For the People to People task, as part of 160MC, we had to produce a short documentary about a single person.
I decided to join Ashleigh’s group for this project because I found what she said about her brother to be quite touching and I thought it would be quite interesting as, when researching the project, I hadn’t seen many documentaries about someone as young as Harrison. Also, having a cousin and several friends with autism, I found the subject matter to be quite close to my heart and I was really eager to translate that onto film. During our first group production meeting I opted for the role of cinematographer/lighting design as it was something I hadn’t really tried before and I wanted to give it a go. We split the production roles quite easily within our group as we all had different interests which made the process a lot smoother. We all agreed that we wanted to make the film look pretty while keeping it quite natural-looking which I kept in mind when preparing for the shoot.
As a group, we all took inspiration from the short documentary Five Stone of Lead. We wanted to achieve a similar sort of effect with the story also being about a young boy, even if the circumstances are very different. I had a fair amount of knowledge about autism before the shoot via friends and family members who have autism, ranging from mild to severe symptoms, however I did look up short films about autism beforehand for inspiration.
In preparation as lighting designer, I used YouTube videos and my course books to read about lighting a subject (three-point lighting etc.) and as a group we all booked out the equipment we wanted to use prior to shooting to have a practice with it.
We used the LED panels for filming which I think was the best choice as the light was easily adjustable and they fit well in the space of the bedroom, using the battery packs as there was a lack of access to plugs. For the interview, I tried my best to make the lighting look natural and soft and to make sure that Harrison wasn’t completely washed out compared to the detailed background behind him. For the cut-aways of Harrison’s bedroom and his tour of the room (most of which was cut from the final edit) I bounced the LEDs off of the ceiling in two corners of the room to give it a general flood and to keep the lights out of the way as people moved through the room. For the external shots of Harrison I kept a diffuser/reflector on hand which didn’t end up getting much use as we filmed late in the afternoon when the light wasn’t particularly harsh.
On set, Ashleigh asked most of the questions as we felt that Harrison would respond better when talking with his sister than a stranger, however the rest of us also had the opportunity to ask questions at the end. As I didn’t have anything else to focus on during filming, I was able to ask questions that I had thought up while listening to Harrison speak, some of which ended up in the final edit.
I suggested that we aim to make Harrison out to be a regular, everyday kid in the beginning of the film, which is why we ordered the dialogue how we did and included cut-aways of his toys and him doing everyday things such as using crayons, playing football and going to the park with his sister. After this, the idea of autism was introduced but before the end of the film I asked him ways he would describe himself other than autistic, reintroducing the idea that he’s just a normal, happy kid, which I feel is quite a sweet note to end on.
I had a lot of fun working on this project, as a team we all got along really well and Harrison was so great to film with. As a group we have also discussed making a longer cut because there was a lot more that we wanted to fit in which just didn’t make it as we wanted to keep the film to the time set in the brief. We all agreed after filming that we could have used with more cut-aways and it was noted how we didn’t get a shot of Harrison with his hood up walking into a shop which is also something we all thought up after filming. It was mainly due to time constraints that we had this issue because of how time consuming travelling was and the fact that we took regular breaks as to not overwhelm Harrison. Overall, I believe I made a significant contribution to my group and I am happy with the feedback we received on the day. As my first time doing lighting and my first documentary, I feel that I’ve learned a lot from this project and I was very happy to see the generally positive responses on viewing day.