The Visible Face of Spirit

Here is the final version of our film. Enjoy!

(due to a slight technical fault with Premiere when exporting there may be a few blips)

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Project Description

Project Description

‘The face of spirit’ is a poetic observation into the life and mind of one shaman, Caroline, who’s passion for dance grew from a young child. Intertwining this performance with her spiritual beliefs we gain an insight into a representative of a niche group in today’s society but who’s practices are rooted back hundreds of years and spring from non-westernized cultures. This short documentary hopes to provoke thought amongst viewers; to help them understand the shamanic culture and to reflect on their own lives.

Opening with a call to the spirits using instruments, we are introduced to Caroline our main protagonist before revealing the actual subject on the documentary – for those to whom the opening will be alien, the them is only revealed once Caroline begins talking, introducing the theme with her own definition of shamanism. Caroline’s narration guides the film over aesthetically pleasing imagery of nature occasionally splicing into head to camera interview to remind the viewer of the personal, heartfelt quality of the words. A mid-section sees Caroline dancing in a trance like state as she explains what dancing means to her and its relation to her shamanic practice. The film ends on a poignant note about how shamanism or beliefs of any kind can benefit today’s society.

This documentary would likely fit into a series of short films about shamanism, after meeting and filming number of potential characters, as filmmakers we were given the opportunity to learn about the different aspects of shamanism. In meeting each individual we found that the ways in which they practice their beliefs varied considerably. Although the underlying messages and ideals of the shaman ring true when speaking to each person they carry these about different within their differing lives. This therefore would be a good subject for a series because we ultimately want the documentary to impact the viewer, to have them take a step back and look at their own lives, in a society when many people are often too busy or ignorant or materialistic to notice the way they impact on their environment or others around them. Shamanism is about working together – with other human beings in ritual, with the spirits, ancestors, animals, with nature and the environment, – in order to reach our ‘highest good’ ; that which is good for everyone. A series of such as well as being aesthetically pleasing, in that the subject works closely with imagery, sound, natural beauties and interesting and meaningful objects, can also encourage society to work in better harmony.

The film we hope to address a young audience, possibly between the 16 and 25 age range. This is a good audience to invest in as young people are most likely to be the ones who are looking for some kind of calling in life which the idea of shamanism could bring to them and also the most willing to give new strange concepts a chance and try to experience them themselves. Looking to a wider audience other aspects would appeal to a different demographic. The film’s touches on history, religion, science, all of which are meaningful to an understanding of shamanism. These subjects can  be appealing to specific groups interesting in said subject but also appeal to a mass audience as they are things which are integral to our existence in everyday life and matters of contemporary debate.

‘The face of spirit’ or the potential short series of shamanism films would likely to be broadcast as perhaps in a channel 4 ‘3 minute wonder’ type slot over a series of consecutive evenings or weeks. The documentary would most likely to be viewed online, perhaps on a platform such as the vice website as the shamanism film is quite quirky and niche and would appeal to the same demographic as vices target audience. It would also gain a number of views on YouTube and Vimeo. We hope that the documentary would be screened at film festivals within a short documentary category and potentially displayed on their institute’s websites such as 4docs, short of the week, sundance, bfi, Sheffield doc fest or IDFA .

The series of films would be conducting in the same documentary poetic/observational style but with different approaches according to the personal story the character brings. For examples, ‘ the face of spirit’ is fairly steady and slow paced emphasising the imagery and meaning in Caroline’s dialogue, the colouring is warm and natural, whereas another character may bring more vibrant colours and an upbeat soundtrack. The variety is important in a series about one main theme, to keep the viewer intrigued and interested, and not give off the feeling of repetition, but also to reiterate the diversity of the aspects of shamanism and how it can be incorporating easily into the ‘ordinary person’s lifestyle.

 

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editing and finalising cut

23/12 – The sound from the outdoor shoot we filmed had a lot of background noise as it was near a main road there was a constant but varied levels of traffic whirring. This was very noticeable in the sound so needed to somehow lower this background level. We used Adobe Audition’s adaptive noise reduction feature which removed the background noise but however made Caroline’s vocals sound echoey/ as if underwater and somehow introduced random strange noises with sounded very inauthentic.

We discovered that this option wasnt very useful for our particular problem as the varied levels of sound in traffic made it hard to find a constant sound for which the programme to eliminate.

Instead we ended up using the Parametric EQ levels option in Premiere Pro with allowed us to alter more accurately the amount of reduction in which parts of the sound eventually finding a reasonable ground by which the background noise was reduced by a significant amount as not to be obvious in the film whilst also remaining Caroline’s voice as a hearing sound without any further distorted elements. We also feel that the inclusion of some of the background is authentic to the filming conditions in which we were filming which makes it seems natural.

We also used a slight bit of colour correction in order to match the warm indoor footage to the cooler outdoor footage using the 3 point colour wheel editor. This creating more of a continuity throughout the film.

In this session we also added titles to the film . We placed the title of the film ‘The Visible Face of Spirit’ in the shot directly after the end of our introduction ‘action’ seqeuence. I think this is well placed as the intro providing the intriguing visual and once it comes to an end you are given the title which reminds you that you are watching a film.

We decide on this title because it is a phrase which Caroline used a lot in her interview and which is included in the film. therefore when the line is said in the dialogue it will remind the veiwer of why the title is what is was. The clip which we placed the title upon was and shot of bushes with caroline sitting on a log out of focus in the background – this acts an a metaphor for the visible face of spirit as Caroline defines nature as the visible face of spirit and here in this spot the nature in in focus or ‘visible’ as  ‘ the face’ whereas the face which you would associate with the human, Caroline, is out of focus and distorted – suggesting the the face of spirit in not the human, the shaman but something else – which you find out further in the film.

We also added short credits at the end of the film with 2 pieces of text following each other over the top of the same image on screen. The credits have a fade in and out effect and just appear on the screen in a light coloured text to complement the bright elements of the image.

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editing

21/12 editing caroline footage

We edited the footage of Caroline from the interview plus the footage from Stanmer Park . We sarted but cutting out the sections that were ‘usable’ i.e still, in focus, not overexposed. We then cut out the 2 main sequences of action – one of the calling upon the spirits , and one of her dancing in the woods. we wanted these to be about 1 min 30 each in order to fit into our 6 minute time frame aswell as interview sections.

We used the calling upon the spirits scene to begin the documentary as this leads in nicely , creating the sense of curiosity in the viewer. We used a fade effect at the very beginning whilst having the sound of the shaker play from the very beginning so that they is a momentary wonder of what the source of the sound could be and what context this sound is taking place. We interlaced this section with establishing cutaways of the location – nature shots – then cutting back to Caroline’s ritual scene. We cut the clip on the line of speech ‘thank you for being here today ‘ as this creates a satisfying end to the section and prepares the viewer for the transition into the next.

We planned to include no head to camera interview however we thought that it was quite nice to include some snippets of this in between other shots as it allows the viewer to feel connected to Caroline on more of a personal level however we tried to used sections where in the head to camera interview it was ‘worth’ looking at her as she was using hand gestures to illustrate what she was saying.

We entered the section action sequence of drumming and I particularly like the way in which we subtly matched images and wording such as ‘please give us a sign’ is repeated – once with a cut away of Caroline in action dancing amongst nature turning to the sky and raising her arms as if demonstrates this ‘plead’ and second utterance of this we see the syncronised action of her drumming and looking up at the sky as she is saying this with concerned eyes.

By interlacing this drumming with dancing in a trance-like state it relates to her interview dialogue about this matter. The change of focus in sections also helps to illustrate the idea of going from one state of mind to another.

We selected the piece of interview about how important shamanism is to today’s society as this is a poignant ending and will leave the viewer with something to provoke thought and/or action.

We fading in and overlayed the shaking sound from the begining of the film right at the very end . Finishing on a shot of Caroline facing as if looking out among her surrounding and her ‘culture’ whilst drumming and shaking.

 

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stanmer park shoot

20/12 – Today we filmed Caroline at Stanmer Park. We used the d7000 marantz and k6. It was early in the morning and the sun was just rising so we were able to get some really nice lighting in the footage as the sun shone through the trees. We walked through the woods and found a suitable spot where we would be able to film and gain the footage we wanted aswell as a spot where Caroline would feel comfortable in performing her shamanic practice.

We wanted to record Caroline reading a poem however , we all agreed that this would seem quite staged and unnatural . Instead she called upon the spirits to guide us and in this she used her shaker and burnt some sage which provided us with some action to record and she spoke for about 5 minutes to the spirits of nature . She then did a similar ritual where she used her drum and shaker which was quite intense and trance-like. She then did a short dance which included elements of nature such as earth and leaves.

Caroline brought along some peices which she uses in her rituals which were quirky and intriguing such as a lock of hair and skull which she said belonged to her deceased cat. This imagery would be useful to link to our interview section on witchcraft.

The sound recorded for the interview was recorded as close as possible to the subject however the location being near to a main road meant it was impossible not to pick up background noise which we will have to assess in post production.

Caroline brought her dog with her which was upon her lap in our interview footage which was helpful as his inclusion in the shots gained here provide continuity when changing from the interior to exterior footage.

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(Photos taken at stanmer park where we filming Caroline’s dance and ritual sequence. 8am – 9am 15/12/13 sun was rising! )

Below are screenshots of the footage we filmed in the woods at Stanmer Park…

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raincheck on filming + editing day

17/12 – plan to film caroline dancing (cancelled due to poor weather conditions)
17/12 – edited cut up ali and caroline footage. condensed down . 1 min intro, 1 min 30 evelyn, 1 min 30 ali, need to condesne caroline to 1 min 30 . 2 x 30 seconds of in betweeny shots four directions, dancing etc
include soundscape for intro – i,e match imagination visual with sound river, forest, calm forest sounds with establishing shots fading in and out. noted down points each person said and cut the least best stated version.

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Caroline filming

15/12 – At 2pm today be went and met and filmed Caroline . elp from partner bouncing light off reflector and screen with net draped over to give soft lighting. arrange to film outside dancing on tuesday

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Caroline’s partner is filmmaker Ben Cole, (http://bencolecinematographysite.com) who kindly leant us some lighting for our interview. We faced the light towards a board which reflected the light and then filtered through a second screen and finally added a sheet of mesh over the screen to further soften the lighting.

Below are screenshots from the interview and cutaways filmed at Caroline’s home in Brighton 15/12/13 2pm.

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I interviewed Caroline in this shoot and operated camera. Again I found Caroline fascinating as she spoke about her experiences and why she is involved with Shamanism.

Stand out moments from the shoot for me :

– Collage wall hangings – filmed cutaways and pans of these – caroline explained (but not on record unfortunately as this was post-interview) that she had made them herself and said they were very complex (and looked like it too!) they contained photographs off her at various stages of her life as well well as her female ancestors, they were snippets of poems and wording and aesthetically pleasing with colour and glitter and the general mish-mash of thoughts on the page. She noted that one of them she created as she started going through the menopause so there was a lot involved in it as it was a time in women’s life as a shaman/medicine woman where things become a lot clearer as there is less of the emotional baggage of previous life therefore its a time with female shamans can because their closest to the spirit world and the connections there.  I personally find it very interesting how the shamanic beliefs are not tangible there are rooted in scientific development such as this .

– Caroline spoke of how she was abused as a child. This came as a surprise to me when interviewing her as we didn’t include questions asking about upbringing etc. particularly as this wasnt so relevant idea we wanted to come across – about how shamanism is relevant to todays society . This would have been interesting to link to the theme of ‘healing’ however it was not an subject that we were prepared to delve further into (literally with questions on the matter or ethicly – sensitive to represent). but had it been a longer film about caroline life with shamanism this would have been a very potent moment.

– We asked Caroline about shamanism’s relationship to witchcraft. In previous interviews subjects hadnt much to say on the matter dismissing them as seperate cultures, however Caroline interesting pointed out the similarities between witchcraft and shamanism , explaining how witchcraft came from the ‘old pagan ways’ the people who lived on the farms and ploughed the land – in thsi sense it is similar to shamanism as it in connected with nature. Caroline said she would say she is closer to a witch than a shaman in fact. However she prefers to call herself a ‘medicine woman’ – relating to the notion of healing in shamanism and using this to better people’s lives.

– Caroline was an interesting subject as she is older than the other participants (52) and has a number of children and grandchildren – this gives the sense that she is a people person and had to lot of love to give and take.

– I found her speaking of her passion for dance very endearing as she said she used to dance for family members at christmas time and it was her feel very happy when she danced. Her face did physically light up in these moments of speaking of these fond memories.

– She spoke of how the drumming she uses connects to the pineal gland in the back on the brain which helps see more clearly and helps her get into a more trance like state. – this is good to include to help people understand the workings of the ‘odd’ performances that shamanic people take part in, as well as linking the imagery to the interview in terms of sturcture.

– We asked Caroline about the winter soltice coming up (decemeber 21st) and she was very excited about this as it was also her birthday on this day . She said for her and other shamanic people soltice is a time of celebration even more so than christmas or new year.I found this interesting as it highlights how the festivals celebrating the natural (soltice) of time, sun, moon, season etc. are not seen as nearly  important as the festivals which celebrate indulgence, commodities and loosely based on religion (christmas and new year) in western culture and perhaps if they were celebrated more widely we would have a better understanding of the world we live and value our relationships to one another over material objects.

– Caroline’s house contained her pet animals a dog and 2 cats which were nice to be roaming around in the shots as it relates to her ideas that shamanism is about the connection to nature and the animal kingdom.

As with Ali the weather has been bad therefore could film Caroline outside. The interior of her home was too small to film a dance sequence which we really wanted to get from her and she did specify that she prefers to work outside and be closer to nature. She has agreed to film with us on Tuesday morning at Stanmer Park instead

Update: Creative Decision

Prior to watching back the footage we gained from the interviews particularly Caroline’s we decided that we are going to focus solely on Caroline as the subject in our documentary. We decided this as we feel the quality of her interview was the best and most accessible to the audience we are trying to reach; although Ali and Evelyn had very interesting stories to tell and points to make it is difficult to include all of these information in such a short duration of documentary. Also including all 3 participants made the process of selecting their ‘best bits’ to include very difficult as well as finding section of sound where we could cut without it sounding like they were half way through a lengthy anecdote.

As we are filming Caroline next week performing her dance ritual this gives us the opportunity to narrow down what we want to get from her – a short ritual or poem to begin our documentary with (like our previous idea of using Evelyn’s healing speech) as well as dancing, drumming and shots of her within a natural environment. On top of this we plan to film cutaways of the scenery and any props she may bring ( we have requested her to bring drums, staff, etc).

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