Twenty Tips for Happiness

My suggestions for happiness. I don’t always get them right myself, but they certainly help. This list is not exhaustive, or in a particular order.
These are my thoughts as influenced by: life experience, things learnt in Church, values from my family, advice from Christian leaders, friends and mentors, and from the Bible. (Nothing in this post is sponsored.)

  1. Exercise 
    Stress management, particularly if you have any anxiety, is hugely helped by exercise. I recommend doing a mixture of strength, stretch and cardio. Though, I find that running is best if you need to clear your head.
    The ways in which exercise will aid you are endless, including:
    – better breathing
    – more confidence
    – improved ease of movement
    – better mood
    – better sleep
    – improved circulation
    – a sense of routine and control over your time.
    Your exercise time can also be your time outdoors, time to learn a skill, your time with others, or even your time alone. I use my exercise time to catch up on audio podcasts and to enjoy my music collection.
    For the time poor: 24 hour gyms are now common.
    For those concerned with money: you can exercise at home or outdoors, you can also find videos, plans etc online. I paid $500 for 18 months of gym membership with classes included at Crunch gym. It’s cheap enough that if I’d rather go outdoors instead then I don’t feel guilty about waisting my dollars; plus I can bring a buddy to train with me. I also recommend the Michelle Bridges 12WBT for a paid exercise and diet plan.
  2. Take Vitamin B12 Blood Tonic 
    I take Nutrivite every morning, it dissolves under the tongue for quick absorption and it’s about $14 for 100 tablets. You can also get this vitamin in the form of injections administered by your GP.
    I noticed the benefit to my happiness instantly, but it also gives a sustained lift in mood over time. It’s always best to chat to your doctor about mixing supplements and medications and your personal health situation. This vitamin can be particularly good for people who don’t eat red meat.
  3. Time Alone
    Depending on whether you are more introverted or extroverted, the healthy balance of time alone will be different, but everybody needs (and benefits from) time alone.
    The balance to strike within your time alone, is between ‘intentional time’ and ‘lazy time’. Don’t be mean to yourself! Allow yourself some time for the occasional YouTube binge, or staying in bed until midday.
    But on the other hand – don’t let all your alone time be ‘lazy time’, because you won’t gain long term benefit. Cultivate genuinely restful and productive time alone – see some of the other points for ideas on how to do this.
  4. Time Together
    Spend too much time alone and you get weird, no matter who you are, and weird is not happy. Time together is about time with your partner, friends, family, colleagues, and others. It’s good to have a mixture of people you need and people who need you (not always mutually exclusive).
    Mix-up your together time, so some is purely social, some is about helping others, and some is about helping you.
    It’s important to be able to be sustained without people around you all the time, but also remember – “It is not good for man to be alone” in the long run (Genesis 2:18).
    If there are kids in your world, then invest in time them: they are refreshing for you and they need good role models who care about them.
    If there are old people in your world, spend time with them too: they have a lot to give, plus they have given alot already. They are at a time in their life when they should be celebrated and valued.
    Together time can have varying levels of engagement – from deep discussions, through to watching a comedy, mix it up and enjoy it.
  5. Pray 
    Even if you are not a Christian – this is open to you too and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I pray to Jesus everyday. I ask for His help both for myself and on behalf of others. I acknowledge and thank Him, repent of stuff I’ve messed up with and I also listen, it’s a two way conversation.
  6. Read The Bible
    Meditiation on scripture is so helpful – it’s about stilling your thoughts and being peaceful, with positive input. To be still and know God (Psalm 46:10) is an incredible task – so beneficial, but harder than it sounds. Bible scriptures also help us to pray, can entertain us, and are edifying on many levels.
    If you want wisdom – look in Proverbs.
    For poetic writing which explores sorrow and triumph – the Psalms are helpful.
    For the core Christian message – look to the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
    And there’s obviously so much more there that we could never exhaust it in a life time.
  7. Colouring In / knitting / cooking / nail painting / or (insert similar activity which is ‘mindless-but-not-junkfood-for-the-mind’ here)
    These tasks are repetitive, they focus your attention and can be creative, but they don’t exhaust the mind or require a lot from us mentally/emotionally. You’ll also have something to show for your work at the end. These are good ‘alone time’ things, and are particularly helpful if you are in a difficult season, because you may need something to occupy your mind and time, but your energy levels are likely to be low and your sorrow and stress levels may be high.
  8. Eat well
    By ‘eat well’ I do mean be healthy, but not just healthy: enjoy food and do it well.
    Eating well can give you a huge sense of balance and control over your life. So if you’re in a bit of a spiral, maintain your food in a good way and you’ll feel a lot better, it might even help you get on the right track.
    Controlling your portions will make you more comfortable. Eating fresh produce and a good variety of foods will get you the vitamins, minerals and energy intake that you need. When your digestion is functioning well you will feel infinitely better.
    For health, here’s a few tips that work for me (although everyone is different):
    – roughly know your calories and you can’t go too far wrong
    – flavour things with herbs and spices rather than fats or salt
    – allow yourself to really enjoy delicious foods, including ‘treats’ – but if you portion and space them out they will more enjoyable and sustainable
    – take a pro-biotic
    – Eat a balance of most things (unless you are genuinely allergic) without overdoing any particular category
  9. Drink Water
    Being hydrated will make you look, feel and function significantly better. You will be exhausted if you are dehydrated, you will also get fine lines on your face and the overall quality of your skin will decrease. It is easier to sleep, breathe, think and speak when you are well hydrated. And you will loose more weight if you need to.
  10. Sleep
    Some of us are better at this than others, but if you make a discipline of it, especially as you get older, you’ll notice the difference. There are things you can do to help you sleep:
    – use lavender linen water, mist or balm
    – have a heat or cooling pack
    – invest in good bedding if you can
    – use ear plugs
    – use an eye mask
    – open or shut windows
    – be intentional the time before you go to sleep, the less screen-time before bed, the better, wind down,
    *Let there be exceptions to the rule with sleep. Allow  yourself have a late night here and there, being tired on occasion isn’t the end of the world.
  11. Have a project(s)
    “Without vision the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). You have skills and gifts that intended for the benefit of yourself and others. Make the project(s) something you’ll enjoy and have an end point if possible. If it’s a big project then set little goals or victories along the way. I do this podcast as one of my projects.
  12. Be actively focused on others
    People are valuable, the more you recognise their value, the more you’ll realise your own (as a general rule). Be deliberate in this:
    – set quotas (e.g 2 donations a month, 1 kind word a day)
    – decide on good deeds in advance (you’re unlikely to just fall into them regularly)
    – put yourself in other people’s shoes (this helps with motivation and method)
    It might take the form of volunteering, encouraging, awareness, financial donations, or going out of your way to bring dignity to a vulnerable person etc.
  13. Get Good Input, and Digest Good Content
    This is about reading, listening, watching and relationship. Be intentional about what you feed your heart and mind. Find authors, news, documentaries, music, preachers etc that will give you challenging, edifying and uplifting content. Don’t just invest or you’ll get bloated – digest it too. So talk through it, pray about it, journal, and put it into practice!
  14. Celebrate and Recognise
    Make a big deal out of things that matter, like birthdays, achievements, holidays and milestones. A card, cake, outing, phone call or celebratory toast are all great ways to do this. Maybe even give a gift that matches the occasion. On a smaller scale:  just writing something down in your diary, saying ‘thanks’ or ‘congratulations’, are all significant. Take the time to be thankful, proud and excited for yourself and for others.
    *Note – don’t let your expectations be too high, and don’t let the celebration (or the expectation of a celebration) overshadow the actual thing you are recognising in the first place.
  15. Breathe Well
    Learning to breathe well is hugely helpful, it’s good crisis management, but it’s also  good general maintenance.
    Breathing slowly in controlled intervals is generally the way to go. It’s hard at first. Breathing is generally not a conscious activity, so if you have poor breathing habits it’s unlikely that you are aware of it, however, it will be having an impact on your mood as well as your ability to deal with stress and conflict.
    As a breathing exercise: I breathe in through the nose for 4 counts, hold for 2 counts, and then breathe out through the mouth for 6 counts.
  16. Balanced Self Improvement
    If you drift through life, you will almost definitely end up where you don’t want to be. This goes for relationships, career, faith and everything else. We need to be intentional about who we are becoming and where we are heading.
    Invest time, energy and resource into being a better person.
    I’d suggest this means:
    – Getting good counsel and being transparent with trusted people
    – Actively learning from others’ mistakes,
    – Take time and space to genuinely reflect on your experiences, expectations and decisions
    – Being aware of your thought patterns and emotions (changing them where needed)
    – Admitting mistakes, shortcomings and wrongdoing: say/be sorry, get to the root of it and then change
    * The reason I include the word ‘balanced’, is that I strongly believe you should avoid obsessive self improvement – mainly because it negates grace. We all need grace. If you don’t let grace be at work in your own life, you’ll find it hard to have grace for others.
  17. Forgive
    Unforgiveness is corrosive, primarily to the one who is hurt. We can carry unforgiveness and not even know it, so point 16 is a good one to help keep that in-check.
    We should be able to wish others well in their lives and that they would come to a place of addressing their offence. Though their offence can in some cases mean we don’t/can’t have that person as a part of our lives.
    We may be tempted back to un-forgiveness by the memory of the offence or our pain, this does not mean that we don’t forgive them. But it does mean we need to be on guard against slipping back into a place of unforgiveness.
    Forgivness does not make what that person has done to you any less wrong or serious.
    Forgiveness should not depend on the person being sorry.
    Forgiveness is freeing and significant on many levels.
  18. Don’t Judge
    You’ll be happier if you don’t judge, and generally speaking it’s not our job.
    Carrying judgement for others is carrying the weight of their faults (or perceived faults). There is no need to judge. Particularly in a Christian worldview, this technically should be easy, because we know that the God of justice prevails, and that’s what the crucifixion is all about.
    *Although we do not need to judge, there is a time and place to offer correction and there are opportunities to express that you feel something is wrong. We can have morals, standards and opinions, and there are contexts in which those can be shared individually and corporately.
  19. Worship
    Worship is about reverence and adoration – a beautiful combination when directed in the right place. I believe we are created to be in relationship with God.
    In the deepest place of sorrow: praising and worshipping God brings a comfort and joy that is otherwise not accessible in tough circumstances.
    I’ve heard an analogy used: you don’t use a hair-dryer to toast bread, you don’t use a microwave to play CDs. Just like all with things, people function best when they are aligned to the purpose for which they are created.
  20. Love
    In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, there’s a pretty incredible description of what real love is, so I’m going to leave you with that:
    Amplified Version:
    4 
    Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant.

    5 It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured.
    6 It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail].
    Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening].
    8 Love never fails [it never fades nor ends].

Ten Tiny Reviews, Volume Two.

  1. 20,000 Days On Earth (2014)
    9/10
    This film is brilliant: experimental documentary at it’s best. Interesting conversations with unusual people in amazing settings, all set around a well-told abstract narrative.
  2. Million Dollar Arm (2014)
    5/10
    I actually can’t remember if i finished this film. It’s not the worst film you’ll ever see, but it’s boring, patronising and lacks both charm and interest.
  3. Hail, Caesar! (2015)
    10/10
    Absolutely great, particularly if you know about movie making or enjoy old hollywood films. All the performances are charming and convincing; the sets, costumes and humour are all brilliant. So clever and entertaining, it’s the Cohen brothers at their best.
  4. Joy (2015)
    9/10

    This is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it certainly is mine. A brilliant use of abstract realism, it’s an inspiring biographical story of an entrepreneur which focuses more on the hardship than the triumph and has plenty of stressful moments. It feels like a dream and yet so gritty and raw at the same time. Again, great performances.
  5. War Room (2015)
    7.5/10
    This is not a big budget film, and it’s one aimed at a Christian audience – although I’d recommend that anyone can watch it. It has an incredible message and does a good job of condensing complex human, spiritual and relational issues into a neat narrative without oversimplifying or glossing over them. A unique approach and worth a watch.
  6. Mad Max: Fury Road 
    9/10
    This film is so exciting, the look is unique and so is the soundscape. It’ll have you on the edge of your seat the whole time, immersed in this post appocalyptic wasteland with a glimmer of hope that is literally being raced towards. I loved it.
  7. The Longest Yard (2005)
    2/10
    This is just the worst. I couldn’t finish it. It’s not endearing, it’s unoriginal, and it’s not funny.
  8. Zoolander 2 (2015)
    7/10
    Just after the opening sequence there is one of the best pieces of exposition I’ve seen in any film – a hilarious catch up done through news bulletins – it’s worth watching just for that. This film is a mixture of some hilarious jokes that are pretty much up to the standard of the first film, with a whole bunch of b-grade and vulgar silliness. It’s funny to see Zealander in the context of 2015/6 – some pretty funny observational humour is used.
  9. Erin Brokovich (2000)
    9/10
    This is one of my favourites. Julia Roberts is one of those actors that I always think I don’t like, and then I watch her in a film and remember how great she is. This is a wonderful story and it is really well told. Aaron Eckhart’s character and performance are real highlights.
  10. Daddy’s Home (2015)
    7/10

    This is a funny one if you don’t get your expectations too high and just enjoy the jokes. It’s nice seeing Will Ferrel in this dorky role and Mark Wahlberg is great too. The film is nicely made and there’s lots of funny moments.

 

Hot Cross Buns

IMG_4418

WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 

  • 550g bread flour + plenty extra for the board
  • 7g dry yeast
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon all spice
  • 300ml milk
  • 50g butter
  • 1 egg
  • 150g currants
  • Rice bran oil spray
  • 2 tablespoons apricot jam

HOW TO MAKE THEM: 

  1. Bring milk to boil on the stove, set aside and add the butter.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in a bowl and make a well in the centre.
  3. Beat the egg and set aside.
  4. When the butter and milk is warm (not hot), pour it into the centre of the dry ingredients, mix it in very briefly with a spoon, then add the egg and bring it all together.
  5. Turn the sticky dough onto a well floured board and knead for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.
  6. Spray a large bowl with the oil, put the dough in and cover with oil sprayed glad wrap.
  7. Set aside in a warm place for 1 hour 15 minutes. It should be increased significantly in size.
  8. Unwrap and tip in the currants, vanilla, all spice and cinnamon.
  9. Need the ingredients through the dough until well absorbed.
  10. Re-wrap the dough and leave for another 1 hour 15 minutes.
  11. Divide the dough into 16 pieces. (You can weigh the whole piece first, that way you can calculate how much each piece should weigh and make sure they are evenly sized.
  12. Roll each one into a neat ball on a lightly floured surface.
  13. Place them in 4 rows of four, lightly touching so they will expand into each other.
  14. Cover them lightly with a piece of oil sprayed glad wrap and leave for another 1 hour.
  15. After the hour is up, preheat the oven to 200C.
  16. Mix 5 tablespoons of water with the plain flour.
  17. Spoon it into a piping bag (or can use a zip lock back and cut a tiny bit of the corner off).
  18. Pipe the crosses onto the risen buns.
  19. Heat the apricot jam on a low heat over the stove until melted.
  20. Brush the jam onto the buns.
  21. Place the buns into the oven and cook for 20 minutes.
  22. Eat fresh or leave to cool before wrapping up. If eating later make sure you toast them.

 

Choc-Mint Smoothie (Vegan and Sugar-Free)

WHAT YOU NEED: 

  • 350ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 chopped frozen banana
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or maple syrup)
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa nibs
  • 1/3 cap of natural peppermint essence

HOW TO MAKE IT: 

  1. Place a large glass in the freezer
  2. Put all the ingredients into a Nutribullet or blender
  3. Blend until smooth except for the cocoa nibs which will not blend quickly and will add a nice crunch to the smoothie (around 15 seconds in a Nutribullet)
  4. Pour the smoothie into the frozen glass and return to the freezer for an additional 2 minutes before serving.
  • Tip: I always keep a few chopped frozen bananas in the freezer. I buy a bunch, peel and chop them when I get home, and put them into individual zip lock bags in the freezer.

My A21 Prayer Project

I mark in my calendar, on the 21st of every month, half an hour to pray about the horrific human trafficking situation that sadly plagues our world. It’s an issue that can seem very overwhelming and leave us feeling hopeless and disempowered.
So I decided to take a very small but practical and spiritual step to make sure I’m praying for this at least once a month. To help me know how to pray about such a huge and dark issue, I am working my way through the prayer points and accompanying scriptures in the A21 prayer guide.
If you’d like to join me in this project, then I’d really encourage you. If you’d like to help out in other ways there is also a list of ways included below, that you can help out the work that A21 does.
Link to the prayer and help guide pdfs.
PrayerGuide_a21_Page_1 PrayerGuide_a21_Page_2

Pancake Recipe

Wholemeal Pancakes, this recipe quantity just makes 2 pancakes. 

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 1/2 cup wholemeal self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup milk (any type of cows or plant milk is fine)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 free range egg
  • A little bit of butter
    To serve: 
  • Fruit
  • Syrup (Maple or Golden)
    OR 
  • Lemon Wedges and Sugar
 HOW TO MAKE IT:
  1. Place all the ingredients except for the butter into a bowl and whisk them together until smooth.
  2. Place the butter in a fry pan and heat it to medium-high.
  3. When the butter is bubbling and sizzling pour half the mixture in.
  4. When the edges are all bubbly, flip over the pancake.
  5. When the other side is cooked – place it on a plate. and repeat for the second pancake.
  6. Serve it with your toppings.

 

My Podcast Recommendations

I had a request for podcast recommendations (This is just a list, not reviews).

So here are the ones that I listen to:

Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin interviews famous figures from actors to activists, about their careers and lives.

Sunday Night Safran

John Safran and Fr Bob Maguire talk race and religion with guests, also featuring amusing talk-break intervals. *This is no longer in production.

Doctor Karl on triplej 

Weekly science hour hosted by Zan Rowe, Dr Karl answers listener questions.

SomeAnswers

Samantha Freestone hosts conversations with Christians about their personal journey. Always finishing with her signature question – ‘Why the heck do you believe in Jesus?’

Freakonomics Radio 

Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt explore ‘the hidden side of everything’.

This American Life

Headed up by Ira Glass, this podcast is split into 3 acts that each explore the weekly theme from a different creative angle.

The Osher Günsburg Podcast

Osher Günsburg interviews prominent figures from comedy, radio and elsewhere. Each episode is kicked off with a refreshing and very candid update from Osher about mental health.

Favourite Episode: Merrick Watts, Eiji Han Shimizu.

Wilosophy with Will Anderson

Wil Anderson has conversations with various Australian personalities about their philosophy and the path that their life has taken.

Favourite Episode: Todd Sampson

C3 Church Ryde

This is from my Church, they put out the weekly sermons as podcasts on iTunes. It’s great Bible based, life focused, teaching.

Serial

Radio Journalist Sarah Koenig looks into the murder case of Hae Min Lee and the conviction of Adnan Syed, the podcast episodes reveal Sarah’s journey looking into the case, featuring interviews with Adnan.

Undisclosed: The State Vs Adnan Syed

Following up from Serial, three attorneys, one closely related to the case, explore the trials, the evdidance and the people involved in the murder case of Hae Min Lee.

Pop Culture Happy Hour

A panel review pop culture movies, tv shows etc each week. Each episode is finished off with ‘what’s making us happy this week’ – where recommendations for apps, music, movies etc are given.

Sparrows and Wildflowers

(Disclosure: this is my podcast) Conversations with different Christians about their life journey, what they believe and why.

The Tim Ferriss Show 

Interviews with interesting people as well as some advice (not that I subscribe to all of it) around success and self improvement.

Conversations with Richard Fidler 

Interviews with interesting people from different spheres, from authors, to scientists, to actors and more.

Voice of the Martyrs Radio

Actually really uplifting and inspiring, as well as informative. Stories and interviews from persecuted Christians around the word.

Rocky Road Recipe

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 3 x Cadbury Turkish Delight bars
  • 1 x Large packet of Malteasers
  • 550g Cadbury Milk Chocolate (that’s one regular block and one large block)
  • 1 smallish packet of cashew nuts
  • 1 packet of pink and white marshmallows

HOW TO MAKE IT:

  1. Melt the chocolate by breaking it up and placing it in a bowl, place the bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. (you do this first so that the chocolate is not so super hot that it melts all the ingredients when you put them together)
  2. Toast the cashews up to golden (I use the grill and turn them once, you could use the oven or a fry pan on medium heat)
  3. Chop the turkish delight into 8 pieces each.
  4. Throw the malteasers, marshmellows, turkish delight pieces and toasted cashews into a large bowl and toss them so thy are all mixed up.
  5. Line a baking dish (the size will determine how tall the rocky road ends up – so up to you) with some baking paper and make room in your fridge or freezer.
  6. Pour the melted and partially cooled chocolate into the yummy ingredientts and mix it up good so that everything is covered and pretty evenly distributed.
  7. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and poke it until it’s even looking.
  8. Place this in the fridge or freezer until set (Ithink about 1.5 hours in the freezer.
  9. Take it out, chop it into the size squares that you like and eat it up!

*This makes lots.

 

My Documentary Recommendations For Netflix Australia

Little Hope Was Arson: This is definitely one to watch; it’s beautifully shot, really suspenseful and super interesting. The ending of the film shocked me so much that I almost couldn’t breathe for a minute – it’s really an amazing documentary. It’s at times challenging to some of the Churches, families, some of the attitudes, and the justice system, whilst also beautifully presenting the Gospel at times – well worth a watch by everyone.

The Cove: I was late in watching this film, but finally got there. It’s full-on but well worth seeing. It’s really insightful, even if you’ve seen similar documentaries. It’s engaging – giving backstory and context whilst taking you on a journey with the activists.

Blackfish: This is a really sad and interesting film, I felt a little like it was pushing it’s agenda too hard instead of letting the content speak for itself, but it’s still enthralling, important and well worth a watch.

Jonestown: Paradise Lost: Warning – This documentary features a lot of really bad re-enactments which contain a couple of terrible wigs and one set of fake eyebrows. However, it is a very interesting and sad subject, one that is good to be aware of. It focuses mainly on the final days of Jonestown rather than the years leading up or the biography of Jones. In narrowing it’s focus the film is able to be really specific and pretty insightful – it’s also made up of interviews with some of the key survivors.

The Imposter: I love this because it’s so unique – a great example of how documentary can be artistic and in doing so can enhance the audiences understanding of the content rather than muddy it. If you like a thriller movie, if you don’t even like documentary – watch this! It’s super sad and pretty disturbing but definitley a film to see.

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Schwartz: Another sad one – sorry! This film unfolds like a tragedy play – from the beginning you are forewarned of what’s to come and then you slowly watch it all unfold, with ups and downs, knowing that it’s going to end very sad. However, the film also got me quite excited about the people’s power in protest and the amazing good that the internet and freedom of information can bring.

Girl Rising: Sad again, but definitely the kind of sad where you know that you have a responsibility to watch this, to be aware of what’s going on, and then to do something about it! The storytelling here is also really lovely and effective.

Food Inc: This film is an important one for anyone who eats food. I think it’s so key to be educated about what you’re putting in your mouth and fuelling your body with multiple times a day – and in turn to be educated around the industries that you’re contributing to and the future that you’re creating. This documentary makes it easy for you by presenting a bunch of very engaging and digestible (pun intended) facts, figures and stories.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams: This is a Werner Hertzog film, if you know who he is then I suspect you’ve either seen this or you just put it on your watch list. If you don’t know him: Google. This is not the world’s greatest documentary in itself, but it is about the world’s oldest cave paintings, and it’s Werner, so it’s good.

The Queen of Versailles: This is a different kind of sad, a documentary impeccably well timed as they started filming months before the GFC and then continued well after. These are very real people, at times they are lovely and fragile and you feel their pain, but then their complete lack of perspective and the fact their home is filled with nannies who are poverty and grief stricken (having not been able to see their own children for decades) and pets that are literally dying from neglect – is really quite sickening. This documentary is very insightful and looks at marriage and wealth in an interesting way. I also like that it doesn’t feel manipulative or mean, as far as you can be unbiased – I’d say this is.

Other ones to watch: Kids for Cash, The Central Park Five, Life Itself, Super Size Me, Man On Wire, Bowling For Columbine, Kurt & Courtney, Prohibition, Finders Keepers.

My TV Show Recommendations For Netflix Australia

Friday Night Lights: I like this show, it’s an interesting perspective on small town American culture, drinking culture, Church culture over there and football culture, as well as the family unit. You definitely have to pretend that the students are college age instead of teenagers though, other wise it’s just not believable in any way.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Everybody that I know who has seen this show all agrees that it gets better as it goes on. Don’t give up after the first few episodes because it’s worth persevering. Terry Crews is particularly hilarious…and Cwazy Cupcakes.

Downton Abbey: My husband laughs at me for watching what he calls a period drama version of Days of Our Lives. But I like it! The costumes are incredible and I like the way it weaves in various historical elements.

House Of Cards (American): This is very dark and disturbing, mostly thematically. But the performances are amazing and the story is pretty gripping, less so as it goes on though.

Broadchurch: Again very dark and sad, but more great performances and a well written story.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: This show is very funny and clever in an over the top kind of way, sort of like what Ugly Betty would have been like if it was actually good. There are a few elements of humour that I found a bit uncomfortable though.

Arrested Development: This series is truly hilarious (the recent season less so). A great cast, with so many in-jokes that you yourself will quickly become in on.

North & South: This is a mini series. A really good period drama that is equally about romance, the industrial revolution and unions  – good stuff.

We Can Be Heroes: I love this series. The acting performances from both Chris Lilley and the supporting cast are top class. Warning: if you don’t like politically incorrect then this isn’t for you.

Other ones to watch: Angry Boys, Fawlty Towers, Rake, Upper Middle Bogan.

My Movie Recommendations For Netflix Australia

Boy: This is one of my top films. So funny and so sad at the same time. It’s stylised and yet feels really raw and has such authenticity to it. I love this film and can’t recommend it highly enough.

Guardians Of The Galaxy: GOTG is just good entertainment. It’s funny and engaging, has a good soundtrack and graphics as well as some nice performances.

The Cat in the Hat: This film gets a bad wrap but I think it is incredibly hilarious, and weird. Hilariously weird.

Nacho Libre: See previous.

Big Hero 6: What a beautiful film this is. Sad and sweet and wonderfully animated.

Men In Black 3: A surprisingly good film. With an unexpected twist, great pop culture references and performances, I really liked it

Lord of the Rings Trilogy: It surprises me how many people still haven’t seen this. A really great series of films – they’re epic and enthralling and well worth a watch or re-watch.

The Way Way Back: This one has been overlooked – it’s great! Steve Carrell in a serious role, Sam Rockwell as one of the most charismatic characters ever. And I really liked how teenagers behave like actual awkward teenagers, not just immature adults (I think there’s a difference). This film has an appreciation for every day people and it’s so refreshing.

To Kill a Mockingbird: A classic, worth seeing and seeing again by everyone.

True Grit: I love good westerns and this one is creepy and funny and just good. I highly recommend it.

Michael Clayton: This is another one that’s been overlooked. It’s disturbing and slow moving – a very quiet film; but it’s also really poignant and impacting.

The Hurt Locker: I’m not a fan of war movies generally but this is one of the few that I found to be outstanding. It’s slow but tense and doesn’t glorify war – it’s well worth a watch.

Beasts of the Southern Wild: What a unique film this is. Beautifully shot and the visuals are accompanied by a great soundtrack. It will make you cry though!

Rabbit-Proof Fence: A must see, particularly for Australians. This is a gripping, sad and uplifting story, really well told.

Rain Man: Another classic that a lot of people haven’t seen. Tom Cruise is good and Dustin Hoffman is incredible, it’s a great story.

Shutter Island: Not everybody likes this film, but I do. It’s dark and super scary. I didn’t see the twist coming, I think the performances were good and it’s got a very eery feel achieved partly through the amazing setting and weather.

Shotgun Stories: I am yet to find anyone else who has even heard of this film – but I thought it was brilliant. By Jeff Nichols who also directed Mud and Take Shelter, this is a slow moving, tense and sad film. It’s tough to watch but also really gripping and masterfully told – definitely worth watching (and leave a comment with your thoughts if you see it!)

Gravity: The first time I watched this film I was completely enthralled. The second time I watched it I was hoping to disconnect a bit so that I could think about the editing techniques they had used – I was so enthralled the second time that I couldn’t disconnect and dissect the film! It’s really good.

Wall-E: This is such a charming film, with some good social commentary too. The characters are endearing, the animation is good and again, great pop culture references.

Big Fish: Tim Burton at his finest. This is a unique and interesting story – great integration of fantasy and reality and it’s really beautiful to watch.

Metropolis: It is a very long, silent, foreign, old film – but trust me you have to see it! It’s so engaging and absolutely incredible to look at, the story is great and you’ll find that you connect with the characters despite the afore mentioned aspects. Definitely watch this film.

Up: This film has possibly the best piece of exposition I’ve ever seen. The first few minutes are this emotional and endearing backstory that literally brought tears to my eyes. The rest of the film that follows doesn’t disappoint, it’s really cute and unique.

Bee Movie: This film is another one that gets a bad wrap but I really liked it. I love clever pop culture references (as you may have observed) and this has got heaps, plus good puns and Jerry Seinfeld.

Quick list of other ones to watch: Fair Game, Prisoners, Sideways, RED, The Dark Knight, I am Legend, Minority Report, The Terminator, Rush Hour, Argo, Surrogates, Megamind, Harry Potter Series, Robocop (re-make)The Hobbit, Inception, Interstellar, The Matrix, The Princess Bride, Space Cowboys, Bicentennial Man, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Monsters Inc, Cars, Hercules, Space Jam, Lilo and Stitch, Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Horton Hears a Who!, The Emperor’s New Groove, Jumanji, Monsters vs Aliens, Coraline, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, The Adventures of TinTin, Slumdog Millionaire, Get Smart, Mean Girls, Blended, As Good as it Gets.

My quick list of ones to avoid: The Notebook, The Romantics, Tammy, Meet Joe Black, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Mr & Mrs Smith, Jumper, Out of Time, Armageddon, 17 Again, Life As We Know It, Dodgeball.

 

Safe Fleets Are Better Business

About the Project:

This piece was created at Insurance Australia Group in mid 2015. I was a key part of the small team who were tasked with putting this project together from scripting right through to file delivery.

My colleagues and I formulated the script and storyboard. All but one of the interview shoots were one person operations, some shot by shot by me, others by my colleague and two by an external contractor. The crash test footage was provided by ANCAP. Graphics were completed by my colleague, and I edited the piece.

Details: 

Filmed on Canon C100, 7D and GoPros. Lighting set up included LED light panels and Dido lights.
Edited in Adobe Premiere Pro, title design and motion completed in After Effects utilising Trapcode Particualr plugin.

Thoughts:

We had to pare back the scale and original vision for this video; so I was really satisfied that we were still able to achieve a result that is visually engaging and communicates a really important safety message.

We Bought The Barina

About the Project:

This is a project I worked on at Insurance Australia Group in late 2014. I was a key part of the small team who were tasked with making a piece that mirrored the original ‘Buy My Barina’ web video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJj7Km7Raks).

This new piece was part of a collection of video content used as supplementary content for the ‘Barinageddon’ parody trailer campaign (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNZX5F4Vxh0qf5lKfeaj-Kw).

Details:

Edited in Adobe Premiere Pro, filmed on Canon DSLRs, GoPros and NAC high speed cameras. Lighting set up included LED light panels and Blondies. Title design and motion completed in After Effects.

Thoughts:

I was really happy with the end result as it achieved a similar look and feel to the original. It was a fun creative project to be a part of.

Lights On and Be Seen

About the Project:

This is a project I worked on at Insurance Australia Group in early 2015. I was a key part of the small team who completed the script editing, shot listing and storyboarding, filming and motion graphics design. I was the sole editor.

Details:

Edited in Adobe Premiere Pro, filmed on Canon DSLRs and GoPros, using natural lighting and LED light panels. Graphics design and animation completed in Adobe Illustrator and After Effects.

Thoughts:

I am happy with the pace and aesthetic of this piece. This was a satisfying project to work on as we were able to achieve an engaging and creative piece of content that effectively communicates important safety content (which might otherwise be a bit dry).

Vegetarian Rice Paper Rolls

Vietnamese Style Vegetarian Fresh Rice Paper Rolls. 

About this dish: This is my take on a dish that my Mum would often make. It’s great for cocktail parties or picnics and it’s very healthy. It’s easy to do once you get the hang of the assembling and rolling. Serves two for dinner or plenty as a party platter.

-Picture to be added soon!-

WHAT YOU NEED:

200g marinated tofu
1 bunch coriander leaves
1 carrot
1 cucumber
1 red capsicum
1 bag of sprouts of your choice.
1 packet of dried rice paper (round sheets)
soy sauce
1/2 lime
1 x red chilli
sesame oil

 

HOW TO MAKE IT:

Dipping Sauce
  1. pour soy sauce to almost fill two small ramekins
  2. Squeese the juice of a quarter lime into each
  3. Sprinkle with finely chopped red chilli
  4. Add a few drops of sesame oil
Rolls 
  1. Grill the tofu or meat.
  2. Slice the tofu/meat, capsicum, cucumber and carrot into 16 sticks each.
  3. Fill a large but shallow dish with hot water (cool enough that you can touch it though).
  4. Take one rice paper sheet, dip it in the water, making sure all of it gets wet until it is sift (but not totally soaked). Place it immediately on a flat surface, top it with a couple of torn off coriander leaves, followed by a piece each of the capsicum, cucumber, carrot and tofu/meat, finish with a sprinkle of the sprouts. Then fold in the top and bottom of the rice paper, followed by the sides, to form a nice roll.
  5. Repeat the rolling process for all 16 rolls.

EXTRA TIPS:

– You can replace the tofu with meat, you can also purchase plain tofu and marinate it yourself.

– My rice paper method is to rapidly rotate the dry rice paper sheet at an angle so that the sides are running through the water then I dunk the whole things into the water, flip it upside down and duck it again, and then leave it until it is only JUST soft. Timing and temperature specifics can depend on the brand.

– Make the sauce first so that the flavours infuse into the liquid.

– If you make them in advance, make sure they are stored air tight and that they don’t stick together too much.

Head Shave Fundraiser for the Cancer Council

This year on March 14th Chris and I shaved our heads totally bald in support of the Cancer Council, to raise money and awareness. I spent the 10 weeks prior fundraising, praying and getting the word out there. A huge thanks to everyone who contributed and encouraged us – it’s been an amazing blessing to see what an impact this has had. We managed to raise a total of $6050, with the original goal being $5000. Last week we had the privilege of going to the Cancer Council head office for a delicious afternoon tea with the CEO and some of the team, and for a look around to see first hand part of the incredible work they do.

Here’s our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/chrisandrachgobald

As of June 2015 this video has almost 14,000 views on YouTube.

And here’s the video of the shave:

Caramelised Onion and Feta Tartlets

Caramelised onion puff pastry tartlets with fresh dill. 

About this dish: I came up with this recipe when we were having a bunch of people over for a regular prayer and Bible discussion catch up and I had uncharacteristically failed to prepare any food offerings. I gathered up what ingredients we had and (also uncharacteristically) managed to pull together a very nice little dish with no recipe or prior preparation.

So these are super easy, pretty quick and bite sized; they are great at parties or gatherings.

-Picture to be added soon!-

WHAT YOU NEED: 

2 Frozen Puff Pastry sheets, from the freezer

1 Brown or red onion

1 bunch fresh dill, picked into 32 short sprigs

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 block feta (can be any type you choose), cut into 32 cubes

Oil (can substitute with butter)

HOW TO MAKE IT:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Chop the onion into fine rings,

Spray a saucepan with a little oil and put on medium heat. When hot add the onion.

Cook the onion until it becomes softer and translucent, then add the sugar and cook for 30 seconds – 1 minute before adding 2 tablespoons of water.

Sauté until the sugar is dissolved, water is reduced and the onion is brown, the texture should be jammy but the inion should still have it’s shape. Set aside.

Put the pastry sheets into baking trays lined with baking paper. When they have defrosted a little cut them into squares 4×4 – so 16 per sheet. and separate them slightly.

Divide the onion among the pastry squares, leaving a pastry edge around each (like a pizza crust).

Place a feta cube in the middle of each tartlet.

Put them into the oven for around 15 minutes – or until they are golden with slightly brown edges and are puffed up.

Place a dill sprog on top of each target and serve. they are best while still hot (or warm so you don’t burn your mouth)!

EXTRA TIPS: 

I like Bulgarian feta best as the texture is in-between crubly and creamy and the flavour is really full and delicious. Goats cheese is also good inn the recipe (if you’re a fan of it). For those who like a hard crumbly feta – go for Greek feta. For those who like a creamy cheese – go for a danish feta.

Place the pastry on the baking trays while still partially frozen for ease, but leave it to defrost before dressing them as otherwise the pastry beneath the onion won’t cook.

Child Restraints In Australia

About the Project:

This is a project I worked on at Insurance Australia Group in early 2015. I was a key part of the small team who completed the script editing, shot listing and storyboarding, filming, graphics design and animation, editing and file delivery.

Details:

Edited in Adobe Premiere Pro, filmed on Canon DSLRs, using natural lighting and LED light panels. Graphics design and animation completed in Adobe Illustrator and After Effects.

Thoughts:

It was great working with kids – the hard part was installing the child seats with no prior experience! I was really happy with the end result and enjoyed working with the new branding guidelines and assets for the first time.

Fisheries Research Council Work

About the Projects:

In the last 18 months, through Victory One Media, I have done some video editing for the Fisheries Research and Development Council. Some of the pieces were solely for online delivery, and others were also shown in TAFE.

Details: 

My initial projects were edited from scratch in Premiere Pro, the later projects were updates to existing edited works, and were my first project edited in Final Cut X.

Thoughts:

I enjoyed working on these projects – the subject matter was something quite different for me, and my contact at FRDC was great to work with. Moving across to Final Cut X was more of a stretch than I expected, but when thrown in the deep end I can learn pretty fast and I enjoyed broadening my experience to new software.

Film Review: Winter’s Tale (2014)

Preface: 

This kind of film is generally not my cup of tea; I watched Winter’s Tale because I was at home sick one weekend. I wasn’t expecting a lot, but I hoped to be entertained for a couple of hours.

Details: 

Directed and co-written by Akiva Goldsman, this being his first role as director of a film, having previously directed a few television episodes. Goldsman is traditionally a producer and writer, having worked on a mixture of very good (e.g, A Beautiful Mind) and very bad (e.g. Mr. and Mrs. Smith) films. The film stars Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay; the cast also includes Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly and Will Smith who have all worked with Goldsman before.

My Thoughts: 

Gosh, this is a silly movie. I paused the film early on only to find that despite almost nothing having happened, a whole half an hour had passed and even worse – there was an hour and a half left to go.

The performances are generally okay with the chemistry between Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay being one of the only interesting and convincing elements in the film. Short appearances from Will Smith and Jennifer Connolly are not good at all- Connolly being uncharacteristically flat and Smith just plain laughable (in his defence his character and dialogue are absolutely shocking).

Some of the special effects are decent whilst others are astoundingly bad- notably the magical white horse’s glowing spirit wings (seriously) were very poorly executed, as were the fake lens fares which apparently link everything in the universe together.

As I’ve mentioned in other reviews – I absolutely love the idea of a film creating a kind of absurdist realism – similar to our reality but with peculiar differences. Winter’s Tale attempts this, but fails very miserably by creating a convoluted world without any substance or interest. There is a lot going on (I think??), some of which is explained through opaque and insufficient exposition. It’s outrageously bold in what it attempts, but there’s so little to back it up, making it shallow and almost funny (but not quite laugh-out-loud, so unfortunately it doesn’t really work on that level either).

Within scenes, edits and shots are placed and timed very poorly, for example in an early scene Farrell urgently needs to escape the advancing gang of armed thugs who appear to be barely metres away, but he meanwhile appears to be extremely slowly trying to tame a placid, stationary horse. One could speculate that the overall edit might have removed content that would have helped the plot to make sense. It does feel like perhaps cuts were made in order to fit it into a running time just short of two hours…but then again perhaps that content never existed.

(mild spoilers ahead)

Lastly and most annoyingly, in a bizarre plot twist the gangster played by Russell Crowe goes to visit the devil whom he refers to as Lucifer, and is revealed to himself be a demon. The devil (Will Smith) makes reference to eternal salvation, miracles and evokes apocalyptic Biblical imagery. The only mention of Jesus however is when Farrell says the name in vain in one of the final scenes. The voice over (from Brown Findlay’s character) ends the film with a bland statement about how ‘the universe loves us all equally’ and how we all become stars when we die.

It would be insulting were it not so witless, completely lacking in charm and totally unintelligent.

Agree, disagree, have something to add or another film to suggest? I’d love to hear from you, so post a comment below.

Maple Cheesecake

Sugar-free MAPLE CHEESECAKE with walnut and oat base.

About this cake: I learned to make cheesecake by trying a few recipes, settling on a favourite one and then changing it up to be how I want. Now I make lots of flavours -Spiced Cherry Christmas Cheesecake and Salted Caramel Swirl Cheesecake recipes to follow later. This particular one was made up out of desperation when we had two good friends who didn’t eat sugar coming around for a thank you dinner. We wanted to make them a special desert and luckily it turned out pretty great.

-Picture to be added soon!-

WHAT YOU NEED: 

Base:

– 100g Oats (approximate – adjust as necessary)

– 125g melted Butter

-75g Walnuts (approximate – adjust as necessary)

Filling:

– 750g cream cheese

– 125ml (1/4 cup) maple syrup

– 2 eggs lightly beaten

– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (use the real stuff)

HOW TO MAKE IT: 

– Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease a spring form cake tin with some extra butter and line the base with baking paper.

– Use a blender (stick) or food processor to chop and combine the walnuts and oats. If you don’t have a processor or blender then you can chop the oats finely with a knife and crush the walnuts.

– In a large bowl pour the cooled (luke-warm is okay) melted butter into the oat and nuts mixture and combine until the butter is evenly coating all the dry ingredients (this is where you can add more dry ingredients as/if neccessary).

– Take the mixture and line the base and walls of the tin with the mixture, pressing it tightly and keeping it as even as possible. Then prick little shallow holes all over it with a fork.

– Bake in the oven for around 15-20 minutes, removing from the oven very 5 or so minutes to deflate the air (which will be puffing up the oats). It should end up set and slightly golden.

– Use electric beaters (or a whisk) to soften the cream cheese in a large bowl. Add the eggs and beat for a few minutes until well combined and the mixture is becoming smooth and fluffier in texture. Then add the maple syrup and vanilla and beat until it is very smooth and very light in texture (this is important to make it light and airy instead of being heavy).

– Use a rubber spatula to evenly speed the mixture into the oat and walnut base.

– Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes (it should be very slightly golden on top and should be set but with a bit of a wobble, ideally it should’t crack but it doesn’t matter if it does.

– Leave it to cool in the tin, take it out when it’s about room temperature to serve.

EXTRA TIPS:

– Be careful when serving it as the base is unavoidably a bit crumbly (a cake server helps)

– Use a knife to go around the edge of the cake before removing it from the tin

– This cake can keep fine in the fridge and it also tastes good slightly warm (from the oven)

– If you’re not fussed about it being sugar free then you can replace the oats with digestive biscuits and forget about de-puffing the base every five minutes

Have a question, suggestion or a picture of one you made? I’d love to hear from you so leave a comment below. 

Film Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

Preface:

I’m not at all familiar with the original short story or 1947 film from which I hear this version differs quite a lot – so I approached the film as a stand alone piece. I thought the trailer looked quite good, but like it may be a little contrived. Also I find Ben Stiller to be a bit hit-and-miss, and I had heard mixed reviews of this film in particular. But I was looking forward to seeing it for myself.

Details: 

The director and star is Ben Stiller, with Kristen Wiig as costar. Also featured are Kathryn Hahn, Adam Scott, Patton OswaltShirley MacLaine and Sean Penn. Written by Steve Conrad, inspired by an original short story by James Thurber, and subsequent film directed by Norman Z. Mcleod. You can read more about the film, cast and crew on imdb.

Thoughts: 

A stand out aspect of TSLOWM is the compositing and also special effects – the integration of fantasy and reality in the story is matched (if not surpassed) by the visual integration of the two. The clever visuals add so much to the humour and help to engage the audience in the world that Walter is experiencing.

The humour is both clever and charming, the characters are endearing and I think fairly realistic. Ben Stiller really proved himself as an effective director of actors, drawing convincing performances from all the cast members – with too many wonderful performances to name.

The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and I am astounded by how a film with so many sweeping extreme wide shots can feel so intimate and personal – it’s expertly shot by Stuart Dryburgh. The colour palette is beautiful, it’s all very human and feels fantastical – but not beyond reach – at all times.

The soundtrack captures so much of the mood of the film, it’s also very current and creates a distinct atmosphere around the experience.

The inclusion of various cultures, geographical locations, intertextual references (Bowie and Benjamin Button are highlights), nature, urban settings and a wide variety of characters and experiences make this film such a rich and enjoyable experience.

Score: 9.1/10

Agree, disagree, have something to add or another film to suggest? I’d love to hear from you, so post a comment below.

Ten Tiny Reviews, Volume One.

Transcendence (2014):

5/10

If you’ve seen the trailer then you’ve got a good idea of what the film’s like. Johnny Depp is great as always but he can’t save this one. It’s a huge concept, treated poorly, without care or consideration by the script. Plot holes and inconsistencies left me thinking – if I’d have presented this script to my high school english teacher she’d have said ‘great idea, now rewrite the draft ten times and then we’ll have a script’.

August Osage County (2013):

8.2/10

This will not be everyone’s cup of tea but I really liked it. Brave casting places Benedict Cumberbatch as a southern American, and puts Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney back together in a totally different context to the last film they were in together (My Best Friend’s Wedding -1997). All performances are outstanding. It’s a great stage to cinema adaptation. The plot is enthralling, the drama is very tense and is really effectively broken up with a little black comedy. It’s visually beautiful and painstaking realistic.

Frozen (2013):

8.1/10 There’s a lot of hype around this one and it lives up to it. I found the songs annoying when I heard them out of context but they really work in the film. It’s a great modern take on the disney fairytale, and not in a contrived way at all. The characters are fun and endearing and the plot is engaging and surprising. Definitely worth a watch.

Pitch Perfect (2012):

1/10

Words cannot describe just how bad this film is. ‘Juvenile’ does’t come close to describing the lack of taste and intelligence in the ‘humour’, I didn’t laugh once. The characters and plot are so paper thin and the production is plastic. The dialogue and plot are like a slap in the face. I don’t have much else to say other than that I hated this film. Disclosure: I actually didn’t finish watching ‘Pitch Perfect’ – I was home sick and so I rented it. I got half an hour in before I decided I couldn’t take anymore and turned it off. Then when I couldn’t find anything else to watch I thought ‘how bad can it really be? I’ll just put it back on’, 15 minutes later I turned it off again.

X Men: Days of Future Past (2014):

6/10

I really wanted to love this film, but didn’t. They so obviously wrote the screenplay around which cast members are the most popular at the moment (Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Peter Dinklage…). I’m happy to suspend disbelief and forgive plot inconsistencies in this type of film, but DOFP goes way too far. It makes references to some, but not all, other X Men films, asking you to remember some bits and forget others. And even as a self contained piece it’s so ludicrous that it lacks tension because it’s almost impossible to really engage in the silliness. I didn’t totally hate the film, but I wanted to love it so I was disappointed. It has a great look and some exciting moments, particularly with the character Quicksilver – played by Evan Peters and aided by some great visual effects.

Lions For Lambs (2007):

5/10

Just like Robert Redford‘s most recently directed film ‘The Company You Keep‘ (2012), this film had a lot of promise (starring Meryl Steep and so on), but unfortunately the best way to describe it is BORING. It’s three loosely intertwined stories, the one about the soldiers stranded in the middle of a battle in Afghanistan was interesting and was quite a raw and unique depiction of war. The other two stories lacked any depth or interest and the film felt weirdly like watching a play.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014):

6.2/10

I didn’t want to watch this film, I’m not a fan of Keira Knightley or Chris Pine, but I was pleasantly surprised. Kenneth Brannagh plays a good Russian and does a decent job as director. The action is fairly contained, the characters have depth, and on the modest level that it aims for – it works. I enjoyed the film for what it was.

The Butler (2013):

5.3/10

Watching ‘The Butler’ feels like watching a tele-movie. It’s glossy but not too impressive, some of the performances are not good while others are fairly convincing (Mariah Carey doesn’t set things off to a good start). Probably the most interesting part is waiting for each new president to arrive on the scene so you can see who has been cast in the role. The film brings almost nothing new despite the great true story behind it. It’s not particularly interesting or exciting, it’s just okay.

Shoah (1985):

8.8/10

If you’re in the mood for a nine hour holocaust documentary then this is the film for you. Shoah is a really unique approach with interesting interviews, some revisiting sites, reenacting journeys, with some even filmed by secret cameras. It’s transparent and self aware – even featuring an argument between the director and a translator over the accuracy of the translation. It’s confronting and fresh in it’s perspective. I watched ‘Shoah’ over three sittings. It’s a big ask but I’d really suggest everyone watch it at least once in their life time.

The Artist (2011):

9.8/10

I went to the film with high expectations and I left very happy. This film has so much charm, the cast are absolutely brilliant, the black and white and mostly silent nature of the film work so well and are not pretentious or contrived in the slightest. It captures the feel of Charlie Chaplin films all over again and I think that is so exciting to see in a contemporary film. ‘The Artist’ is so engaging and so endearing, it’s really a cinema gem.

BONUS REVIEW! Closed Circuit (2013):

6/10

Watching this film I said, ‘I can’t tell if Eric Bana‘s acting is bad or if the script is bad’, the reply I got was: ‘I think it’s both’. It’s not a terrible film, again it feels a little like a tele-movie, but it holds interest and has some moments of tension – notably the height of the drama just before the film ends, quite a heart wrenching scene. It’s not the greatest movie you’ll ever see, but it’s fine for a friday night thriller.

Agree, disagree, have something to add or another film to suggest? I’d love to hear from you, so post a comment below.

Film Review: ‘Her’ (2013)

Preface:

From the first time I heard of this film I felt it could go either way for me. I liked some of Jonze‘s previous work – ‘Adaptation.’ (2002), ‘Where the Wild Things Are‘ (2009) and ‘Being John Malkovich‘ (1999). I can’t say I’m a fan of the ‘Jackass‘ franchise though (is anyone else a little weirded out to know he writes a lot of their stuff?).

I had several people recommend the film and I read some very positive reviews, so I was interested to see ‘Her’ for myself.

Details:

Directed and written by Spike Jonze, starring Joaquin Phoenix and the voice of Scarlett Johansson; with an impressive supporting cast featuring Amy Adams, Rooney Mara and Chris Pratt. Cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema (a first time collaboration). Music by Arcade Fire. Edited by Jeff Buchanan (frequent editor for a favourite director of mine – Michel Gondry) and Eric Zumbrunnen (frequent editor for Jonze).

Thoughts:

I did not love this film, it was interesting and yet not at all captivating, but ‘Her’ certainly has elements to appreciate.

The cinematography in ‘Her’ is beautiful, but not classically cinematic in it’s aesthetic, and I think this is a really effective technique here. The lighting appears very naturalistic as does the somewhat desaturated colour grade, the camera angles are slightly awkward and unpretentious and there is really effective integration of digital buildings and signage. All up giving the film an air of near-future, dystopian naturalism.

There is a seediness to the film that I find uncomfortable and unpleasant. In my opinion this is present in almost all Spike Jonze’s work, but is particularly off-putting in ‘Her’. It decreases as the film plays out though.

I find that Spike Jonze is an excellent director of actors – drawing out very effective performances from all cast members. The supporting cast are particularly good, they are given a lot to work with and they make the most of it. Rooney Mara and Amy Adams deserve a special mention for their full, interesting and convincing performances.

‘Her’ is a relatively long film at just over two hours, and it feels long. In a way the dragging-on works: it’s slow, and fairly relentless in making you feel like you yourself are part of the long, complicated and dysfunctional relationship.

At the end of the film I did not care at all about the central relationship – it was somewhat interesting, but it didn’t endear me in the slightest and I didn’t really care what happened, if anything I’d say I prefer that the relationship end. I couldn’t say whether this means that the film was unsuccessful in it’s narrative and characterisation, or if Jonze achieved success in polarising – or perhaps alienating – people around a complex (and probably not entirely unrealistic) concept of intimate human/AI relationship.

Having recently watched ‘Transcendence’ (2014), I found ‘Her’ to be a much more interesting and convincing exploration of the advancement of artificial intelligence – perhaps because it didn’t bite off more than it was willing to chew. ‘Transcendence’ touched on the often evoked concept of humanity creating a god – even ‘replacing’ or making God seemingly redundant via our own creation. But I actually think this idea can be looked at in reverse. For a long time (perhaps all time) humanity has considered itself highly intelligent, informed and moral, so much so that God can at times be rejected because of our inflated sense of our own morality and knowledge. ‘Her’ presents artificially intelligent beings that are basically omnipresent, highly functional and have the ability to become essentially omniscient. I think that recognition of the degree to which AI will potentially surpass us could in fact lead to peoples acceptance of how limited our capacity to experience the huge and complex world around us is, how narrow our world view can be, and how restricted our level of knowledge really is; and as a result lead people to an openness to God. I hope it will.

Agree, disagree, have something to add or another film to suggest? I’d love to hear from you, so post a comment below.

Score: 6.8/10

PetLife Roadie Web Ad

About the Project: 

This is a project that I worked on at Insurance Australia Group in early 2014, for Purina. I was involved in the script writing, scheduling, casting, shooting, editing, graphics and delivery of the project.

Details: 

Shot mainly on DSLR, also featuring some high speed footage (shot on an NAC camera) and with one scene’s footage provided by an external agency. Edited in Adobe Premiere Pro with graphics done in Adobe After Effects (with the Roadie graphic provided by an agency). Lighting was achieved with a mixture of LED panels and natural light, and a more extensive lighting let up with Blondie lights for the high speed footage.

Thoughts: 

Working with dogs was a fun and challenging experience, and I was really pleased with the end result.

Film Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Preface

Wes Anderson is probably my favourite director, my all-time favourite film being ‘The Royal Tennenbaums’ (2001). I don’t love every one of his films, but particularly ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ (2009) and ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’ (2004) are big favourites of mine. Anderson’s most recent film before TGBH (that’s right I’m abbreviating it) was ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ (2012). Whilst I thought that film had a lot of charm and I enjoyed watching it, I also thought it felt a bit contrived. It seemed to me that what had been unique about Wes Anderson had become a style that had in recent years saturated popular culture, and I feared he was heading in a direction where he’d just blend in. I loved the previews for ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ and I had heard some very positive reviews, so I went to the film hoping to see Wes Anderson at his best again (but in a fresh way).

Details

Directed by Wes Anderson and starring a huge and hugely talented cast including: Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson, F. Murray Abraham, Willem Defoe, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Saorise Ronan, and brilliant young new talent Tony Revolori.

Anderson teams up with some of his regular crew of quirky talent with Robert D Yeoman as cinematographer and Milena Canonaro as costume designer, and for the first time employs Barney Pilling as editor and Stephan O. Gessler in art direction.

My Thoughts

Two of my favourite things in cinema are: to see realism and absurdism combined (think ‘Synecdoche New York’ (2008), ‘Mood Indigo’ (2013) or ‘The Life Aquatic…’), and to see various kinds of animation and/or visual effects integrated with live action. Both were executed masterfully in this film.

I realised half way through the film that I hadn’t taken conscious note of the musical score – it’s perfectly paired with the visuals and the pace of the edit. I’m a big fan of a definitive score (some will disagree but I thought it was a crime Hans Zimmer lost out on the Oscar for ‘Inception’ (2010)), but I also think music can be used unobtrusively, enhancing strong visuals without taking centre stage, and that’s exactly what it does here.

The costume, hair and make-up are Oscar nomination worthy – with Tilda Swinton being almost completely unrecognisable as the lead’s ill fated octogenarian love interest.

Pilling (the film’s editor) has a list of previous credits that include ‘An Education’ (2009) and ‘Quartet’ (2012)- so I wouldn’t have picked him as a natural collaborator with Anderson – but I was completely blown away by the result. I didn’t know who the editor was when I saw the film, but my impression was that it must have been someone Anderson had worked with before, and that they’d really hit the nail on the head this time. I was stunned to find out it was a first time collaboration, and I hope it’s not their last. Some of the shots and sequences are extremely brief, there are also classic Anderson lengthy single angle conversations and wide angle follow shots. The cinematography is brilliant as always, making use of quick zooms, extreme wide shots and capturing the production design perfectly in every scene (can you think of a more exciting set for a Wes Anderson film than a mountain top mansion hotel!).

For really the first time Wes Anderson employs a fair bit of comic violence – not my favourite cinematic tool, but it’s well executed here (sorry about the pun). I think it could have been toned down a little, not that it was graphic, I just thought it seemed a little nasty. But maybe it worked in creating contrast for the more charming characters.

All the performances are exceptional, with Willem Defoe just as repulsive as Jeff Golblum is endearing (to highlight just two). Ralph Fiennes deserves a special mention in a role which is very different for him. Under normal circumstances I’d say a performance like that made the film, but there’s just so much to celebrate in ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’.

This film is a completely charming comedy that drew me in without me realising just how immersed I was, and just how much I cared about the characters, until the end. TGBH is a truly great cinema experience, and I’m looking forward to seeing it many times again.

Agree, disagree, have something to add or another film to suggest? I’d love to hear from you, so post a comment below.

Score: 9.9/10 

Reversing Visibility

About the Project:

This is a project I worked on at Insurance Australia Group in late 2013. I was involved in the script writing, casting and scheduling, filming, graphics design and animation, editing and delivery.

Details:

Filmed on DSLR, edited in Final Cut Pro, with graphics designed in Adobe Illustrator and animated in Adobe After Effects. This video is comprised entirely of original footage produced for this project, recorded and put together by myself and my colleague. All natural lighting was used.

Thoughts:

I enjoyed working on this project – it has an important message and we wanted to communicate it in an innovative and engaging way.

Film Review: The Monuments Men 2014

Preface

Reviews for ‘The Monuments Men’ have not been great. Toward the end of last year Chris and I had been following the film and looking forward to it’s early 2014 release, but after hearing almost every reviewer and cinema goer say the same thing, the urgency to see the film wore off. What I (and probably you also?) had heard was that the film didn’t afford enough time to any of it’s many characters, and so lacked depth and interest. I think a lot was expected of Clooney, having delivered brilliantly on previous directorial efforts like ‘Good Night and Good Luck’ and just coming from an excellent performance in the hugely successful ‘Gravity’. Last night we got around to seeing ‘The Monuments Men’.

Details

Directed by George Clooney, who also stars along with Matt Damon, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, Jean DuJardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, Dimitri Leonidas and Bill Murray (to name just a few of the stellar performers). Based on a true events, and on a book. The film follows the recruitment and subsequent mission of a team of art appreciating professionals who endeavour to salvage and return stolen art across Europe as World War 2 comes to it’s end.

My thoughts

I’ll start by saying that I like this film a lot. I disagree with the idea that the audience aren’t given enough time with the individual characters. In my view a great script, effective direction and outstanding performances deliver authentic and highly endearing characters (and not caricatures), with enough hints for you to fill in the gaps on home life and back story, and without any heavy handed exposition.

The casting stands out in this film (with credit to Casting Director Jina Jay and of course George Clooney). Bob Balaban and Bill Murray have only worked together once before (recently too – in ‘Moonrise Kingdom’), they’ll appear together again briefly in Wes Anderson’s latest feature ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, and I sincerely hope it won’t be their last collaboration – what a great pairing. There’s so much heart in this film, and it feels like a lot of that came from the actors’ genuine connection to their characters. Jean DuJardin is as charming, and Cate Blanchett as convincing, as ever. George Clooney and Matt Damon revisit their Ocean’s series roles in new appropriations, but they do it oh-so-well, so I think we can forgive them that. And I could go on – but all the performances are great.

‘The Monuments Men’ is not in the same vein as ‘Good Night and Good Luck’ or ‘The Ides of March’. It’s not an in-depth character study; and I think it’s vital in viewing the film that you take for what it is. The editing retro in style, with jumps in time and location, but it’s well executed and easy to follow. There have been countless deeply serious and reflective cinematic depictions and explorations of World War 2 (many very effective and important). The mass loss of life in such heinous circumstances certainly lends itself to somber cinematic treatment. However ‘The Monuments Men’ manages to be upbeat, engaging, amusing and fun, yet not without being highly reflective, at times sad, and almost never trivialising the serious subject matter. (There was only one moment in the film that I felt did not afford the weight to the subject matter that it deserved. I’ll refrain from discussing it here though, as I think it’s better for viewers to see it and make their own discernment). This film is an excellent piece of communication, exploring the subject matter in a unique way and shedding light on certain elements of war that are often not discussed. Other then the obvious, one truth that I felt was explored painfully, beautifully and effectively was how unglamorous a heroic death can be. It can be very lonely, and with the benefit of hindsight – it could often have been so easily avoided, and outside of the broader context which time and distance provide – I suspect it rarely seems heroic at all to the hero themself.

Second to the major theme of the film (which I will discuss last), is the theme of mate-ship and comradery (American not Australian). Many people will say that the film is cheesy and corny (and it is) but I loved this aspect of it. It’s so refreshing to see masculinity and male friendship centred around men from different demographics bonding over the celebration and preservation of human art and culture, as well as over mutual respect and affection. This is rare, necessary, and good. Although I think it’s worth a mention that associated with comradery and masculinity in this film comes a gratuitous use of faux-cool smoking – it would be nice to see something which has lead to so much human suffering and death not continue to be used as an iconic symbol of cool.

The costuming and production design are all good – archival photographs used in the end credits reveal they are also accurate. The cinematography is also noteworthy – nothing ground breaking, just a really effective use of light and mise-en-scene (credit to Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, who has a list of effective and understated work to his name).

‘The Monuments Men’ is also unashamedly and overtly patriotic. Blatant (and largely unflattering) stereotypes are used to portray the French and the Russians. It’s not nasty, but it’s certainly over simplified in this particular respect.

Lastly I’d like to address the major point of the film- the question ‘Is art worth a life?’ As a Christian I find this an interesting and difficult question. So here’s my thinking on it:     Value measured one for one, no art work could ever equal the value of any single human being (all persons being ‘perfectly and wonderfully made’ ‘in God’s image’). But in this temporary earthly life, is the pursuit of art preservation in a time of ultimate crisis a worthy and noble cause, even to the point of sacrificing one’s life? With a sense of the eternal in mind – I think, yes it certainly can be.

Agree, disagree, have something to add or another film to suggest? I’d love to hear from you, so post a comment below.

Score 7.9/10

Film Review: Standard Operating Procedure (2008)

 

Preface 

I’ve always been interested in Errol Morris, from his causing Werner Herzog to (literally) eat his shoe (well worth a google if you don’t already know about it), to his bringing about of legal justice through the exceptional film ‘Thin Blue Line’ (1988).

In my final year of university we were tasked with taking on a personal research project (as you can read about in other sections of this site). I chose to delve into the black hole that is documentary ethics. As part of my primary research I conducted four interviews with documentary filmmakers. One interviewee spoke about how she had walked out of a screening of ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ because, as she put it, “what Morris is doing is so difficult, ethically…”. That haunting warning along with my existing knowledge of the heavy and unpleasant (to say the least) subject matter, made me put the film in my ‘have-to-be-in-the-right-mood-to-watch-it’ category. Finally, I braved a viewing of ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ a few weeks ago, and I’m very glad I did.

Details 

Directed by Errol Morris, the film interviews US army personnel (sans those still in jail) associated with torture at Abu Ghraib during the recent Iraq war. Music by Danny Elfman and cinematography by Robert Chappell and Robert Richardson.

My Thoughts 

I am a huge fan of using artistic cinematic techniques (be it cinematography, motion graphics, animation, music…) in documentary to help communicate realities effectively and authentically, but without embellishing on or inhibiting the information. This is my goal in documentary making, and Errol Morris has achieved it fully in this film.

Usually I would say I loved and enjoyed a film which I hold in as high regard as I do ‘Standard Operating Procedure’, but these are not terms one would use in this case. The film is confronting to the point of being utterly sickening; it’ll make you angry, sad and disillusioned, but not without purpose. It doesn’t allow the audience to escape the realities, but Morris does space out the most confronting content. And every element is presented visually and sonically in such a captivating way.

Reenactments in documentary are generally notorious for being poorly executed and making the audience squirm, but not so here. Close up, abstract shots of the brutal acts being described give the viewer a distinct sense of being witness to despicable acts- imploring a sense of responsibility to not be complacent and let these things occur. Some slow motion is also utilised with great affect.

Footage and photographs from the actual events are used extensively. There were two moments when I personally had to look away. There is nothing more saddening in life than human beings taunting, harming and humiliating others for the enjoyment of themselves and/or other observers. A lack of dignity, a lack of respect for and treasuring of human life -that’s the opposite of good, it’s evil. I would not say that the use of the footage and photographs was gratuitous, that being said, I can certainly understand and respect the views of those that did find it so. It is too much to cope with, it is uncomfortable, sad and sickening, but it’s a reality and I think it’s something that should not be quickly pushed aside and forgotten. This sobering reminder will hopefully help bring accountability and perspective so that this kind of behaviour doesn’t continue.

Text and motion graphics, such as timelines, are also used incredibly effectively to communicate dry but important factual information like dates. And as usual, the Danny Elfman soundtrack is heavy handed and yet incredibly poignant and effective – adding another facet to the strong voice of the film.

I found Morris conspicuously absent in this film, where I haven’t found him so in other works. It would be easy (albeit somewhat ironic or even hypocritical) to harshly interrogate some of the interviewees, but Morris doesn’t fall into that trap. It’s not necessary to condemn the acts and attitudes out right, this artistic and authentic exploration of the events and people, speaks for itself. ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ has inspired me to look further into Morris’ interview technique; as I remarked while watching the film – ‘how on earth does he elicit such captivating responses from every single personality he interviews?’.

The relevance of the title seems obvious even before viewing ‘Standard Operating Procedure’; but in the final moments of the film it gains a greater weight, with it’s full and stinging significance revealed. The audience are left with stirring sense of injustice, a discomfort with what people can excuse or allow. As angry and disgusted as this film will make you, it’s lack of direct judgement and condemnation of the perpetrators allows for grace and sober reflection. We are all very flawed human beings and it’s scary to think that when people feel there is no accountability, for some there is a capacity to dehumanise each other to such an abhorrent degree.

This is an exceptional film, a triumph for documentary, and a sobering mirror for humanity.

Score: 9/10

Agree, disagree, have something to add or another film to suggest? I’d love to hear from you, so post a comment below.

Film Review: Rush (2013)

Score: 5.8/10

Preface

I had seen that Rush was not a big commercial success and had heard mixed reports – that it over glorified James Hunt, that it was enjoyable even to those who didn’t have an interest in or knowledge of Formula One racing and so on. What may come as a surprise to many is that I do have some knowledge of Formula One and the figures and culture from the sport’s recent history. Further to that it holds a fairly special place in my heart as the reason for my awareness is that my family are huge fans of the sport and in particular the iconic late hero Ayrton Senna, after whom my brother is named (as an aside I highly recommend the Senna 2010 documentary). So I watched the film without high expectations, but with hopes to be able to afford it high praise.

Details

The 2013 film is directed by the legendary Ron Howard and stars the increasingly impressive Chris Hemsworth (as James Hunt) and the equally engaging Daniel Brühl (as Niki Lauda). Supporting performances are given by Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara and a host of other talented actors. Music by Hans Zimmer, Cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle (who frequently works with Danny Boyle and is a big supporter of digital) and written by Peter Morgan.

The narrative explores the rivalry between the two protagonists, beginning with their early days in Formula Three.

My Thoughts

Let’s begin with the filter through which we watch this film. For the most part – a viewer should not be aware of a film’s colour grade, and for me I just couldn’t move past it in watching Rush. It’s like watching a two hour Instagram photo. I understand that they were going for a retro 1970’s feel with blue blacks, plenty of saturation and pale grain. But for me this really didn’t work, the visually vibrant subject matter that encompasses both a fairly gritty reality and a glamourised sport doesn’t require such a heavy handed filter.

The first half an hour (of the two hour running time), plays out much like a trailer. The pace is quick, there is little depth, it’s very flashy but as a viewer I didn’t enter in to the world and so quickly became bored (for those who have seen Jobs (2013), I felt this way about the entire film). First hand narration is used in the early minutes of the film, switching between Hunt and Lauda’s accounts of their early days entering the sport. Whilst I think this technique can work, it’s very ‘now’, I feel it’s become overused and is often a rather lazy way of providing exposition.

Hemsworth and Brühl, along with the supporting cast, all give great performances, but unfortunately the two leads aren’t given enough to work with. With two strong and extreme personalities to portray (the social playboy Hunt and the disciplined loner Lauda, having only their talent and arrogance in common) it would be very easy for them to fall in to caricature, and sadly, in Rush they did. Whilst I do understand that these are extreme personalities, I don’t think they (or their rivalry) were afforded the depth of real characters and experiences. It felt like we were exploring the publicised media version of the heroes and the rivalry, rather than the real life realties. And maybe that was deliberate, but for me it was disappointing.

The cinematography can’t really be faulted in what was presented on screen, but I feel that opportunities to be more creative were definitely missed. With a big budget ($38 million) and one of the most vibrant, exciting and huge sports for subject matter, I was expecting to be blown away by the cinematography. It may be a matter of taste but I think aerial and point-of-view shots were seriously under utilised.

I’m a big fan of integrating animation and motion graphics in film. In Rush, text is used to fill the audience in on who is winning various races. In theory this works as creative exposition, but it didn’t work well on screen for me in this case. It felt really jarring with the surrounding scenes – not helped by the technique being employed inconsistently throughout the timeline of the film.

The last 45 minutes of Rush were engaging, the pace slowed and more depth was explored in terms of character and narrative. But by this point the film had already lost me, and so I didn’t engage in it as much as I would have otherwise liked to.

The sound design (which I’m sure would have been better appreciated in the cinema), is worth a mention as another good point.

Overall I found Rush disappointing. Whilst it was by no stretch a terrible film, it really didn’t soar in many areas at all, despite having great cast, crew and subject matter.

Agree, disagree, have something to add or another film to suggest? I’d love to hear from you, so post a comment below.

Small Car Bumper Tests

About the Project:

This is a project that I worked on at Insurance Australia Group in 2013. I was involved in the script editing, video editing, graphics design and animation.

Details:

The footage used was from our recent archives (shot by my predecessor – on NAC Hot Shot high speed camera, Sony EX1R, DSLR and GoPro). Editing was done in Final Cut pro, with effects and graphics done in Adobe After Effects, and graphic design done in Inkscape.

Thoughts: 

This was produced under a really tight deadline, working mostly solo so I was really happy with the result that I was able to produce.

Self Parking Cars

About the Project:

This is a project I worked on at Insurance Australia Group in late 2012. I was involved in the script editing and storyboarding, filming, graphics design and animation, editing and delivery.

Details:

Edited in Final Cut Pro, filmed on Sony EX1R and GoPro, using natural lighting and some small in car lights. I worked solo on the audio-visual component of this project.

Thoughts:

It was fun to work on a topical issue – that has now had a lot of online views. I worked hard to make a clear and engaging piece, I’m really happy with the end piece (particularly given it was shot with a one person crew).

Production

Production Roles:

Many of these roles could be done by one person. Team of 2-3 would be necessary.

Flash Operator

Photographer

Interviewer

Sound Recordist

Interview (Audio) Editor

Social Media implementer

Equipment:

Zoom Recorder (I can borrow this from my Dad).

DSLR (I have a Canon 40D).

Flash (I own flash).

Sound recoding prgram (I own several, some are downloadable for free and there is access to some at uni).

Video Editing software (I own Premiere pro and there is access Final Cut at uni).

Tripod (I own one).

WordPress (This is easily accessible and I can get the site to be hosted by my partner and also purchase an appropriate domain name).

No lighting would be necessary as I would like to use the existing lighting in the tunnel in order to get an authentic feel for the space.

Development of Parameters

After Tatiana’s lecture today I have come up with a more clear plan regarding the parameters of my online documentary:

Working Title

Tunnel

Audience

Tourists and Sydney-Siders that frequent the Central Tunnel. Age, socio-economic status etc are all irrelevant.

Purpose

The purpose is to create a profile of the place and people that make up the character of this iconic Sydney site. The purpose would be to encourage social interaction and appreciation. I also believe it would have the potential to serve as a culturally important archive.

Style

As demonstrated in my gallery post, the aesthetic would be made up mostly of photography. The colour pallet will be that of the space – pale green and yellow, with high contrast to emphasise the grungy feel of the place.

Font

Helvetica. I will choose Helvetica because it is trendy, modernist, non-obtrusive and it is also clear (which is an important consideration for the older and visually impaired members of the audience.

Content List

6 personal stories. I will choose 6 participants, each representing a different background (e.g. a couple of different buskers, a beggar, an artist, a religious person etc). I have a couple of specific people in mind but obviously it will be depending on their willingness to participate. I think that 6 is enough to get an accurate representation of the place but few enough in order to be realistically feasible and not cluttered. Each of the 6 will have a photo essay accompanied by an edited audio interview and their music where appilcable. A little bit of text may also be used.

Navigation

After a short introductory photo essay explaining the work and the space, users will be taken to a navigation screen. The navigation screen will be a wide shot of the tunnel and will have six icons (a guitar, a hand painted sign asking for help etc) which are buttons (with a highlight function). When the buttons are clicked on the photo essay, text and audio for that particular person will pop up. There will be a ‘back to the main menu button’ to take the user back to the navigation screen.

This will all be made in Flash and embedded in word press. The interactive Flash presentation will play automatically as the user eneters the site. There will however be two other tabs in the word press – one ‘About’ with credits and a written explanation. And another with links to the facebook pages where users can be more interactive and upload their own content.

User Generated Content.

As mentioned above their will be a facebook page for users to answer discussion questions, upload their own photos and videos, post links etc. The wordpress comment function will also act as a forum where users can discuss the interactive flash work.

Ethical Considerations

All participants will need to sign indemnity forms and have a good understanding of what it means to have your image and work and story online forever and for others to comment on. I also need to look a little further into copyright in order to make sure I have the rights to record original and non original music for this piece (being a student work and not for profit I think this will be okay).

Feasibilty

I own a Canon 40D which would be suitable for taking all the photos. I own microphones, and the equipment to record sound to my lap top, alternatively I can borrow a zoom from friends or family or potentially get access to a PMD through uni. I will need to get a permit to film from City Rail, having spoken to others who have done this before I don’t think it would be a problem. The editing would be fairly uncomplicated – I would just need to revisit my Training in Flash.

Gallery

Here are a collection of photos that I took at central station tunnel. I took these photos in a hurry so they are not very good but they give a general feel for the colour pallet, composition and contrast levels.

Synposis

One Sentence Synopsis:

An interactive exploration of the space of Central Station’s iconic tunnel and the characters use the space to busk, beg and recruit.

Extended Synposis:

An interactive exploration of the space of Central Station’s iconic tunnel and the characters use the space to busk, beg and recruit. Through audio interviews and photo essays these people tell their stories – how they came to be there, why they are there now and where they are going. The varied cultural history and atmosphere is explored by the user with themes of art, tolerance and celebration of humanity being highlighted.

 

Class inspirations – Locative technologies, Funding and Audience Involvement

I found today’s classes extremely helpful in thinking about and expanding on my idea.

We spent some time looking into locative technologies including BuildAR. I think my idea has social significance and so it would be good to create some more real life interactivity and then the project will grow and expand. The thing that stands out for me about BuildAR is the augmentation of reality – I love that users could animate the space and share their interactions and perspective. However there are considerations here – for example the cost of $300 (and ongoing monthly payments of $10) would be off putting to participants. Particularly because the target market are varied in socio-economic status and they have no capitol to gain from this project except the knowledge that they have contributed.

So I have had a think about other ways to incorporate uder involvement and locative technologies. Perhaops directing users to facebook to log in, tag people and leave comments in the facebook central tunnel location page (which I would create). Otherwise, embedded maps from google – but I need to look into this a little more.

We also looked in to budgeting and audience involvement in the process of creating the document. Sohail pointed out how crowd funding not only generates money but a buzz around the project. He also had a vimeo account set up to show the production and generate involvement.

Inspirations

ABC OPEN – Portrait Of A Stranger.

This project has inspired me in my idea development for an online documentary not so much in it’s form but in it’s content. I really like the idea of introducing people to someone they might have otherwise passed by once or many times but never gotten to know. The isolation of individuals in modern community has largely been attributed to the rise of the internet, I think that creatively using web 2.0 to bring people back together is really positive. I also like the use of photography and the fact that users really get involved – it is human connection, community, friendliness, acceptance and appreciation of others that forms this project. This work is multi-platform – bridging the gap between online and physical community and galleries; I’d like to think that my idea for an online documentary about the buskers, advocates, advertisers and beggars in Sydney tunnel would also go beyond the online world – perhaps on a less structured way though.

American Poverty.

This site, which I reviewed for my case study, has been a great inspiration. The style of photography used is very personal, profound, natural and skillfully taken. The moments in time that are captured are very character and situation revealing. Having previously studied documentary ethics, this project does make me think about the ethical considerations involved in sharing such personal photographs of individuals with the world. Context and permissions are obviously very important. I like the idea of the use of black and white, but I think that the Sydney Central Tunnel has such bright and beautiful colours that are so much part of it’s character; so I would not like to use black and white for my idea.

Pacific Stories.

This project uses a nice technique where you click on pictures of people’s faces to enter in to the stories and find out more about them and where they come form. When you click on the face you are taken to another screen with several options to explore the story including text, links and videos. I had envisioned my documentary idea to use this style of user experience design, but I am not sure that I would be able to create it. Perhaps using flash, I could create an environment where the user clicks on the picture of the person and a photo essay pops up and plays automatically.

 

My Initial Ideas for an Online Documentary

Many days each week I walk through the Central Station tunnel, every few meters there is a new song and a new face vying for attention. Although I rarely if ever speak to them, I’ve grown to know the faces and music of the buskers, beggars, advertisers and activists that make the space unique. I think there would be several effective ways to create a portrait of the tunnel and it’s ‘inhabitants’ as a documentary. As I’ve explored online documentary i thought about the idea of a serious game, one where you pick a avatar ( be it uni student, business person, local, shopper etc) and navigate through the tunnel, choosing who to give the allocated amount of dollars in your pocket to, and choosing when to stop and learn more – clicking on people to see their stories through photo essays and interviews or short videos. Although I think this is a good idea, and perhaps one that the City Council or advocacy groups might have a vested interest in, it is not something that I currently have the skills to make or could organise others to do.
So at this point I would like to stick with the theme but simplify it – perhaps with an interactive magazine for a fictional ‘Tunnel Times’ with videos, photos and stories about the ‘tunnel people’. Or another idea is to make it in flash,, where the tunnel is layed out before you and you can click along it to go in closer and hear and see the stories and performances.
I also like the idea of incorporating some user generated content or at least extended online discussion – if I can’t create the functionality for this then I could create a twitter feed, blog and/or facebook page where people could make comments, suggestions, post relevant materials etc.

American Poverty Case Study (Assessment 1 – Online Documentary)

Relevant Links:
Visit the American Poverty Online Documentary site.
Visit the Facebook group.
View the Twitter feed.
View the YouTube channel.

General Synopsis and Background Context: The site is designed by ‘Mäns Design and Photography’, and is authored by ‘In Our Own Backyard’.’In Our Own Backyard’ are a not for profit organisation made up of photojournalists and activists who are united for the cause of social reform in the United States of America.

Purpose: The purpose of this site is to provide and interactive online space where, through the use of journalistic and artistic resources, users can become engaged with the extreme poverty that exists in sections of the USA. The site goes beyond just the online experience by directing users to search other sites and become involved in existing anti-poverty initiatives.

Audience: The audience for this project is primarily American because it is seeking to link users with local groups and initiatives to combat poverty in their local areas. The content is somewhat confronting and the information is detailed, so in terms of age group the site is targeted at teenagers and upwards; the site is quite easy to navigate so elderly or less ‘tech-savvy’ people could also use it. I believe the socioeconomic status of the target audience would be those who are relatively wealthy and unaware of the dire circumstances depicted in this project. The platform choice, delivery and purpose are all well suited to the target audience.

Platform Choice: Online Documentary Website; ‘American Poverty’ is an online social advocacy project which also extends to more traditional platforms of advocacy. It uses web 2.0 and new media as a platform to inform and encourage the public to become aware get actively involved in addressing poverty in America. This project operates as a website with a collection of photo essays, an interactive map, articles, news and events.

Integration With Other Platforms: There are no iphone or ipad apps for this project; this is perhaps because the project is a couple or years old and iphone and ipad apps have only become more commonplace very recently.

Technology Used: This project is flash based with some interactivity and the use of a media player and embedded video.

Quality and Effectiveness of Materials Used: The photos used are skillfully taken and are incredibly profound and revealing moments in time of such a personal nature. The information given is both factual and of a personal nature.

Social Media Implementation: Americanpoverty.org is networked with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. There are prominent buttons in the form of icons linking in these social networks.
YouTube – The YouTube channel provides the opportunity to broaden the audience for the photo essays, post other related videos such as news segments, and to create a forum for ‘likes’, ‘dislikes’ and comments (which is not available on the site itself).

Facebook –The Facebook element is in the form of an open group (a group with all content being open, and which anyone can join without the administrators approval), it allows users to share the project with friends in an easily accessible way. Whilst the group has easy to navigate functionality for photos, discussion and videos – they are not being utilised by users. However the ‘wall’ does serve as a forum for encouragement, discussion and the sharing of links.

Twitter – The Twitter account (with the potential for ‘retweets’ and hash tagging function) opens the site up to an even broader audience and allows for updates and reminders to be posted online for twitter using followers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

User Generated Content: The ‘add your voice’ tab allows users to contribute and participate with the online documentary; however the contributions are filtered. Clicking on the tab leads users to the following form:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The filtering of responses involves the “best” photos, photo essays, videos, story suggestions, comments, action alerts, thoughts and volunteer opportunities being chosen and published by the site’s authors. This process helps protect and maintain the artistic and political integrity of the site, but also it has the potential to stifle debate and give a skewed representation of the subject matter.
Users can also leave comments on the ‘news and events’ items and contribute via the social networking sites discussed above.

User Experience and User Interface Design: The site quickly loads a captivating introductory photo essay accompanied by an emotive piano score and thus immediately engages the user. The intro is fairly short and leaves the user wanting to find out more and so acts as an excellent teaser to motivate users to explore the rest of the site.

Once the user has navigated to the ‘photo essays’ page there are a few minor issues with the UX design. One of the photo essays plays in a very small embedded media player, another opens in a new window and the others play within a space in the site. The inconsistency in the way the photo essays play is distracting and jolts the user out of the atmosphere of the experience. Also, I feel it would have been more effective to have a full screen option for the viewings.
On the ‘Map’ page, the button highlighting is a great example of the clear and intuitive usability design employed throughout most of this project. As the mouse rolls over the various states for which there is resources available, they enlarge, lighten in colour and a small window with a relevant photo appears along with ‘click for more info’ text. When the user clicks on these they lead to pages with photos, stories and information about a specific person living in poverty in that state and the states poverty more broadly.

Below is a basic wire frame diagram outlining the structure of the site. It highlights the information architecture:

The site is structured in such a way that there is no particular sequence (apart from viewing the intro first) in which the user experiences the content. This means that each user can have a unique experience, creating their own narrative, and they can view what they feel is relevant to them (e.g. they could choose to only look at the content for their own home state).

The clarity of the layout shows that americanpoverty.org is an effective example of user-centred design.

The simple and striking colour scheme is made up of black, white, beige and grey. This colour scheme creates a sense of continuity and consistency and aids the intuitive usability and functionality of the site. The continuity of the branding in this project is one of it’s strongest points; it is consistent, distinct, unique. The logo has symbolic significance and connects with the subject matter and the core message clearly and profoundly.

Potential For Growth and Expansion: Depending on the ongoing success of the project- this site could continue to thrive for some time. I think a lot of this depends on the willingness of the organisation and it’s followers to keep using social media to promote and contribute to the project. Like many online documentaries this project has huge archival  potential and could act as a time capsule on it’s particular subject matter for future generations to consult and experience.

Tom Ford (A Single Man) Photo Essay

This photo essay was made as an analytical piece for an assessment in the subject ‘Screening The Past’. The essay is based on Tom Ford’s ‘A Single Man’ and explores the themes of queer cinema, the 1960’s on screen, pop culture, the retro, representations of minorities and aesthetics. The soundtrack was composed by me using samples from freesound.org. The essay did not take a great deal of time to make, I was in a hurry to finish my major work and was rather sick at the time so please excuse some less than perfect editing (the editing wasn’t really what I was being graded on. I did the styling myself (with most costumes provided by the models through) and chose Sydney uni as I felt it was reminiscent of the film and fairly classic. The idea of my aesthetic was to emulate Ford’s – I believe I did fairly well with that.

World Trip Animation

I recently (with the assistance of Chris) produced a couple of short animations for a friend’s corporate presentation. The animating was done in Adobe After Effects and the art was produced in Photoshop and Inkscape. The whole piece was produced over a period of two days. I made the mistake of thinking that the best quality image possible was the best idea – not so – it took an age to make any movement because of the way After Effects renders – so we ended up needing to reduce the size. With a little maths applied you can reduce the size of all the elements by the same ratio and you won’t have a problem.

World Trip Animation from Rachel Simpson on Vimeo.

Darkness Sequence

Here is another work I made last year at UTS – I made this one on my own, sampling sounds from freesound.org for the soundtrack.
Although it has been interpreted as being about writers block I actually made it about dealing with faith and anxiety. The almost illegible scripture that is partially lit by the match is from Psalm 139. I also made this as an attempt at surrealism and in response to a vague brief which was to edit together a series of 10 clips.
This was shot and made in a few days on my handicam.

Darkness from Rachel Simpson on Vimeo.

Gideon

As part of a module I took at uni called ‘Advanced Editing and Montage’ we had to create a title sequence for either a real or fictional production. I made his one at home on my own (but with Chris’ very patient help with the ‘handy films’ bit). It was shot on the Canon 40D using a tripod, I did the whole thing manually and at 25 fps, so it was a bit of a mission. I’ve heard of Dragon stop motion software which I hope to afford in the future…but for now I’ve found that stop motion is surprisingly forgiving of mistakes, you can be pretty rough with it, but as long as you get some fundamentals right it can still look awesome. I played around with some image stablization in after effects but ended up going on with out it. I think important things are to give your self a rough idea of how long everything is taking by counting your moves and realising how long each bit takes, keep the light consistent, do as much as yu can in one go because recreating a set up is near impossible, give objects characterisation in the way they move, mark out where stuff is, check your shots…and that’s about it. The easiest way to make it into a movie is to import them into your editing software of choice and just change the clip length from default 5 seconds to 1 frame. I also found that if some parts are too quick in comparison to others, just turn that particular part into its own movie and speed it up!

In terms of what I’m not happy with I’d say its a bit shakey in parts, and perhaps some things happen quicker than they should, my teacher also said maybe the background should have been keyed. Overall I think it’s a funky piece – much aided by the incredible soundtrack composed by Chris – one thing I’ve really learnt is that sound makes or breaks a production.

The film itself was made up by me I thought it could be a kind of cool idea to take the biblical story of Gideon and aproproate it into a ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ style film…very tempted to make this film at some point. You can read about Gideon at http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Judges%206-8&version=NIV

The Gleaners and I

This will be my last post about ethics in documentary filmmaking and it will be about Agnes Varda’s feature ‘The Gleaners and I’. For the most part I found this film very safe and straightforward ethically. The filmmakers opinion was presented as such, both sides of all stories were given. Everyone who was interviewed seemed o be genuinely wanting to share what they had to say. The only real ethical challenge that I could see was the fact that some participants were very poor and one seemed to be drunk and admitted his own alcoholism on camera. I didn’t think that the man being an alcoholic had any need to be included but apart from that I thought it was a very even and mostly enjoyable picture. It carried both a fairly strong political message and a personal and artistic one without needing to damage anyone – a triumph for documentary making in that sense.

Unfortunately I could not find a clip in English.

Grizzly Man and Werner Herzog

Today in my film class we watched ‘Grizzly Man’ and learnt about Werner Herzog – we reflected on the ethics of his work and some interesting points (some of which I had already considered and others which I hadn’t) were brought up. One consideration which I hadn’t thought a great deal about previously is the use of archival footage, and the subject and the story of an individual who is deceased. At first I didn’t see any problem with the use of the footage because Tim Treadwell (The deceased participant) obviously intended a lot of his footage for public viewing and he expressed that he wished to get his cause into the public eye. However as the film progressed the footage revealed more of his ‘out takes’ and emotional outbursts and potentially private footage. Whilst this very much succeeded in creating a complex and interesting portrait of Treadwell, it does make you wonder (even though the legal guardian of the footage has obviously allowed it’s use) if Treadwell would have wanted all of that in the public eye.

Herzog also presents himself as the moral filmmaker, he does however make his opinion and intent clear and although the film is a making a certain point that Treadwell wasn’t consciously making himself, Herzog is blunt in doing so and an intelligent audience member will read the film as what Herzog has understood from this interesting person and his tragic death. There is a kindness and respect shown toward Treadwell in the film (particularly Herzog’s appreciation of Treadwell as a filmmaker). The film progresses from an compleling account of Treadwell’s life to a public deconstructing of his mental state and an analysing of what Treadwell’s personal journey says about both him and humanity in general, thus the film did seem increasingly bordering on unethical. I enjoyed the film but I think it was complex in terms of permissions and portrayal.

Factual Television Documentary

I recently have watched many made for television one off and series documentaries on SBS and the ABC broadcasts. A lot of these have to do with history which has it’s own ethical implications. The use of archival war footage can often be very brutal and I think there is an ethical implication toward both those in the footage and the audience to use such footage with care and restraint. There is also the issue of the pretense of such styles of documentary as fact and as objective. These things always have a bias but don’t make that clear and i am still unsure at this point as to whether audiences are sophisticated in their readings of documentary to know subjectivity. Can there be objectivity? I don’t think so. The other ethical issue that I am reminded to be aware of is permissions and difficulties in obtaining archival footage permissions. In these style of documentaries there are also interview footage of which there must be hours, I think it is important to think carefully about how someone is represented when you go through the selective editing process.

Borat/When Borat Came to Town

I recently turned on the TV and tuned in half was through a documentary about some of the subjects of the mockumentary – ‘Borat’. The documentary focused on the plight of the Romanian town involved in ‘Borat’ post the success of the film which humiliated them and made a large profit which they did not share in. My take on ‘Borat’ is that it was particularly cruel and unethical to these people, whilst he might have exposed some ignorance or hypocrisy in American culture, any of this was done so at the expense of people who believed his lies and felt internationally shamed as a result. I think any outcome he could have achieved was not worth this cost. ‘When Borat Came to Town’ documented the townsfolk being duped by lawyers and ultimately the breakdown of one town member. The tragedy of the story is juxtaposed or at least paralleled by the bumpy journey of the man’s daughter who ultimately ends up happily married and pregnant. This dual story of happiness and sadness adds to the accuracy and credibility of the story telling and takes what could have been used as a manipulative sob story and makes it a genuine account about real life. I do not think the joy takes away from the sorrow but rather gives it weight and hopefully caused people to think. The more I study documentary the more I think about it in terms of social justice – is this a faction of documentary, or not part of documentary, or is it the responsibility of all documentary?

Forbidden Lie$

Forbidden Lie$ is a documentary different to anything I’ve seen previously. I’d heard that it was controversial, from looking at the cover I guessed that the controversy was simply that it was a recently debated subject matter – but in both content and form (which were married together in the most interesting way through the course of the film) this film presents many ethical complexities. The viewer is first manipulated by the filmmaker in the sense that their journey of discovery is closely guarded in what the first hour of the film presents, traditional Hollywood ‘accurate’ reenactments are presented as the story of ‘Forbidden Love’ is told , as the story carries on the reenactments broaden to include abstract representations of the public’s love for the book and finally a fanciful music clip of the story. This comes to a crashing halt when the viewer is introduced abruptly to the controversies surrounding the legitimacy of the book. I think that in terms of ethics the filmmaker Anna Broinowski covered herself well by showing all points of view and for the most part objectively because each point of view is covered with the same level of passion and involvement – so much so that it becomes a confusing roller coaster ride for the viewer. However in the end it does seem to point to Norma Khouri (author of the controversial book in question) as a con artist rather than an artist. Perhaps this final sway of the filmmaker (and thus film) was influenced by the way that Norma clearly manipulated Anna. This presented a total reverse of the ethics I have been trying to consider – the subject abused the trust of the filmmaker, causing her to make decisions to spend money, time etc on what she thought were certain pursuits when they were just smoke and mirrors from Norma. However, it is still clear that Anna does not loose here – these simply add to what she is creating (a complex portrait of Norma, her book and the media circus that surrounds it). Perhaps if Anna was creating a film about a more direct narrative and Norma deceived her, the filmmaker would have been disadvantaged – but in this case it was Norma who came out looking worse – although perhaps not missing out on her personal goals. Apart from the reversal of manipulation and a very different picture of the filmmaker/subject power relationship, I also picked up from this film a new consideration – the complexity of reenactments and the withholding and revealing of knowledge and attitudes/point of views from the viewer. I think as a general rule if something is departing from truth or is fanciful it should be presented as so, however this film broke that rule in a way that was delicate but not subtle and thus I feel was very ethical. This s film cleverly (albeit trickily) used reenactments that were at times obviously false and at times not to obviously all for the purpose of ultimately getting not only a message but an experience across to the viewer. The more I think about this film the more intrigued I am with the issues involved – my eyes have been opened to a very different situation regarding ethics to the classic powerful filmmaker vs subjects.

Buy Bye Beauty

A 2001 Swedish documentary feature film set in Latvia about the sex trade. I think this was an important subject to raise, one that may offend some but important to expose and hopefully stop. However I think there are serious issues of misconduct in the way the filmmaker went about things and as a result he offended many more people than was necessary and perhaps as a result reduced the credibility and therefore impact of the documentary. What I refer to as immoral and unethical is the fact that the filmmaker slept with four of the documentary subjects on camera as is shown at the end of the film. Similarly Dennis O’Rourke slept with the subject of his documentary -‘ The Good Woman of Bangkok’,  I can see absolutely no reason why O’Rourke would have done this and I think that it detracts massively from the credibility of the documentary – it simply made him a contributor to the sex tourism of Thailand which he was trying to defame and expose. Perhaps Hollender was trying to expose the extent of the horrible situation and cause a strong affect of disgust and shock in his viewer, however the offence it caused I believe hardened the audience against the message, and my personal stance on this issue is that the sake of art does not excuse one from personal morality and respect for themselves and others.

(I originally had a link to the film on YouTube here but the clips were made private so can longer be viewed).

My Photo Essay

This week I would like to review my own work because my case study (at the moment I am focusing on the work of Dennis O’Rourke) has got me thinking about some ethical questions that I came across when making a photo essay documentary last year. The aim of my documentary was to give a voice to the homeless, I set out with nothing set up, to find individuals who would like to participate. I didn’t expect it to represent all of the homeless, or have any particular effect or  make any statement. I simply wanted to depict what was real. I took my father with me in the interview process because he has extensive experience working with the homeless, I felt that this gave some sort of accountability and credibility (something that Dennis O’Rourke did not do).

One major issue that bothered me was to do with money. The subjects of the film were homeless and so presumably very poor, it seemed wrong to take up the time of beggars without giving them any money, and also, some of them explicitly said they would participate on the condition that we give them some money. The thought did occur to me that there is a possibility that some of these people did not want to participate but did so because of the financial benefit. I was reminded of this when looking at the exchange of finance in ‘The Good Woman of Bangkok’. Also, I realise that the subjects may not have been at full metal capacity for a variety of reasons and thus their judgement and therefore their decision to participate, and the content of what they said may have been other than what they would have done/said in their right mind. However, it was an honest depiction of what was going on and the time and so I think the matter is identifying what the possible ethical issues are and weighing up the risks with the importance of exposing what you are portraying.

My aim was to give the voiceless a voice but the influence of my point of view and my motives undeniably greatly effected the portrayal in terms of the fact that I chose what to give precedence to and what to omit.

The Wrong Crowd

An online documentary from the ABC:

View the site here.

This online documentary concerns a controversial matter of a death in police custody in the 1970’s – not only is the subject matter one that poses ethical and legal questions but also the form of online documentary invites contribution and provides greater opportunity for selective viewing and interpretation. The site has a specific section where people may offer to verify information, give their story or identify themselves in one or more of the archival photos that are used. This really made me think about the ethical (including legal) issues with showing archival photos (or footage) of which you cannot identify and therefore get permissions from of all the subjects – although I think this is something that you need not get caught up in.

In another of subject that I am currently studying, we are looking at vilification and defamation, I wonder if as a documentary maker you wanted to present a story that differed from what was on legal record you may be in danger of a lawsuit. Also, I think that as a documentary maker, if you are going to show a point of view story that is okay, as long as you make it clear that it is one side of a story. I think that ‘The Wrong Crowd’ was a little subtle on showing the point of view, but to an educated and engaged viewer, it was relatively clear.

A Student Documentary

One aspect of documentary making that I wish to explore is that of abstract and ‘artistic’ documentary. A few questions that I hope to find some answers to are: What and how much to explain to a participant about how you will be portraying them (and the subject matter), and if permission is necessary. Also, there is the difficulty of explaining how something will look/sound without the participant seeing it – so should they view and approve before screening. The difficulty then arises of what if they don’t approve – there could be serious issues if investors have funded the venture etc. Questions of manipulation also arise – because if an artistic and/or abstract representation style is used you risk manipulating the audiences understanding of the subject and therefore misrepresenting (at least in the opinion of some, possibly the participant).

Earlier this year I watched an excellent documentary made by Chantell Basiacik about depression. The short documentary film featured old bugs bunny cartoons, unusual camera angles (e.g. shooting the back of the participant’s head whilst they spoke), no interviewer and cuts to abstract footage (e.g. slow reversed plates breaking). Mental health being such a controversial subject anyway, I wonder if it is more  sensitive to deal with it metaphorically, symbolically and artistically rather than directly. I am aware that Chantall had a close relationship with the participant of her documentary – it is my guess that this would make some aspects of documentary making easier and some more difficult. It is my perception that abstract documentary seeks to convey the message (be it the plight of the participants, the reality of a situation,  the attempt to educate the audience about an issue, or to convince) by not only presenting truth and reality as is, but through the affect of the the sound and vision that are manipulated – this could be seen as either a higher form of the truth or perversion of it. I believe that Chantell’s documentary conveys it’s message very well using abstract techniques and from what I understand, her documentary was very well received by her peers and the participant.