Interview: Spectacle training ‘demystified’ the filmmaking process

Spectacle has been offering flexible, efficient and affordable training based at our Lavender Hill office in South London for several years. In that time, we’ve had all kinds of people come through our doors, and the feedback we’ve received at the end of the courses has been overwhelmingly positive. Recently, however, we wondered exactly what our trainees have taken away from our particular approach to teaching in the long run. We sought out Michaela Benson, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, a few months after she finished our Digital Video Production for Anthropologists & Social Researchers training weekend to discuss this.

Why did you choose digital video production skills? 

I do a lot of research in people’s houses looking at their relations with the wider residential environment… video can offer a way of introducing participatory elements into an academic research project, and can capture the visual experience of a research setting. I also think that it introduces a different way of communicating findings to our audiences. I wanted to develop these skills so I could apply them myself and start experimenting.

What did you like most about our course?

The way it demystified the process of video-recording and taught me some fail safe basics that are transferable not only into future video work, but also into my everyday use of cameras. I feel that my understanding of video production and the skills involved in this have undoubtedly benefited.

What has stayed with you the most?

The simple understanding of how to frame a shot has been invaluable, and I feel as though it is becoming second-nature.

Now you’ve learned these skills, what’s next?

I’m looking forward to applying my new skills to my current project on self-build in the coming months.

Why do you think researchers should be engaging more with digital video?

I think that video offers additional ways of capturing research data, to be analysed later, and also opens up possibilities for different modes of engagement and communication.

Would you recommend the course to someone else?

I would definitely recommend the course. It broke the process of production into small steps that were easy to remember. Also, having a chance to put these into practice made me realise the benefits of this approach. This is a course that is perfect for anyone who wants to make a start at looking at including video production in their work.

You can find out more about our Digital Video Production for Anthropologists & Social Researchers training weekend here, including upcoming dates and fees.
If you’re interested in documentary film making but you’re not a researcher, we have a range of other courses that may interest you. All our training courses apply the same ‘fail safe’, ‘small steps’ approach to give you the confidence to pick up a video camera and start shooting.

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Incompetent filmmaking is incompetent ethnography

"This is the type of course that every anthropologist should take" 
"Excellent course to get you feeling comfortable with a camera"
"This course delivers on what it offers"
"Mark is extremely experienced, versatile & an excellent teacher"
"Interview technique tips were great"

“Films that are cinematographically incompetent are also ethnographically incompetent (even when made by an ethnographer)” (Heider, 2007: 4).

Producing an Ethnographic Film is not the only reason to incorporate a camera in to your fieldwork.There is no substitute for what the camera can capture. It is an irreplaceable tool, one that can assist you, expand your academic knowledge, broaden your ethnography, enrich your experience and uniquely contribute to the field of Anthropology.

Learning fundamental, basic principles of film-making will make the difference between unusable, poor quality footage and priceless material.

Above all, understand the limitations and the potential of your equipment:

Visit Spectacle and acquire the knowledge you need by attending one of our affordable, intense, hands-on courses in film-making.

References

Heider, Karl G. (2007) Ethnographic Film, revised edition, Austin: University of Texas Press

For more information contact Spectacle at training@spectacle.co.uk

Visit our website and have a look at our upcoming dates for the Digital Video Production Weekend Course for Anthropologists and Social Researchers or find out about our other workshops.

If you wish to book you can find all the details you need on our how to book page.

If you would like more information on future courses and training opportunities sign up for the Training Newsletter – tick the box if you would also like Spectacle’s general newsletter.





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“Anthropologist and the Camera”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

During our last course on Digital Video Production for Anthropologists and Social Researchers the single most important hindrance, while using a camera during fieldwork, came up; lack of fundamental technical knowledge. Chances are, more often than not, that poor sound, bad lighting, amateur framing and many more careless adjustments will stand in the way of what otherwise could be priceless, irreplaceable footage either for teaching/archive purposes or for professional documentary production.

Alas, the transition from the general theoretical knowledge of cinema, to which anyone of us can get access to (at least to some extent), to the actual implementation of it is highly challenging. Several prestigious universities and institutions, such as Manchester’s Granada Center of Visual Anthropology, have been promoting film-making as part of an anthropologist’s curriculum with great success. Yet, for most universities and especially smaller anthropology departments across Europe, Ethnographic Film is far from available.

My personal outlook on this matter is that if circumstances allow it (which only means if the communities which the anthropologists study allow it), a camera is as mandatory as a notebook. By extension, the quality of the filmed material should indicate an effort analogous to the one generated by the anthropologist for the actual ethnography. Thus, the technical knowledge of filming, sound and editing becomes critical. Nonetheless, as our particular academic interests gradually develop, a MA in Visual Anthropology may become a luxury that not everyone can afford, financially or otherwise. Does this mean that we shall be excluded from this community of anthropologists who have committed to become equally good film-makers as well as ethnographers?

Long story short, the fact that not every anthropologist aspires to a career in documentary and Ethnographic Film, does not justify a potential indifference to the efficacy of high quality filmed material for other purposes. As Mead (2003: 5) points out, we can only “cherish those rare combinations of artistic ability and scientific fidelity”, yet as whole cultures go unrecorded it is “inappropriate to demand that filmed behavior have the earmarks of a work of art”.

Spectacle’s weekend courses are a unique opportunity to acquire detailed and concise digital video filming skills at affordable prices. It is also important to stress that even the most experienced anthropologist does not necessary know the best way to introduce a camera in to fieldwork. With expertise in participatory media, engaging the ‘hard to reach’, as well as 20 years of professional film-making inside and with communities and minority groups Spectacle is more than equipped to provide this difficult to obtain knowledge.

References

Mead, M. (2003). Visual Anthropology in a Discipline of Words. In: Hockings, P. Principles of Visual Anthropology. 3rd ed. New York: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 3-10

For more information contact Spectacle at training@spectacle.co.uk

Visit our website and have a look at our upcoming dates for the Digital Video Production Weekend Course for Anthropologists and Social Researchers or find out about our other workshops.

If you wish to book you can find all the details you need on our how to book page.

If you would like more information on future courses and training opportunities sign up for the Training Newsletter – tick the box if you would also like Spectacle’s general newsletter.





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Digital Video Production for the Web- Short Training Courses

Digital Video Production for the Web

NGOs, charities, social enterprises and small businesses have been badly hit by the recession and funding cuts. To reach out to your target audience and get your message across there is an ever increasing demand for online video- producing high quality online videos need not be an expensive luxury.

TRNVideofortheweb

DIY digital film making and successful use of No/Lo budget techniques, can slash your production costs and actually improve your production values.

By training existing staff or volunteers in the techniques of high quality digital film making organisations can greatly reduce production costs. When people working on the ground document their own activities and events and record client testimonials you can often get better results than with a hired film crew of strangers.

Where your workers have built relationships and trust with your clients they can film more relaxed and interpersonal moments, moments that might elude an external film crew, making for a more direct and powerful film.

This practical hands-on course aims to give you the “future proof” information you really need to know to produce high quality videos by concentrating on the techniques and skills that stay constant, regardless of passing developments in software, technologies and formats.

The training is not technology specific but gives you the knowledge and attitude to get the best out of whatever equipment is to hand, to navigate your way around the complexity of codecs and formats, to identify and solve technical problems. You will learn the techniques and methods of high quality digital production in a way you can speedily pass on the knowledge and expertise to other members of your organisation and client base.

Organisations with a member of staff who have completed the course can hire Spectacle’s equipment at a 15% discount.

The course is modular. You can take just the 2 day production course or the 3 day course that includes post production and uploading video to the internet.

For more information Digital Video Production for the Web

If you are interested in booking the course please visit the How to Book page.

For information on other Spectacle training courses

Or contact training@spectacle.co.uk

For info on new dates and courses please sign up for the Spectacle training newsletter – tick the box if you would also like Spectacle’s general newsletter.




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Digital Video Production Weekend Training Courses

Digital Video Production weekend training course.

If you want to produce your own films or make your own online digital media content for your website this is the course for you.

Short, sharp, affordable.

It is ideal for aspiring documentary and film makers with no prior experience looking to develop a foundation from which to progress. It is suitable for Journalists who want to re-skill as self-shooters, Media Studies students and tutors who want to put theory into practice and anyone who wants to learn to produce high quality digital videos.

Affordable, intensive, effective and future proof hands-on practical course in a friendly environment- much can be taken away from this weekend.

We offer concession rates for registered unemployed and full time students, group discounts and we can run the training course at your work place/institution/university.

See  Digital Video Production weekend training course for more details.

If you are interested in booking the course visit the How to Book page.

For information on other Spectacle training courses

Or contact training@spectacle.co.uk

If you would like more information on future training opportunities at Spectacle sign up for the Training Newsletter – tick the box if you would also like Spectacle’s general newsletter.




 


 

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NEW Video Production Training Course Dates

Digital Video Production Weekend Training Course

Short, Sharp, Affordable. This is a practical hands-on weekend course aimed at people who want a fast way to acquire detailed and concise digital video production skills.

Evening Session: Documentary Research

Mark Saunders will demonstrate a range of research strategies and techniques for producing investigative factual programmes based on his award winning work with Despite TV and Spectacle.

Evening Session: Copyright for Independent film makers

An archive users guide to the main principles of copyright law aimed at independent film makers.Digital Documentary Visual Anthropology

Digital Video Production for Visual Anthropologists and social researchers

Aimed at those are interested in using film within their social research and want a fast way to acquire detailed and concise digital video filming skills.

 

Click here to book

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NEW WEEKEND COURSE Digital Video Production for Visual Anthropologists

Visit here for next dates and more details:

Digital Video Production for Visual Anthropologists and Researchers

About the course

Short, Sharp, Affordable. This is a practical hands-on weekend course aimed at visual anthropologists who want a fast way to acquire detailed and concise digital video filming skills.

There is an emphasis on bringing together the theory and practice of visual anthropological film making:

  • What is Visual Anthropology?
  • Positives and Negatives of using Film in Social Research (includes ethics)
  • Types of Visual Research Methods
  • Editing
  • Working in the Field

 

The short, condensed and effective course will give all participants a solid foundation of practical knowledge and a working understanding of digital cameras, sound recording, interview techniques, filming on location and industry language.

You will also get the confidence to use a wide range of equipment and learn the “future proof” principles of film making that remain constant despite the changes in technology and formats.

We allow a maximum of three people per camera set up (camera, sound, interviewer), giving everyone extensive hands-on experience.

What you will learn

– Preparing a shoot
– How to use a digital camera (focus, white balance, aperture, formats etc.)
– How to use microphones
– Framing, types of shots, camera movements, cutaways and other techniques and tips
– How to conduct and shoot an interview
– Shooting on location
– The principles of lighting, both natural and artificial
– Filming to edit
– Legal issues, permissions and copyrights

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About the tutors

Mark Saunders is an award-winning independent film-maker, media activist and writer. His expertise in the field spans over two decades.

He is currently running Spectacle Productions, a company which he founded in 1990. Clients include Amnesty International, Channel 4, the Rowntree Foundation, the Howard League for Penal Reform and many others.

His films have been broadcast internationally and exhibited at galleries, including Tate Britain, the National Film Theatre, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Musee des Beaux-Arts,  the National Media Museum and the Photographers Gallery.

Alongside production work, Mark has also been teaching for over 15 years, and he has been a visiting lecturer at a number of institutions, including London School of Economics, the Royal College of Art, the London College of Communications, Bournemouth, Florence and Coventry Universities. He is currently teaching at Birkbeck College.
Chloe Evans has written for several social science and Anthropology journals, predominantly on her work based on the Philippine Diaspora. She has also contributed photography and video materials to several University projects. Chloe Evans holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Anthropology from the L.S.E and a MSc in Visual Anthropology from the University of Oxford.

Spectacle is a member of the Moving Image Training Alliance (MITA).

The details

Where

Spectacle
No. 25
99 – 109 Lavender Hill
London SW11 5QL

Price

£200.00 + VAT = £240
Concs.: £100.00 + VAT = £120

 

Special Discounts

Group bookings
– Bookings for three to five people: 10% discount
– Bookings for six people or more: 20% discount

Multiple bookings
You will receive a 15% discount if you book a place on our Final Cut Pro editing course (dates to be announced).

How to book

Please visit the How to Book page to reserve a place on this workshop.

Also, please ensure you read our Terms and Conditions before reserving a place on one of Spectacle’s training courses.

If you have any queries please contact training@spectacle.co.uk

 

If you would like more information on future training opportunities at Spectacle sign up for the Training Newsletter – tick the box if you would also like Spectacle’s general newsletter.




 

 

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The Relationship Between Visual Anthropology and Documentary Film

Anthropology (the study of cross-cultural human sociality) has only been made possible with the expansion of transport and communication links that allowed the first Anthropologists to research and study other cultures. As a result of this, Anthropology is a relatively young subject, being first taught in the late eighteenth century. The subject developed during a time of industrial and technological expansion that some Anthropologists embraced. Some of the early ethnographers such as Evans-Pritchard used photography to illustrate and enrich their work. Since the cost and access to film has become more available an increasing number of Anthropologists have begun to utilise film in their research which has created an off shoot of Visual Anthropology.

The use of film in social research raises ethical and theoretical issues such as the power relations between the filmmaker and the participants, more specifically if the camera is an instrument of surveillance. Does the filmmaker have the right to videotape indigenous communities? Issues of misrepresentation of certain communities could unintentionally cause harm. There are problems of translating anthropological abstract concepts, such as kinship onto film. Many Anthropologists dismiss the use of film in their work as it raises too many epistemological problems for them. However, these concerns can be reduced if ethnographers follow certain guidelines when producing films. Anthropologists can use a framework that some documentary filmmakers follow.

Documentary filmmakers such as Spectacle Productions ascribe to ethical guidelines that aim to respect the subjects in the film. This means to be responsive and respectful of what people want and do not want filmed as well as working collaboratively from a grassroots stance point to give the participants a voice as well as representing the film’s subject’s in a way they want to be presented.

The issue of power relations with filmmaker and participants can be solved through participatory and collaborative film making. Filmmaker and participants make decisions together on what they shoot, the access allowed and the content filmed. Another approach is to give the participants being filmed the cameras which is a form of community video. Many indigenous communities, especially those in the Amazon have utilised film for land rights activism or to promote their cultures to a wider audience.

Misrepresentation as a potential problem can be solved again with participation from the communities by having a pre-screening of the film with a representative with the community being filmed. If this is not possible due to distances or other obstacles another way is to speak with the participants during the filming explaining and demonstrating transparently what your aim of the film is.

 On a theoretical note, while to film the abstract notion of ‘culture’ is beyond difficult one can film the material and visual world that can convey aspects of ‘culture’. Filming events such as religious rites, celebrations and every day life help to build a picture that conveys lived-in cultural experience.

The idea of creating a totally unbiased and objective ethnographic film is problematic as it will always be framed by the filmmakers prejudices, as with any ethnographic write-up. One cannot escape this fact, therefore the best way forward is to realise these limitations and to go forward to create the film.

The benefits of including ethnographic films can significantly add depth to social research. Anthropology can use film to showcase elements of culture hat are sometimes overlooked, for example nuances in speech and movements that are not always written about in ethnographic monographs. Film can be utilised in a variety of ways: as reference material for write-ups, examples or illustrations of particular concepts, as well as bringing ethnographic data together in a tangible and understandable format that can be understood by a wider audience.

Anthropologists and social researchers wishing to make ethnographic films can look to Documentary Film as a model to answer some ethical and aesthetic problems that the film format raises.

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For more information on Spectacle’s training courses for Documentary Film Making

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