Making this six-minute documentary was a challenge I did not expected as we weren’t 100 percent sure what message this film is going to send to people until we finished editing. There were so many intangible elements such as the content of the interviews, what footages we are going to get and so on which made me feel like I have no control over but to participate and be a part of it.
The process of making a documentary was definitely enjoyable for us but also painful to edit. To actually go to all these places to shoot, we all gained more understandings of the riots as we discovered the huge gap between ‘what London is like’ and ‘what we think London is like’. The comparison that we drew between Tottenham and South Kensington basically speak out social exclusion themselves. The disadvantage, on the other hand, was that we have so many footages and it was a lot of work to go through them and choose which to use for the film. We tried our best not to complex the content because it is difficult for me when I hear some points very interesting but considering the message of the film as a whole, we have to cut it out.This intuition of information sharing I experienced while making the film is similar to the examples Benkler mentioned in the article “The Economics of Social Production”(Yochai Benkler, 2006) for which Edward Deci defined it “the intrinsic motivation.” With our generation so greatly benefitted from other people’s work out of their pure personal satisfaction and without seeking rewards, I believe social production can really create another meaning for economics which is no longer measured by money.
The other important fact I discovered through the editing was I realised how easy it is to manipulate a message, especially when our film is a documentary and everyone would suppose it’s real. From my past experiences of seeing documentary films, the one thing I noticed is that because some documentaries are made out of a group of people’s belief, they can be quite biased and single-sided. I actually have a friend who became a vegetarian only because of one documentary she had seen. Look how powerful documentaries can be! So, after reading the chapter “Ethics in a Transparent World” by David Phillips and Philip Young, I really started thinking how to stand neutral when you are producing information. Taking our filmmaking process for example, frankly we hesitated a little whether to cut the sentence of Ephraim saying “I am going to university next year” out, and just make him a typical example–an A-level student who can’t afford to go to university because of the raise in the tuition fees. But we decided to be honest.
In the past two decades, the development in video technologies massively changed the way films are shot especially in terms of breaking the pre-existed barrier in film production fundings and accessibility of technical devices. While more and more people have the social media platforms to speak up, to be known about, to get closer to their dreams, it also made it almost impossible to regulate all these information flows. While one has to be aware of the purpose of producing a piece of information, in another word, to look at the information from a broader perspective instead of passively absorbing it. I believe making justifications yourself through getting resources from different platforms are also very important things to do.
After staying up all night editing yesterday (or should I say rendering…), we finally have the provisional version of our documentary!
Initially, the topic we chose for the short film was about social exclusion. As an oversea student for seven years myself, it was really difficult to explain my feelings when I watched the video of that Malaysian student being mugged and beaten by two groups of rioters consecutively. Nowadays everyone is trying to deny the fact that there still are social classes, minorities and other marginalized groups in this seemingly modern world, but indeed they are everywhere. And as both of our interviewees said, they have always been suffering unheard. Therefore, we wanted to dig deeper into the causes of social exclusion and how it affected the riots in general.
To put this short documentary film in shape, all of us made a lot of effort. We went from places that were most suffered in the riots such as Brixton and Tottenham, to posh areas such as High Street Kensington and Chelsea where we experienced a completely different atmosphere. It was also a long yet memorable experience for us to shoot the interviews for the two interviewees we found. We interviewed my friend Jess, who is a postgraduate psychology student at UCL, as we wish to give a psychological explanation on the forming of social exclusion. Through the interview, we addressed a major issue we wanted to be more focused on which is the recent changes to UK’s education system due to government austerity. The fact that the government raised the tuition fees of the home students was a huge move last year. At UCL, students protested and painted “Education is not a commodity” everywhere visible in the university. Thinking about the barriers it built up for many A-level students across the country while the chances of losing their future prospects becomes bigger, it is then easy to see where the anger comes from. Also, technician wise, we found the camera we used had some problems with syncing its sound speed with images. For that we received a great amount of help from Tivona’s friends with a professional camera and independent sound recording process.
As the first guy Ingrid found who wanted to join the riot cancelled our interview, we had to find an alternative route. Luckily Ingrid found Ephraim through YouTube, an A-level student who wrote poems about the London riots. To interview him we had to take a train to go to Peterborough. The journey was particularly interesting when the taxi driver told us the address does not exist…We then thought Ephraim, who by then was still a virtual figure exists only on the internet, might have intentionally given us a wrong address and instead Johanna suggested we should make a documentary of the journey to find a guy on YouTube . Turns out the taxi driver was wrong and we found him! Although he was really shy, he talked about many interesting points from a fresh angle. The fact that he is going to university next year and his age was similar to the majority of the rioters made his perspective especially valuable.
At the end of the interview Ephraim played guitar and sang a Bob Dylan song for us, which we all found really sweet. It is interesting how social media technology can sometimes be so evil that all people accuses it as the accelerator of the riots, but in our case, so amazing as it brings someone you would never have met in life reachable to you.