(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.