E-Waste: Now and Beyond (Documentary Film)
E-Waste: Now and Beyond (Short Film)
demonstrate AND EXERCISE advanced skills in FILM AND POST-production TO PRODUCE a documentary film in collaboration witH A third-party ORGANIZATION in regards to a pressing local issue.
Project Type: School project
Duration: 9 weeks/4 weeks, in a team of 3 (Fall 2018) - complications required us to restart project 5 weeks into production
Team: Erin Jang, Timothy de la Vina, Gavin Sekhon, Oliver Aung
My Role: Project manager (main communication), camera operator, sound design editor, final editor
Tools: Canon T5i/T7i with various focal lenses, camera sliders, tripods, Zoom H4N and lapel mics, Audacity, Adobe Premiere Pro
Achievements: Showcased at SFU FCAT Undergraduate Conference 2019
Our class was posed during the Fall 2018 semester of Moving Images to tackle local issues and initiatives, involving the local government and third-party organizations. Our group chose waste, specifically electronic waste as we agreed it was a relevant topic to take on as technology is a considerably large portion of our studies as well as personal lives. Our team decided to tackle the problem at a local level so that people who watch our film in the lower mainland will feel connected to the problem, over feeling distanced from it. An inspiration for the tone of our film was Manufactured Landscapes by Edward Burtynsky (2006). As the team has had experience with film in the past, this class was a chance to exercise advanced skills in film production and editing.
Project Management and Communication
At the beginning of the project, it was decided I would be the main communicator between interviewees and the organizations we were working with. Posed with this role, I also felt that it was my responsibility to make sure deadlines were met and that everyone was on the same page. With a busy production schedule, we needed to make sure all of our equipment (sliders, extra cameras, microphones, etc.) was properly timed with the schedule and with who was picking the equipment up. Mid-way through our project, unfortunately our partner organization could not work with us anymore so we had to begin from square one. This caused a hiccup in our production but with help and communication to our professor and TA we came back on track to produce a documentary we were happy with.
Camera Operation and Filming
As I am familiar with shooting photography and video with various focal lenses on DSLR cameras, I assisted with shooting using my own Canon T5i. Shooting was done by everyone in the team as we loaned out 2-3 extra cameras on our shoot days for optimal amounts of great footage.
The interviews with our spokespeople (we filmed three, but one made the final cut) helped us learn how to film professionally using wireless microphones, working multiple cameras at different angles, and how to create scintillating questions to conduct an interview for documentary purposes. In these settings, I was the main interviewer (off-camera) while my teammates were the camera and microphone operators.
Post-production and Sound Design
Due to the way the project was managed, I carried all of the files with me on my hard drive so we could have them all in one place. Once the majority of our shooting days were over, we eventually came to the conclusion that it is easier to separate the editing of clips and to pass the video from teammate to teammate to avoid wasting time and confusion.
My teammates Tim and Oliver handled audio-video sync with our interview. Once the final rough draft was complete the video came back to me, where I did final tweaks, audio mastering and final rendering of the documentary.
Challenges and Solutions
Re-starting footage during production due to an ended agreement with our class’ third-party required us to switch gears quickly (as we had to scrap all our previous footage) we chose to continue with the topic of electronic waste because we believed it was an important story to tell.
Finding compelling and relevant speakers/spokespeople to represent a full understanding of the problem. Our professor and TA were kind enough to assist us in finding other choices for interviewees.
Gaining access as a small team of students to city recycling centres was difficult and not possible despite our best efforts – thus, we used external footage to illustrate the problem in other parts of the world.
Though this documentary was relatively short, it was interesting to see how much work goes into every single second of film. Keeping track of everything that goes on as a project manager is a difficult but proud job. Filming and collaborating with third party organizations was a new experience, and allowed me to work on my interpersonal skills. This project also taught me that anything can happen during production: things get halted, agreements end, shots get scrapped; but the only thing you can really do is make sure you are on your toes, ready to adapt and resolve conflict, and ready to pursue success regardless of difficulties. Reflectively, tackling the issue of electronic waste forced me to question storytellers in our lives and the importance of relating to local issues that we all face every day but may refuse to actually combat.
Our team had the honour of presenting our final documentary at SFU’s Faculty of Communication, Art & Technology Undergraduate Conference in March, 2019, at the Surrey City Hall. We created a short presentation to illustrate why we felt the need to push onwards with this documentary and why it was important to us as students of design and technology.