Photo credit@EdwardHowellPhotography. Twitter: @howell_eddie
"We shouldn't be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas".
In the beginning is the idea
Easier said than done! So how do you find ‘that’ documentary idea during Lockdown? An idea which will drive you so crazy it keeps you awake, will drag you to places you never thought you would go, and obsesses your waking moments?
Finding an idea if you don’t already one is often tough; add confinement to the equation and it can seem so much harder.
If you are lucky like the German filmmaker Werner Herzog, who can boast, 'my ideas are like uninvited guests. They don’t knock on the door; they climb in through the windows like burglars who show up in the middle of the night and make a racket in the kitchen as they raid the fridge,’ you will have no problem; but what if you aren't?
The good thing is, during the first step of the documentary filmmaking process we don't need to be out filming or interviewing, roaming the countryside, town, city or village. Finding an idea can be done at home, so this time of isolation can become our friend of creativity.
We have time to think. Time to daydream. Time to create.
5 ways to generate great ideas
If there is no passion for your idea, then like any love affair, it will fade out before long. Get brainstorming about all those things you find worthwhile. Compile a list no matter how crazy and far-fetched. Then ask yourself? Can I really make a documentary from this idea? Does it fascinate me enough? Am I really able to spend the next year or more working without giving up?
Then dig deeper. Here are some suggestions.
If you really have no idea, newspapers are a great source to begin with during lockdown. Read as many as you can find, even from different countries. What is trending, what is popular, what appeals to you?
Listen to Podcasts, to your family, revisit your past.
Reading the UK's Independent newspaper, the first headline which caught my eye is a subject close to my heart. I once worked at a women's refuge in Montreal, Canada, where some women were victims of stalkers. I would not want to spend a year or so working on this subject, but it certainly interests me.
Online communities like Reddit are great for discussions. Facebook and Twitter also offer platforms for discussion where ideas are born. Follow blogs, follow up snippets of information. Become a detective, be curious, be VERY curious.
Since our lockdown in the UK, all types of communities have sprung up to cater to our varied interests. We have recently created a zoom workshop for our students in China.
“If you do not have an absolutely clear vision of something, where you can follow the light to the end of the tunnel, then it doesn't matter whether you're bold or cowardly, or whether you're stupid or intelligent. Doesn't get you anywhere.” Werner Herzog
You now have some great ideas, but how do you get through the selection process to find THE ONE?
This is where you need to add to a bit more to your passion. Making a simple chart to compare your ideas is a good way to visualize them.
You don't need a lot of information, just the general idea, no matter how vague.
Here is a list of four subjects I really care about. I have gathered the essentials for making my selection. ACCESS being the most important one.
My Friend Gray, has always said I can interview him. Over the years I have collected his emails brimming with brilliant banter and edgy photos from the squats. However, how do I do this now? And when lockdown is over, I'll go back to China, it won't be easy to come and film in London. I need months to 'live' Gray's life, get the feel for it, be present, what's it like when he and his mates move from one London squat to another? I will need to build up a lot of trust with them. In lockdown, how can I?
I have finally decided to go with 6 Months, Waiting for my Brain.
I filmed my entire stay in the Chinese hospital year, and now, holed-up in the UK, the unfolding sagas and realities of Cornonavirus are really changing my life, your life, our lives. The idea struck the other day to make a video-diary. I love the idea of it, it is immediate, I can easily control it, and this is a situation we will never live again in the same way.
I am collecting quotidian anecdotes from the newspapers, and from friends around the world, eventually I'll weave all this together. In the current situation it's easier for me to sit here, in my brother's flat, studying the news, doing interviews via zoom, no matter how shaky the images, it's all research. I find it interesting, it excites me.
Here are my answers to some questions:
You’ve found your idea and your vision
Ask as many questions as you can. Find out as much as you can about your subject. Brainstorm, Research, and, more than anything, Enjoy.
In the next workshop we’ll start to look at how we can make a film during lockdown, what, how, when, why and what elements you can experiment with
Get thinking, and thank you for passing by
WORKSHOP 2: 19 MAY 2020
FREEDOM , RESTRICTIONS AND LIMITATIONS DURING LOCKDOWN
5/12/2020 01:17:02 pm
thanks for this blog, I found it interesting as I would like to begin to work on an idea I have about my mother and father, and I haven't made anything documentary mode before. I know this is an important time and I don't want to lose it. thanks a lot
5/14/2020 01:20:50 am
Thanks Zoe, yes this is an important time, and one we will not live again, like this, in this way. I suggest you document what you can, how you can, anyway you can. The canvas you have is blank, and how you cover it is up to you. There is no right or no wrong. For now, just document the story in front of you. Thank you for reading.
5/13/2020 07:36:20 am
In an unfolding situation (eg. COVID), how do you find a unique idea or approach to carving out a story, especially when the whole world is documenting it; and how does this determine what footage and media you should be capturing?
Thank you very much for the question. I will answer this fully in my next blog - 19th May - FREEDOM , RESTRICTIONS AND LIMITATIONS DURING LOCKDOWN. What is certain, it is more difficult as we need to reinvent the way we are creating - a brand new world - which gives freedom, but also it give us limitations. We are limited! Here is an example: Give 30 people the same news headline: Ask them to write a 500 word story around it. Not one will be the same. What we are filming right now is quite possibly the same as someone living in Montreal, Canada, limits in shopping, seeing friends, family, and so on, but the personal experience is what gives it the difference...And we all want to know what the other is feeling. It has all become less EGO-based. JeanneX
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Filmmaker, teacher, traveler and storyteller
Links to the Workshops
20. Digital storytelling Part 1
29. Digital-Storytelling Part 2