(Hannu Uotila’s Invited Guest Contribution to Insidevideography Blog)
First when Joonas Rokka contacted me and explained that he’s planning a videography workshop in France and he wanted me to be in charge of the hands-on execution part of the workshop, I was extremely excited. When the workshop started to get its final form and length of 3 days, I realized that I might be totally screwed. The problem was following: How to go through and explain video production process and guide four groups in their productions just in 3 days? The area we needed to cover in such a short time was so extensive that people usually spend several years to get their degree from filmmaking and then their lives to rehearse. To tackle this problem, I decided to divide our mountain-size workload in three daily-based topics: 1) pre-production, 2) shoot, and 3) post-production.
DAY 1 (Pre-production) – Our super eager team of participants gathered in historically vivid Château of Rouen Business School. Participants were divided into four groups. Task for the day one was to define “research questions” and to create a production plan, including particles such as time table, script, call sheet, role division etc. Pre-production is commonly the most overlooked phase of the productions, but if done properly, it will save money, time and patience. At this time my biggest concern was, if the teams would understand the importance of this phase. However, if they wouldn’t, ‘the learning curve’ might be even steeper than expected. Why? Well, in video productions all the failures or ‘do nots’ in previous stages of the production will cause problems in following phases. After the day one, however, I was getting more and more confident that we might actually be able to reach the goal of the workshop in terms of team video productions.
DAY 2 (Shoot) – The next day was kicked off at the Château by explaining the technical side of film shooting. We also gave the teams two important rules that we wanted them to follow: 1) Do not shoot over 30 minutes of footage, and 2) Have fun! The teams were sent out to the field to shoot their videos according to their plans. There were two reasons to restrict the amount of the footage. Firstly, we wanted to underline the importance of the planning in the procedure, and secondly we wanted to make sure that the post-production phase would not be overloaded. In this workshop at least the second rule was respected :) At the end of the day we collected all filmed materials and made preparations for the final day.
DAY 3 (Post-production) – We started the day three by going through key features and functionalities of Final Cut Pro editing software – the program groups were going to use for crafting their 2-3 minute films. At this point all previous tasks and stages started to make sense; if the group noticed that they had exceeded the maximum amount of the footage, if they had focused on wrong issues, if they did not have enough b-roll, or if their production plan was too vague. For some of the groups this reality hit harder than others. After the last minute desperation and rush in editing – which is the standard in video production business – the whole workshop culminated in the viewing of the films. I can honestly say that it was a moment of pride. The quality of films exceeded what I was waiting for! When the official program was over and I was sipping Champagne in the historically surroundings at the Château after the screening of films, I was thinking, “We made history, indeed. The concept worked. Our first videography workshop was a success. Mission Impossible in the Château: Completed”.
If the core teachings of the workshop could be compressed in five, they would be:
1) Make a plan,
2) Work according to your plan
3) Don’t try to film everything (and don’t go crazy!)
4) There is never too much B-roll footage
5) Every once in a while, ask yourself: Why?
Two weeks ago 15 enthusiastic participants and three workshop co-organizers set out to explore, discuss and discover how video media could be employed by researchers. Our set up was a three-day intensive Videography Workshop featuring introductory lectures on key topics and approaches, fruitful discussions and, importantly, hands-on videography work covering the entire process of filmmaking (pre-production, production and post-production). We were lucky enough to occupy the Rouen Business School campus Château making the experience special in many ways. Find in the following some thoughts and insights from the workshop that – at least according to feedback from the participants – can be considered a good success.
First of all, the idea of this workshop was, on the one hand, to continue the series of inspiring and pioneering Video Ethnography workshops organized by Professors Russ Belk and Rob Kozinets some years back in connection to Consumer Culture Theory (CCT) conferences. On the other hand, the principal idea behind this event – perhaps distinguishing it from the previous ones – was to invite researchers together who already had at least some prior experience in video production or analysis, had questions about it, or had tried to shoot and edit film before, or who were looking for further advice in advancing their ongoing video projects. We wanted to cater for this group in particular by offering not only practical information about “how to do it” but also raise important questions about the practice of academic videography productions: Why should academics consider videographies as a means to produce, express and disseminate research? What is it good for? What does it mean to employ video media? What requirements, opportunities, limitations and approaches should be considered?
I wanted to invite two co-chairs for the event for a number of reasons. Joel Hietanen, my dear friend and co-author/filmmaker (not to mention co-writer of this blog), finished his Doctoral dissertation last summer on a fundamental topic to our workshop: “Videography in Consumer Culture Theory” – in short, a philosophical account on academic film productions (see link here). Joel’s task was thus to inspire, provoke, and stimulate discussion on a journey to philosophical trajectories in audiovisual research. His presentation excelled in that it introduced fundamental notions from Gilles Deleuze’s theorizing of cinema (see Joel’s posting on our workshop in this blog any day soon). The second co-chair I invited was Hannu Uotila, CEO of Rocketgang productions – a Helsinki-based video production company. Hannu’s role was to provide and facilitate a comprehensive account on the video production process from professional’s viewpoint (Hannu’s posting forthcoming in this blog soon too). Hannu’s experience in commercial video productinons – including ads, television programs, company films etc. – was essential in setting up the workshop learning experience. It is also worth mentioning that, just last week, Hannu was nominated to the list of “New Producers to Watch” by MIPTV event organized in Cannes, France (Hannu: We salute you! Congratulations!)
I tried to add my personal input somewhere between Joel and Hannu – between Deleuzian ephemera and hands-on concrete video productions – in attempting to position videography as a particular research approach and a useful tool for researchers and also to point our opportunities and challenges that videography may bring about. Among other things, I attempted to open up how traditions in documentary film theory, visual anthropology, experimental ethnography, and also artistic video projects may help us in charting and finding promising directions for videographers.
Finally, and most importantly, we left room for emergence and improvisation in that all the participants of the workshop engaged in filmmaking activity (in four teams). We planned, filmed, edited, produced and finalized four short films over the course of just two and half days! This videography challenge seemed impossible at first (see Hannu’s posting in this blog) but we were confident of success. All four groups finished their films in time and the screening of the films was certainly the climax of our workshop. Four amazing films of stunning quality! Great work from all the groups.
My own experience of organizing and pulling together the workshop was of course very special. Notably, it was absolutely great to receive such a perfect group of guests to my home school and city. In addition, I am astonished how many new ideas I/we got concerning both future videography productions and also the role of videography in the academia altogether. I am convinced we’re still taking some of the early steps in this regard! So let us continue… :)
Thanks everyone one more time! (and check out some photos from the action below..) We also wish to thank Rouen Business School research group Markets, Brands & Experiences for generous sponsorship.
Attention aspiring videographers! The best way to kick off the new year is to work on your filmmaking skills by attending the Videography Workshop organized and chaired by the authors of this blog – me and Joel – plus our video industry professional and crew member Hannu Uotila, CEO of RocketGang Productions Ltd (some showreel from here). The event is based in Rouen, France, at the Rouen Business School campus situated conveniently within 1h train trip away from Paris. Time: 20-22 March, 2013.
The workshop is designed for doctoral students and more established researchers interested in doing research on video format and aiming to publish in academic conferences and publications – or simply willing to make their research more accessible to wider audiences through video.
The workshop consists of two and a half action-packed days featuring: theoretical and practical insights on academic videography production as well as hands-on videography planning, video shooting and editing under professional supervision. After completing the workshop participants have an in-depth understanding of and an experience of videography production in practice. The objective is to provide participants with necessary skills, essential theoretical insights and practical tools needed for producing high-quality academic research on video.
Doctoral students EUR 350, faculty and industry EUR 650. The fees cover equipment (HD cameras, editing laptops), materials (readings and slides), one dinner, breakfast, and refreshments.
Due to the nature of workshop only a limited number of applicants can be accepted. Candidates with prior videography experience or who can bring their own video camera equipment will have a priority. To apply, send your CV together with one-page motivation letter to me by January 31, 2013. Follow updates and further info from this blog.
Contact person: Joonas Rokka / jrk(at)rouenbs.fr
The event is sponsored by the Rouen Business School research group Markets, Brands & Experiences.
Join us in pushing the scene!
This year we attended the ACR2012 North American conference hosted by the University of British Columbia in Vancouver Canada – and brought with us not one but two videos exploring the relationship of the moving image and ‘neomaterial’ philosophies (practice theory and non-representational theory).
We’re happy to announce that the more extensive project, an adapted verison of Karolus Viitala’s Master’s thesis on the video medium received the People’s Choice award!
Overall the quality of videographic work in consumer research is certainly on the rise. Not only in terms of technicality and aesthetics, but also regarding the thoretical orientation of the works shown.
So here’s to the Film Festival track! And thanks again, especially to Jeff Murray, Randy Rose, Alex Rose, Marcus Giesler and many others for making the event another thrill ride…
And, before I forget, here’s the film by Karolus and myself.
See us also on the MediaMark initiative’s web site (in Finnish). We’d like to thank MediaMark and especially Pekka Mattila for all his generous support!
Now that I finally received my paperwork from the long (and typical) University process I thought I’d share with you guys the following little tidbit of a news item.
My PhD student days seem over now, as I successfully defended my dissertation ‘Videography in Consumer Research: An Account of Essence(s) and Production’ against my honorable opponents professor Russell Belk (York University) and professor Jeff Murray (University of Arkansas). Russ, in addition of being the most published qualitative consumer researcher of our (and any) time in consumer research, is also the originator of the videographic approach in this context. Jeff is most known in this field for his seminal works applying critical theory. The head of the Aalto School of Economics Department of Marketing professor Henrikki Tikkanen acted as my supervisor throughout the process and as custos in the defense proceedings.
In a nutshell my dissertation is about applying a Deleuzian perspective to visual ethnography in the field of consumer culture theory (CCT). I apply a Deleuzian ontology and a typology of the effectivity of the moving image to throes of embodiment to contrast expression on the audiovisual moving image with more the more conventional textual and photographic expressions. The outcome is a radical critique of representation and an invitation to infuse art and research so as to construct evocative and empathic visual ethnographies. It is a work of hope.
You can find an electronic copy here.
I am greatly indebted to my opponents, my supervisor and professor Pekka Mattila from the MediaMark initiative for supporting video work at our department. Also thanks all for showing up to my party at the Sofia Cultural Convention Center. We were over a 100, and the party went on to the early hours. It was a bit apocalyptic. Good.
Here’s some photos for (de)illumation.
I recently wrote a piece on the Financial Times (July 2, 2012 Soapbox column) about doing research on video format. This was a great opportunity to spur the discussion about the changing academia. In fact, as a result, I got over a dozen of encouraging emails and feedback from professionals around the world. Basically, we all agreed that the academia needs to reconsider the ways in which breakthrough research should to be delivered and be accessible to wider audiences.
To briefly summarize my points – and btw the full article can be found behind this link – I argued it is unfortunate that given the ubiquitous technologies including online streaming platforms (YouTube, Vimeo, TedTalk etc.) that are increasingly available to us, academia does not make much use of them. Rather, it seems, research is published in paper format and disseminated in selected international academic journals, making the impact of research relatively limited, at last in terms of potential readership. Echoing themes we’ve discussed in this blog, there lies several benefits in using video to explain and share research findings. However, audio-visual techniques used in conducting research, i.e. doing videographies, or in publishing findings require new skills (shooting film, editing, storytelling etc.) and equipment that academics are not used to. In addition, the present academic publication system with a heavy focus on journal rankings plays an important role in this (lack of) development too, as it keeps researchers occupied with writing research papers for the journals and leaving little time to consider the exchanges with the public.
Our humble attempts to experiment research on video have shown some interesting results already (see below stories about our projects in more detail). Stay tuned for more.
The cartoon (by Roger Beale, FT.com) was pretty cool too!
Our award-winning film ‘Pushing the Scene’ has spurred some good interest in the forums as well as amassed a delightful number of viewers. Just to give an update on this, the film, which was released on Vimeo last November 2011, has got over 4000 views only in a matter of months. From an academic point of view, this needs to be considered some sort of success: typically academic research projects and their findings are available only to a handful of people (i.e. academics). Let’s hope we can spread the word even more so here’s the film one more time!
Are you about to engage in the business of doing academic films? Or do you already have a nearly finished film project on desktop? Before you move on, here are some key considerations that you should take into account that may help you in overcoming some of the most common challenges in film production. The insights are based on reflections and discussion from ACR 2011 special session on “making better video ethnographies”, chaired by Paul Henry and Marylouise Caldwell (University of Sydney).
As increasing number of academics are planning and doing academic videographies – i.e. academic research on video format – it is worthwhile to consider some common themes that often have a significant impact on the success of such projects, especially in the case where the researcher’s aim is to produce ethnographies on video. Among these, we feel that following points should be acknowledged.
Composition of the research team
Although we believe that it is possible to do academic films also as solo projects, we think that having a team may offer several benefits. Most importantly, simply the act of filming and interviewing at the same time is rather hard – especially if you want to use several cameras and points of view. So having multiple members in a team will help. The second most important consideration could be whether you want to make one of your key informants (i.e. insiders in your research scene) a team member too. Our own experience with the films ‘Pushing the Scene’ and ‘Brothers in Paint’ has been that “insider member” is like having a guarantee for your film success. Building your film on a dialogue between your key informants is way more interesting than more direct Q&A style of interviewing between the researcher and the researched. This leads us into the second key point:
Access to informants / phenomenon
Doing ethnography means having access into a (cultural) phenomenon and people in it. Although as in any ethnographic project, we believe that when shooting video, this aspect becomes even more challenging. Pulling a camera out in an interview situation may scare people off and make them nervous. Here also having an insider member may help significantly.
Storytelling in video
Making academic films is always a business of building a compelling story and showing evidence on your topic/argument. However, telling a compelling story on film vs. academic paper is something that we should investigate and practice further on. It seems that filmmakers tend to rely on storytelling tactics common to academic papers – something which may not necessarily work out as well on film. Here, watching what documentary filmmakers (and why not other similar artists) are doing may prove helpful. For example, think about different ways of showing emotion, affect, and contrast on film! In addition, embedding your story into an authentic material and spatiotemporal context is a crucial yet difficult task.
Theory building and linking
Should your film include theory or references to prior research? Yes. The business of academic film production is always a business of building theory and/or linking your study within wider interpretive frames that stand on existing research/literature. Of course, again, there are different ways of doing this and we believe that references to others’ work can be done in a discrete manner (and just a personal tip – it’s not a very good idea to show the article or book cover in the film!), employing either voiceover or text on film. In addition, it is also inevitable to communicate your conclusions / contributions to theory – something that STILL seems to be missing from some of the films. Using visualization and graphical (and why not symbolic as well) expression here is a good idea.
Voice of god or talking heads? How to narrate and communicate your story? Common trend in documentary filmmaking is the use of “voice of god” type of voiceover which explains what the film is about and what happens in it etc. We think that here filmmakers could be more creative and reflective in their approach. We wrote about this point in an recent article (it can be found in my thesis, page 128-151).
Yes, it seems that you cant plan enough for successful film production! This is a very good point brought up by Marylouise and Paul. Not to mention having enough battery and memory in your cam, there are different ways you can also script and blueprint your film beforehand. This saves you energy and time. Think about which sections, arguments, locations, sites and key informants you actually need in the final film. And finally, don’t forget to shoot b-reel film. It can save you in a number of ways once you get into the editing phase.
And the list continues… hope you find these helpful! Thanks for the participants in the session ;)
This year we entered the preatigious Association for Consumer Research North American conference ‘Film Festival’ with two contending videographic research projects:
‘Pushing the Scene’ - Tensions and Emergence in an Accelerated Marketplace Culture. ‘Pushing the Scene’ tells a story about how consumer cultures have become accelerated through digitalization and the global reach of the internet. It shows how powerful cultural figures have taken over the role of traditional record companies and other intermediaries. At the same time, as consumer phenomena have become more accessible, they have also become more short-lived and fleeting.
‘Post-Materialist Work’ - Dreams as Fetishes. ‘Post-Materialist Work’ recounts the experiences of professionals in Finnish video/TV production companies in their quest for freedom of expression in the face of constant monetary constraints and deadlines. These professionals long to pursue dreams of freedom which never seems to actualize in their day-to-day work. Yet, there remains a glimmer of hope in the business.
We are happy to announce that the ‘Pushing the Scene’ film was selected as the ‘Judge’s Choice’, which is the festival’s premier award. My personal heartfelt thanks go to my team members Joonas Rokka from Rouen Business School, Risto Roman from Helsinki University, and the MediaMark initiative for considerable amounts of support. While this was not our first prize for our video work, it will not be the last!
After clearing some samples we will post the videos themselves on this site. I ask for your kind patience for a couple of weeks.
Which is the downtown Nolla bar. We collectively oppose office spaces as in their overt grayness they represent all what some sadist conceptualized work as – the draining of one’s life force in a miserable battle of exhaustion :)
Ok, I’ll get my coat, but I’ll be back with some ‘real’ news soon!