What I have written so far is written from the perspective that the creative practice has been completed, but it is still in the initial stages. The reflection of my practice are not in there because of this – so it may change a lot. What I’ve written is basically my plan of what I will do over the next week or so.
Chapter 3 – My creative response
Having studied various pieces of documentary and television, as well as online video, the conclusion was made that exploitation in collaborative and participatory film comes through editing, through mis-portraying or mis-communicating a message. This led to looking at how editing can be used as a tool to subvert meaning, and dictate the message received by the viewer.
The video sharing platform, ‘Vine’ has been used by many to re-edit other people’s footage, and this was the starting point of the creative experimentation. Studying how others had slightly changed viral videos, highlighted that subtle and minimal changes to a video could completely subvert the meaning. Through aspects like music, speed and voiceover and adding additional scenes, the original was transformed to mean something new, either challenging the intended meaning or enhancing it. This is the approach that was adopted in the initial stage of experimentation, however the intention of my creative practice was to challenge the meaning of videos which had portrayed the subjects unfavorably, to reassign the power to those participating within the video.
To take this perspective, instead of using existing Vine videos, documentary and television clips where the subjects were portrayed negatively were chosen. This idea of manipulating the intended message was an attempt to challenge the originals, to raise awareness that the editor has the ability to dictate message.
Of course this produced issues of ownership. This was important to the creative research, as the intention was to question who ‘owned’ the rights to footage, and who can dictate the meaning of something that is supposed to represent reality – is it the subjects or the producers? However, experimenting in this way could be seen as dangerous to copyright, so to proceed it became apparent that the practice should involve original footage.
In order to explore how message is constructed, it was felt that the best way to see the effects of a personal editor was to create an experiment where multiple people would edit the same piece of footage, to understand how the different outcomes were a product of opinion and beliefs held by people. Participants were introduced, as editors, and were instructed to turn raw clips of footage into a 1 – 2 minute edit. They were briefed to interpret the information as they felt accurately depicted reality. With roughly 10 minutes of footage, this would involve selecting information that they believed told the true story. Need to add the results of this stage (reflection), as well as the content of the footage and explanations of why this was selected.
To see the effect of intentionally portraying reality to emphasize a particular point of view, the next stage was to instruct the participant editors to recreate the process with different footage to meet a brief. One new raw set of footage was then recorded, and this was then passed on to the two editors, with two different messages of what the footage should mean. Need to add the results of this stage (reflection), as well as the content of the footage and explanations of why this was selected.
The question which this creative practice intended to explore, was always supposed to be regarding the fair portrayal of subjects who participate in documentaries. The research so far had investigated the effects of editing on meaning, but had not dealt with the ethics of doing this. In fact, if anything it had only reinforced the message that editors do have the power. The response needed to look to demonstrate how this selective editing process should be used to create a positive change in this respect, and give suggestions of how this could be done.
In order to understand the personal effects, the different edits were screened to the subjects and they were given a questionnaire of how the two opposite ways they were shown effected how fairly they believed they were shown. These results were given back to the participant editors, and they were asked to amend their edit to produce a more honest piece of video, which respected the views and requests of the subjects.