Pre-production and Reflection

Tomorrow I’m planning on filming my craft fair documentary. In terms of preplanning, the questions I’m going to ask are a. What inspired you to start doing this? b. Has creating always come naturally to you, or have there been times that you’ve struggled to produce something artistic? c. How do you feel about Etsy? Do you feel your line of work is benefitted or hindered by it?


For my documentary choice this week, I went with something a bit dark and watched Aileen Wuornos: Life and Death of a Serial Killer. This documentary tells the tale of the events surrounding the murder of seven men, who each were killed by Aileen Wuornos.

This documentary relied heavily on b-roll and outside footage. Many times, the narrator would be voicing over scenes, explaining the stories and the sequence of events, but there were also times where the film relied on previously shot footage. For example, the confession of Wuornos and the responses of the murder victims’ spouses have been taped by other sources. This footage is often grainier and of lesser quality than the footage shot by the documentary maker. However, this footage adds another dimension to the film, and inserts the viewer into an older, more organic feeling view point.

The documentary did a wonderful job at showing how psychotic Wuornos was. By strategically placing the footage of her stone-coldly admitting to lying on stand to try and cheat the system right before the footage of her on trial, it highlights just how lacking in morals the woman was. It also showed how much of a sociopath the killer was. To know that every sentence she spouted was a lie, including each wobble in the voice, each emotional stutter, and each frightened tear, is chilling. Structurally, the documentary is very well put together, and the clips are shown in an order that maximizes the impact of the film.

It was also interesting to note that although the documentary maker allowed his voice and his questions to be heard, he allowed the person he was interviewing sufficient time to speak. Even when the people he was talking with said something completely outlandish or offensive, he wouldn’t interrupt them. Instead, he would give them an appropriate amount of time to voice their thoughts, no matter what they were. This, I feel, was one of the most important parts of the documentary. He asked the appropriate questions, ones that I wanted to know the answers to, but let the subject ramble and go on tangents, ones that I also found myself wanting to hear.

Overall, the documentary was very interesting and well crafted. The creator did a great job of putting it together, and crafted it in a way that maximized the impact of what both Wuornos and the others (such as friends and family) were saying.

Documentary Idea and ‘Going Clear’ Reflection

For my documentary, I plan on going to a craft fair this weekend. Similar to the farmers market documentary shown in class, I’ll ask a few of the vendors if they would mind telling me a bit about their stand, and maybe why they decided to start it. For b-roll, I’ll film the crafts and tables that they have set up, as well as the fair in general. I hope to get shots of people milling about (without faces) and whatever else the craft fair has in store.

The documentary I watched was ‘Going Clear: Scientology and The Prison of Belief’. This documentary was different from the others I’ve watched, as this one was very cinematic. The shots of the people being interviewed and most of the b-roll are all properly lit and nicely framed. Even the older, grainy flashbacks taken with inferior cameras were edited nicely and enticingly. There were stylistic zoom ins of eyes and hands fiddling with odd technology. This is much different from the real, nitty gritty feel of ‘Gasland’. It also inserted many still photographs from that time, something that ‘Gasland’ didn’t have that much of either. Although this could be seen as boring in other documentaries, I personally like the switch up between old film, new film, and still pictures.

It’s very interesting to learn that Scientology is so rooted in Hollywood. I had no idea that decades ago, they had bought a building in Hollywood solely for the purpose of recruiting stars into their religion. Seeing John Travolta, at such a young age, absolutely star eyed over the cult is eerie. It’s also chilling to see just how much it impacted him, for better or for worse. Whatever advice or brainwashing he received there seemed to propel him into another state, and gave him the energy (or connections) to land the roles he wanted.

It was also incredibly scary to learn that these people were brainwashed to the point of delusion. Their cult apparently has different levels, and the people on the highest level are said to have special powers. This includes everything from telepathy to telekinesis. To have a belief system so powerful that it convinces you that the average, everyday human is somehow capable of defying physics, all because they climbed up the rungs of a dysfunctional, man-made ladder, is mind boggling to me.

The fact that the Church of Scientology is worth at least a billion dollars is shocking to me. Although Scientology is known all over, I had always thought that it was a rather exclusive, sparsely populated cult. I knew that many Hollywood stars had been in it, but not how many stars had been in it (and still continue to be). In fact, I didn’t even think that it was that popular with regular, run of the mill people, but I was horrified to see that all the people being interviewed were people just like me. It’s frightening to know that these hardworking, normal people became brainwashed.

Overall, this documentary was very enlightening and interesting. I feel that I learned a great deal not only about Scientology, but also the different ways of shooting a documentary. This one was much more deliberate and thought out in terms of shots and interviews, whereas ‘Gasland’ was more organic and free flowing. I enjoyed seeing the various ways to film one.


Gasland Reflection

This documentary was interesting, and filmed very differently from the feature films that I’ve seen. While fictional movies tend to follow a very clear storyline and contain a certain amount fluidity when it comes to filming, the documentary did not. Often times, there were shaky zooms and quick, seemingly unrelated cuts to shots that didn’t strictly correlate to the voiceovers. Oddly enough, there also was a distinct lack of faces. Although the audience did get brief glimpses at people when they shared their stories and some grainy television shots of corporation heads, there wasn’t any footage really focusing on the face. Normally in feature films, the camera fixes on the character when they’re speaking. This often makes the scene more emotional, as the viewers can clearly and directly pick up on the facial expressions and the eye movements. This was not the case for the documentary. When people were speaking, they were often shot at a lower angle and from the side, partially obscuring their faces. It was different and an interesting technique. I found myself becoming frustrated with it, because I wanted to have a clear view of their face and see their reactions as they recounted their tales.

It’s absolutely horrible to see that fracking is so rampant and that there are so few regulations. My family has always been very nature-centric. As a little girl, and still to this day, I never went to Disney. I’ve never stayed at fancy hotels or gone on cruises or taken an expensive vacation to Greece. Ever year, my family and I go to the Catskills. We head to Maine or New Hampshire or Vermont and rent out cabins in the woods. These trips were and still continue to provide the best experiences that I’ve ever had, and I can’t count the number of hikes or campfires that I look back and smile at. My memories are filled with late night frog catching and hunting salamanders in ponds and streams. It’s such an incredible violation to see that the lands that I’ve grown up with, the nature that I’ve formed such a bond with, warped and destroyed by toxins. To think that in a decades time there might not be any more bright orange salamanders skimming the shores of ponds, or guppies popping up through the reeds, is heartbreaking.

It was also infuriating to see just how uncaring both the corporations and the state were. One couple had brown, opaque water coming from their tap, and both the oil drilling company and the state brushed them off. In fact, they couldn’t even get admittance from the state that there was an issue with the water. It boggles my mind that no one seems to care about their actions when it comes to not only fracking, but the environment and the people in it. I can understand that the corporations don’t want to admit that there’s a problem with their practices, but even if they don’t, there are ways to circumvent these health and environmental concerns. They’re not even willing to limit fracking to uninhabitable areas. It’s almost as if they don’t think ahead at all, don’t realize that if they keep contaminating other peoples’ land and water supplies, there won’t be healthy soil or clean water for anyone.

Knowing that these hardworking, honest people are being so affected by greedy corporate chains that spout lies about natural gas being clean is infuriating. Though the lies sound better, the reality is much more grim. Unfortunately, the people who have the proof or can speak about their own personal struggles living near fracking plants often can’t gain the momentum to be heard. On the off chance that they begin to pick momentum and a following, they’re silenced by pressure, lawsuits, or money. The normal, jean wearing, cowboy hat donning man who can’t step out of his own house because of the cloud of brown smoke cloaking his home won’t get the same recognition that the shark-toothed, polished CEOs will.

Overall, this documentary was informative and stirring. Although it does make me sad to see, in black and white terms and clear stories, that these corporations are ruining our environment, it also provides an incentive to fight even harder against the natural gas companies.