (The Square and Banaz: A love Story). I chose The Square because it was similar to the topic I wanted to make a documentary about (but very different, The Square documented the Egyptian uprising over many years). I chose to compare it to the other documentary (Banaz: A Love Story) because it was very different to The Square. The case study really helped me identify the differences between the documentaries and understanding what makes them different and the same. When all of this was done I finally started my research on Syria.
Me and my peer did both primary and secondary research. We made a questionnaire each and sent it out to people. The main goal of the questionnaire was to find out how much people knew about Syria. Whilst I was waiting for the results for this I spent a couple of weeks researching about Syria. I spent a long time online trying to find reliable sources and finding out facts about the Syrian crisis. I also read many newspapers and even talked to my family asking for their opinions about the situation and how it’s affected them. Getting the research done was very important because I knew I needed to use this later on to start writing my script for my voiceover. Before the research our idea for the documentary was very different. My first idea was to compare how people who live in Syria view the conflict (I wanted to interview my family via skype) and interview people here to understand how they view it. I had planned to even use old family videos of me and my family in Syria, but after doing the research and getting the result for my questionnaire, we decided to change it to just creating a timeline of the situation from when it started till now, and explain the conflict to people.
My audience for the documentary was very hard to pinpoint. The goal of it was to inform as many people as possible about the war in Syria, so the goal was to produce something to as wide of an audience as possible, but from the results I got from the questionnaire, I realised that it was mostly younger people who weren’t aware of what’s going on. Finding this out made me want to produce the documentary in a way that would work for a young audience to watch and keep them engaged. So I started working on the script.
I had to write up a script for the voiceover I was going to do over the animation we’re producing. Whilst I worked on the script, my peer would work with what I had done to start producing the stuff we needed in the animation using photoshop. The final script I made is on the pre-production page.
When the script for the voiceover was done I was ready to go record it with the person who was planned to do the voiceover. Unfortunately they ended up backing out from doing the voiceover, and I couldn’t find anyone else to do it, so I had to do it myself. I didn’t want to do it myself because I don’t think my voice is appropriate for voiceovers, but I did it as best as I could and unfortunately had to work with that. I re-did the voiceover a couple of times so I could decide which one was the best one later on.
Editing the documentary was my favourite part of the entire process. I really enjoy editing, and our whole documentary is made out of archival footage and animation we did, so we knew the editing was going to take a long time. We already had a vision in our head of what we wanted it to look like, and we had planned it with the voiceover, so I went by the rough template we had written up. Editing this documentary helped me gain a lot of new skills (Which you can see in my skills development page). I learned how to make more complex transitions specifically to how I wanted them instead of using pre made transitions. I also learned how to control the volume of different sound I had in the documentary (the music and my voiceover). This helped me mix the sound together nicely which made it work much better for the documentary. I was worried people wouldn’t be able to hear my voice over but learning this allowed me to edit it making sure my voiceover was clear for the audience to understand. We spent weeks editing the documentary making sure we got everything right.
Once the edit was done, I showed it to different people to get an opinion on it and see if there’s any changes I should make before exporting it. One of the people I showed it to was my family. They were really pleased with it and were extremely proud of the work I had done, this made me really happy and more comfortable with showing the final version to the class. The class also really enjoyed the documentary. They thought that the motion graphics was really good and that the documentary was very informative. One improvement they thought would make it better was to add interviews. The entire documentary is made out of archival footage or the animation we made. Another improvement they mentioned was the music. Apparently it was really distracting and it would have been better with something else. Personally I disagree with this because I thought the music worked really well, however I do think I could have spent more time trying to find suitable music for the documentary, although I did like the music I used, I might have been able to find something better if I spend more time looking for some.
Overall I am really happy with the final product. I learned so many new things doing this project which are going to be extremely helpful for my final major project later on this year. I’m really happy with all the new editing skills I learned doing the animation part of the documentary. It has made me more comfortable with my animation skills and I know will be put to good use in the future. Another skill I really improved on is my research skills. I’ve never done this much research for a project before. I never felt like I had too. This project however taught me just how important research is and what a big difference it can make in helping you plan. Something I definitely need to improve on however is my time management skills. I felt like I had to rush the final editing I did due to the little time I had left. If I had managed my time better, and used the time I had where I wasn’t really doing much on editing, I would have had more done at the end and would have rushed less.
In conclusion, I am very happy with the documentary. Although it’s nothing like I had planned in the beginning stages, I think going in the route of explaining the war to people was a much better idea and came out better than I had planned it to be.