Research and Reflection

research and reflection

It’s been 7 weeks since I started my PhD at Lancaster University so I thought it was time to write something other than the weekly diary and transcripts from meetings and the odd few thousand words on film theory.

Research and Reflection (7 weeks in)

Those weeks have passed quickly and lots of things have happened. I have brought forward the research for the documentary (see here) and have spoken to a  number of groups and people that I think would be ideal participants in the film. The other good news is that I have had a lot of interest and now have a green light to go to the next stage, that is filming, with a number of caveats. Time is always an issue on one hand I am wishing time away so that I can get on with the filming while trying to slow things down so that I can concentrate on the literary review and getting up to speed with some of the software I will be using.

Endnote: This is my first time using this particular program to create a bibliography, up to now I’ve always done this manually from my notes, but I felt now was the time to embrace this technology as the thesis will be a much more substantial document to anything that I have written before. I’ve just spent a few minutes watching some online tutorials and importing my first pdf documents. On reflection I should have used this software before, as this also helps with searching and locating relevant literary sources for my research, which is something I really wasn’t aware of before.

Atlas.ti I’ve also looked at and had a one to one tutorial on the Qualitative Analysis application Atlas.ti, it is a very powerful software tool but I do have a few reservations about committing to using this. I’m worried about how much time this will eat up when adding the data to it and I am uncertain of how useful the data analysis would be over just doing it myself manually. I think I am more confused about this software now than I was before doing the training, it seemed like a no brainer until I realised how much time this could take up.

Research Question: If you’ve followed my weekly diary you’ll know that after a few meeting now with my supervisors there has been a change in direction/focus for my research. Just this week I have dropped the original research question and formed another that seems to be a better fit with the new direction of my research, but I suspect this to remain fluid for some time.

Literary Review: My goto book ‘An Everyday Magic, Cinema and Cultural Memory by Annette Kuhn is central to my research. I’ve read chapters 1 – Cinema Memory as Cultural Memory, Chapter 2 –  The Scenes of Memory and Chapter 5 – Growing up with Cinema. I can see how my film could be made to become an updated version of this book and it has certainly influenced my change in focus for my research and my plans for the film.

Memory in Film: I’ve watched a number of films recently. The BBC Documentary ‘The Lost Worlds of Mitchell and Kenyon’ by Dan Cruickshank, amazing footage of Edwardian life in the local area. American Graffiti (1973) by George Lucas, supposedly influenced by his own childhood, the end titles seemingly reinforcing that by saying what the film characters are doing now (1970s) but this is a well known filmmakers trick, as used in the film Fargo (This is a real story). BTW I noticed the yellow car had the licence plate TH138 a reference to THX1138 (1971) perhaps? a film also by George Lucas. So what did I gain from this? it’s a 70s film influenced by George Lucas’s memories of the 1950s.

I have also put into practice some of what I learn’t on the writing a thesis course (see diary entry) and switched to reading online journals and articles to research what is the most current thinking in my subject. It’s interesting to note that the bibliographies of these articles reference the same books that I have identified along with some of the journals that I wasn’t aware of. What this means is that I have a growing literary resource to research and most importantly I’m not reinventing the wheel, which also came up in this weeks Qualitative Research seminar. I’m mindful that I should be wary and confirm the quality of the data/information that I plan to research.

Pre-production for a Documentary

Pre-production for a Documentary

Pre-production for a Documentary

You have this idea for a documentary film, the subject is interesting, and you are willing to spend your time, money and resources to make it. But before you can start filming you must research your idea and create an outline for your project. An outline is like a wish list of things that you want to include in your film; subjects, people and places. Before you can start let’s decide who your audience is? who is possibly going to see and also be interested in watching your film? Sometimes a film is targeted at a certain age group, demographic, be it a local audience or national audience or are you looking for a world-wide audience?

Film Festivals have a selection criterion based on the running time of a film so if your world-wide audience is going to be reached through film festival screenings, you’ll need to consider the length of the film in order to be selected.

Now that your audience is sorted, you’ll need to research interesting people who can be contacted for interview in your film. Not everyone likes to be filmed so you’ll need backups. Also, not every interview goes well and they may end up not being included in the final edit, so again you need backups.

Change of direction? Your research can lead you to a more interesting direction, don’t be afraid to explore but be aware that this new direction may not fit well with the rest of your project and cannot be included in the final film.

Make this your mantra, Research and Research again. Continuously research your subject and the subjects in your film and the direction that your filming takes you. You may uncover some little-known facts and through this expand knowledge in your subject.

My Documentary Film Idea

TITLE – Cinema Memories (Working title)

Outline film ONE.

Investigation into the Dementia friendly screenings at the Dukes. What I would like to do is to film the audience at a live screening or series of screenings, as scheduled by the Dukes, with follow up interviews with selected dementia sufferers and their carers. Looking to add to these with interviews away from the Dukes, following up on the cinema experience and to see what their memories are of going to the cinema, in their youth or their earliest memory.

I’m seeking interviews with health professionals and academics, researchers and get an idea from them on camera of what dementia is in layman terms and from this try and determine what could be happening at these screenings.

Apart from memory loss what are the other health conditions that Dementia sufferers experience? What do they experience when going to Cinema, is it a reconnection to earlier memories and experiences of their cinema going or is something else happening? Are Dementia sufferers living in a past time? do they believe that the screening of an old film is a current release, do they know what year the film was released? Does it make them happy or ultimately does it make them sad that they have lost so much? What part does the venue play in the cinema going experience? Is it that the Dukes is an older independent cinema that could by definition belongs to an earlier age that makes or rather adds to the overall experience so that the audience feel more involved, would a modern Cinema Multiplex work just as well?

During the follow-up interviews I plan to look for b-roll opportunities. Street scenes of Lancaster City particularly on market days and possibly around Christmas may present an opportunity to explore and bring to life the location around the Dukes. I also plan to film in the surrounding  countryside maybe the lakes although I will have to find a credible link to do so as I do not want just any B-roll, by that I mean random landscapes shots, so maybe look for a link from a dementia sufferers past history, maybe they lived there and have fond memories of the location – also make sure you ask them about happy memories of local locations or indeed bad memories, each have their own place in a documentary film.

This is going to be an emotional roller coaster of a film so I plan to be careful not to concentrate on one of the other, and seek balance where possible.

I’m really looking for a small group of individuals that appear in the first film that I can form an ongoing relationship with, a core group of people that I can contact and feature in any follow-up films.

Include a small amount of travelling footage especially to the lakes, I do this to emphasise we are on a journey of discovery. (But I may drop this if I do not want to be seen on camera – alternatively I can show the scenery and just have a voiceover) – which leads to:-

Think about using a narrator to voice over some of the sequences in the documentary but where possible use professional, authoritative voices to explain screen visuals.

Decide again who is your prime audience before editing, is it for the academic panel and supervisors only, the public, medical professionals, or a mix of these – do I need several edits? Will I be targeting the film festival circuit? I think the answer to that is YES, let’s get this film out there to a world-wide audience. A film on Dementia I watched recently was funded by the Canadian Film Council and is currently available to view on Netflix – is this a possibility for my film, is there funding? Should I approach the Alzheimer’s Society for assistance either financially or for the follow-up films? What other sources of funding are there?

Diary – Week 2, October 14th to 18th

Diary – Week 3, October 21st to 25th Literary Review

Book reading – making a start

An Everyday Magic – Cinema and Cultural Memory

Abstract: Exploring cinemagoing and cinema culture, this book considers the 1930s, when “going to the pictures” was everybody’s favourite spare-time activity. From the familiar and magical surroundings of the picture houses themselves to the action and romance on the screen, Annette Kuhn draws on extensive interviews with picturegoers, research in cultural history and readings of popular films of the day to discover how cinema brought a special magic to the daily lives of a generation of young men and women growing up in an austere climate of making-do.

Kuhn, A. (2002). An everyday magic : Cinema and cultural memory (Cinema and society). London: I.B. Tauris.

The Collective memory Reader

There are few terms or concepts that have, in the last twenty or so years, rivaled “collective memory” for attention in the humanities and social sciences. Indeed, use of the term has extended far beyond scholarship to the realm of politics and journalism, where it has appeared in speeches at the centers of power and on the front pages of the world’s leading newspapers. The current efflorescence of interest in memory, however, is no mere passing fad: it is a hallmark characteristic of our age and a crucial site for understanding our present social, political, and cultural conditions. Scholars and others in numerous fields have thus employed the concept of collective memory, sociological in origin, to guide their inquiries into diverse, though allegedly connected, phenomena. Nevertheless, there remains a great deal of confusion about the meaning, origin, and implication of the term and the field of inquiry it underwrites.

Olick, J., Vinitzky-Seroussi, Vered, & Levy, Daniel. (2011). The Collective memory reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Qualitative Research Methods – collecting evidence, crafting analysis, communicating impact.

Qualitative Research Methods is a comprehensive, all-inclusive resource for the theory and practice of qualitative/ethnographic research methodology.

Serves as a “how-to” guide for qualitative/ethnographic research, detailing how to design a project, conduct interviews and focus groups, interpret and analyze data, and represent it in a compelling manner
Demonstrates how qualitative data can be systematically utilized to address pressing personal, organizational, and social problems
Written in an engaging style, with in-depth examples from the author’s own practice.

Tracy, S. (2013). Qualitative research methods : Collecting evidence, crafting analysis, communicating impact. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Documentary pre-production – Location Scouting

location scouting

Location Scouting the Dukes

I am jumping ahead here by checking possible locations for the documentary film. There is a  methodology for a films pre-production and this would normally be a consideration for the later stages of the  project. What prompted this was an interesting online article I came across during my research that could prove to be vitally important in the production of my documentary film. My research identified that a local venue has been running Cinema and Entertainment events specifically for Dementia sufferers and their carers, which is key to the subject of my research and narrative of my documentary.

Location Scouting - the Dukes
the Dukes

To research this article further I decided to conduct a recce of the venue and surrounding locations before contacting the venue. The reason for this may seem obvious, but my aim was to scout the venue to see if it met with my requirements as a filmmaker, which I have listed a few requirements below. It is also a good idea to try and get a feel for a location and see how it fits into your films visualisation. One of the key things I like to achieve whenever possible is to raise my films production value. What do I mean by this? for example, if you need to film in a church and the local church and the  Cathedral are potential options, always go for the Cathedral. This is to immediately step up the production value of your film. Of course this isn’t a hard rule and sometimes the local church is the better option and for a variety of reasons for example aesthetics, practical considerations (lighting a large space is expensive).

Location Scouting – My location requirements

  • Venue open to filming.
  • Natural light or practical lighting.
  • What access will they allow.
  • Dates available.
  • Cost considerations – if any.
  • Additional permissions required – if any.
  • Is the location noisy so poor sound.
  • Restricted Public access.

Location Scouting – Additional requirements

  • Easy to get to
  • Parking
  • Services near to hand (food, drink, toilets, medical for the crew)

The B-Roll

What is the B-roll? whenever you are filming a documentary or indeed any filming you will always need to make cuts in your footage. an examples of this would be a long interview, which after a short while becomes boring visually, there’s only so much time that you can watch what I call a bobbing head, you can acceptably watch for 15 seconds but any longer and you need to break away to a different visual just to keep your audience engaged. When you cut you need to cut away to a different visual usually related to the what the subject is discussing, but may just relate to the location, but whatever it is make it interesting.

Academic and Practice Research

Academic and Practice Research

Research challenges. Studying for a PhD by practice can be a greater challenge than you anticipated, unlike the usual pathway of the thesis based PhD you have to both research the subject academically (for the written thesis part) and at the same time research for the practice element, which in my case is a film production.

What are the differences? they may seem obvious, the academic research is primarily for the written thesis and any research for the practice element/artefact and in my case the making of a film, is for the pre-production of the film, that is the films outline, B-roll, subjects and locations I want to include in the film, basically everything that needs to be done before you can start filming. However there is considerable overlap, as the academic research also produces ideas and leads for the films production. For example, my initial academic research when applied to the location Lancaster City and its surrounding area has identified potential subjects and locations that I would want to include into the film. Indeed this initial academic research into my subject of collective memory has identified another thread to consider for further research, which if the research is successful would bring the benefit of my film having multiple storylines.

Will my practice research add to my academic research? yes is the answer, even at this early stage of the films pre-production the locations and potential film subjects have influenced some of my further reading choices I have made and I suspect this may in turn lead to further threads to the film. However I need to be careful of over expanding my subjects range, as it is impossible to have all the answers to such an over expanded subject and almost certain to lead to a research challenge impossible to achieve in the 3 years of a PhD and in the context of the film, it would also be impossible to include all of the research driven results and expanded questions in a film of acceptable duration..

Where am I now? my research on the subject of collective memory and film has opened up a new area of research on Cinema, and by this I actually mean the collective memories of people going to the cinema to watch a film (a shared experience, event) . The social experience of going to the cinema, the people, the buying of a ticket, something to eat, drink and the taking of your seat in the auditorium. The film that you watched and the time period are all factors and potential areas of interest to research and explore in my documentary. This again leads to another question of how It would be useful to compare cinema going from the previous century to going to the cinema now.

Practice research adds to my reading list Collective Memory Film a Reading List

The personal statement

Personal Statement Canon C300

the personal statement

Personal Statement

Remember these? when you began your journey into academia you had to produce a statement to supplement your application for undergraduate study and possibly for your post graduate study.

Personal Statement On SetThis is about you, your personal skills and academic experience/abilities and why you have applied to study at this institution. This is important, basically you are selling yourself to the institution and it’s about how you can uniquely achieve your PhD research  through your skillset and record of achievement thus far. For me this was my experience of documentary filmmaking and appropriate academic study in a film related subject.

It may certainly include some details of your research proposal but remember this isn’t the research proposal this is a personal statement. Instead think of writing about your motivation for studying for a PhD and why you have chosen this institution and potential supervisor. It may not only be your supervisor who reads this statement, admissions and possibly the interview panel may read this statement in conjunction with the research proposal.

Don’t forget to discuss a little about yourself but avoid over stating your abilities and experience, for example you cannot be an expert in anything if you have only a years experience.

Examples

Collective Memory a Film Viewing List

Collective memory film viewing list

Collective Memory a Film viewing list

Experimental Film – The production of Experimental Film as a representation of memory

There are many examples of films that have human memory central to the narrative, the examples below have some credibility in Psychological fact according to the neuroscientist Steve Ramirez. (BU Today 2018)

 

  1. Memento is one of the most realistic accounts of amnesia — the inability to form or recall our personally experienced events
  2. Inside Out is a Pixar classic that zooms into a child’s brain and lets us see her memories form, change, and evaporate over time as she matures
  3. The Bourne Trilogy (which starts with The Bourne Identity) is a fast-spaced action series about Jason Bourne, an agent with amnesia who knows how to win any fight, but doesn’t remember who he is or where he came from.
  4. Inception is a mind-bending film on implanting and extracting memories in the brain, done with high-octane drama and a twisting, dream-like storyline.
  5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is perhaps the most famous memory erasure movie ever. Would you erase the memory of a loved one after a breakup if it eased the pain?
  6. Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 — a classic and instant-classic — tackle the concepts of implanting memories in human-like robots.
  7. The Matrix is another classic. “I know Kung Fu,” says Neo, after having martial arts skills uploaded into his brain. The movie tackles the philosophical questions of brains, free will, uploading information onto the brain, and how this changes us forever.
  8. Total Recall has the main character going into a machine where he can live out any reality or fantasy that he sees fit. Things get blurry, however, when reality and fantasy start to blend and force viewers to ask themselves: if our subjective reality feels real, then does it matter if it’s real or not?

The digital revolution in archival media opens up access to previously unknown images and provides the possibility that these images could broaden and transform collective memory. (B. Fabos)

Bibliography

  1. BU Today. (2018). 8 Brainy Movies That (Almost) Get Neuroscientist Stamp of Approval | BU Today | Boston University. [online] Available at: http://www.bu.edu/today/2018/ramirez-listicle/ [Accessed 18 Mar. 2019].
  2. Bettina Fabos (2014) The Trouble with Iconic Images: Historical Timelines and Public Memory, Visual Communication Quarterly, 21:4, 223-235

Avant-garde Films that lived through time. film viewing list

  1. Manhattan – Charles Sheeler – 1921
  2. Ballet Mecanique – Fernand Léger, Dudley Murphy – 1924
  3. Ghosts Before Breakfast – Hans Richter – 1928
  4. Un Chien Andalou – Luis Bunuel – 1929
  5. Meshes of the Afternoon – Alexandr Hackenschmied, Maya Deren – 1943
  6. Dog Star Man – Stan Brakhage – 1961-1964
  7. Scorpio Rising – Kenneth Anger – 1963
  8. Julien Donkey Boy – Harmony Korine – 1999
  9. The Heart of the World – Guy Maddin – 2000
  10. Inland Empire – David Lynch – 2006

Documentary film viewing list

  1. Land of Promise – British Documentary Film Movement 1930 – 1950 (BFI. 4 Disk DVD Boxset) 40 films by Directors; Paul Rotha, Humphrey Jennings, Ruby Grierson, Basil Wright and Paul Dickson.

Film & Memory (Top 25 film viewing list)

  1. Rashôman (1950), Akira Kurosawa
  2. Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959), Alain Resnais
  3. Vertigo (1958), Alfred Hitchcock
  4. Wild Strawberries (1958), Ingmar Bergman
  5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Michel Gondry
  6. Three Colors: Blue (1993), Krzysztof Kieślowski
  7. The Mirror (1975), Andrei Tarkovsky
  8. Blade Runner (1982), Ridley Scott
  9. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), John Ford
  10. Citizen Kane (1941), Orson Welles
  11. How Green Was My Valley (1941), John Ford
  12. Memento (2000), Christopher Nolan
  13. The Tree of Life (2011), Terrence Malick
  14. 2046 (2004), Wong Kar-wai
  15. Solaris (1972), Andrei Tarkovsky
  16. Last Year at Marienbad (1961), Alain Resnais
  17. The Sweet Hereafter (1997), Atom Egoyan
  18. The Thin Blue Line (1988), Errol Morris
  19. Certified Copy (2010), Abbas Kiarostami
  20. 8 1/2 (1963), Federico Fellini
  21. The Manchurian Candidate (1962), John Frankenheime
  22. The Act of Killing (2012), Joshua Oppenheimer
  23. La Jetée (1962), Chris Marker
  24. The Remains of the Day (1993), James Ivory
  25. Mulholland Drive (2001), David Lynch

Bibliography

  1. Admin, 2015. Avant-Garde. Film Theory. Available at: http://filmtheory.org/avant-garde/ [Accessed April 10, 2019].
  2. Anon, British documentary. BFI Film Forever. Available at: https://shop.bfi.org.uk/dvd-blu-ray/documentaries/british-documentary.html [Accessed April 10, 2019].
  3. Holt, R., 2015. Top 25 Films on Memory. Image Journal. Available at: https://imagejournal.org/top-25-films-on-memory/ [Accessed April 28, 2019] Continue reading “Collective Memory a Film Viewing List”

Reading List

Collective Memory Halbwachs

Reading list (Year 1)

Initial reading list for collective memory, film and dementia. This list will be added to over the year.

Ashuri T (2007) Television tension: national versus cosmopolitan memory in a co-produced television documentary. In: Media, Culture, Society 29 (1): pp. 31-51.

Assmann J (1995) Collective memory and cultural identity. In: New German Critique 65: pp.125-133.

García-Gavilanes, R. et al., 2017. The memory remains: Understanding collective memory in the digital age. Science Advances. Available at: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/4/e1602368.full [Accessed March 22, 2019

Halbwachs M. (1992) On Collective Memory. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

John W. Berry, Ype H. Poortinga, Marshall H. Segall, Pierre R. Dasen (2008) Cross-Cultural Psychology, 2nd edn., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Olick, Jeffrey and Robbins, Joyce. (2003). Social Memory Studies: From “Collective Memory” to the Historical Sociology of Mnemonic Practices. Annual Review of Sociology. 24. 105-140. 10.1146/annurev.soc.24.1.105.

Olick, Jeffrey K.; Vinitzky-Seroussi, Vered; Levy, Daniel (2011). The Collective Memory Reader. Oxford University Press.

Kilbourn, Russell J. A. Cinema, Memory, Modernity: The Representation of Memory from the Art Film to Transnational Cinema. Routledge, 2013.

Neiger M, Meyers O and Zandbert E (2011) On Media Memory: Collective Memory in a New Media Age. UK, Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan Publishers.

Whitford, Steve. “From Practice to Praxis: Reflections on Filmmaking Pedagogy in the Age of Creative Industries.” Cinema Journal – Teaching Dossier (2018): n. pag. Print.

Film viewing list

Research Proposal

Firstly, writing a research proposal is not easy, or I should say formulating the research question is a difficult proposition. I started this process several  months ago with just a very basic outline of what I was most passionate about in Film production (Documentary) and then  the hard work began. I had this idea about a question that only the production of a documentary film could answer and be accessible to both academics and the general public. Getting started, have a plan, which again takes thought and is definitely worth doing before starting to research your chosen subject. For example, my plan and initial research centred on identifying the institutions that supported a PhD by practice and in my chosen field, that is Documentary Film.  After identifying the surprisingly small number of institutions that could possibly support my studies and supervise my PhD project, the next step was to find a supervisor.

Supervisors. Finding a supervisor for your project can also a great way of talking to specialists in your chosen subject, gaining knowledge and assistance in producing your research proposal. I was fortunate to find a number of potential supervisors through their University staff pages. I think it is important to follow up any exchange of emails with a telephone conversation and possibly a meeting to discuss your project, I certainly did both of these.

What is the contact sequence? I contacted my potential advisors by email, just by expressing my subject interest and seeing if there is a mutual interest. I then followed up positive responses with my outline research proposal. Now I only had positive responses, which I assume was due to my initial research into my subject and the interests of my potential supervisors. After all contacting an academic who specialises in History for example, when your chosen subject is about the Environment isn’t really going to be of interest. Next arrange a telephone conversation or just jump into a Skype call, but ask permission OK, my contacts in the main made this suggestion anyway. For some I actual missed out on the telephone conversation and arranged to meet. Meetings. Be prepared, for some I just had an enjoyable chat on a subject of mutual interest but for some it felt more like a final exam, so be prepared.

Research Proposal Pitfalls

Note. Beware of writing your proposal to fit others, I do not mean the format or general guidelines as such, but I mean the subject itself. It is too easy to divert away from your chosen subject and the essence of what makes studying for a PhD passionate to you by making the proposal fit another project, or for an institutions requirements. Fortunately the institutions and supervisors I contacted in the main, were totally onboard with my proposal and I was grateful for all the assistance I received in focussing my proposal before submission.

Check your institutions research proposal guidelines. One size does not fit all for example some asked me to complete a online template with character count limitations for each section, others just has an overall character limit for example 8,000 and for some it was left up to the applicant  as to how much to write.

Write for each institution, what I mean by that is taking note of the template sections, for example some ask for a specific response to a question like your approach to Ethics, diversity and another asked specifically how you would approach funding your research.

There are any number of guides available online with templates for writing your research proposal and in fact many of the institutions have application forms for you to download. examples can be found here:-

Find a PhD – Writing a Research Proposal

Collective Memory a Film Viewing List