Project Research

Shelby and I have been inspired to do more research as we attempt to try to make something really exceptional. I realized today as we were talking that I am not expressing the ideas the way I feel is needed. I want to try to conduct interviews or find articles related to the following areas: (These areas are the initial areas that strike me now. Perhaps I will find more later.

1. Narrative and story – how is it so important to the human experience.

2. The relationship of people to clothing – how clothing relates to expression and identity

3. Fan culture – what is achieved by these people coming together.

4. Play


Film Making that Inspires

Developing a visual style and method of story telling is key. I have so little experience with film making but have quite a lot of experience with film watching. I listen religiously to the great podcast “filmspotting”. This podcast has been helpful to understand how to watch and critic films with more understanding. I want to start a discussion and list of films and filmmakers that I especially appreciate and would like to model our style after. Other films in this group are ones that we have watched for research.


Director: Werner Herzog – Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, Encounters at the End of the World.

Director: Seth Gordon – King of Kong

Costume related Documentaries: Confessions of a Superhero; Darkon, Trekies

Director: Gus Van Sant – Elephant, Last Days, Paranoid Park, Gerry

TV Series: This American Life

Conflict in Costume

I was struck by the post regarding principles for making documentaries, especially the element of finding your conflict. I started thinking that we need to start recording all of our ideas regarding the conflict that we can think of or that we might find as we enter this arena. These ideas are just the first that I could think of, but I know we need to keep digging into this question to find not just the surface conflicts but deeper ones.

1. Faire vs. Theater: I expected and have continued to discover a real distain for the Ren Faire costume compared from the perspective of the theater scene. For the larger documentary, I think this issue is going to be a key to connect the two areas. The Theater folks look at the Ren Faire as a silly place not to be compared with what they do. Much of the attitude comes from the fact that the patrons at Fairs come in costume.

2. Authenticity: While we haven’t gone to a reenactment yet, I expect to discover a conflict in the area of authenticity. I have a feeling that this will be key to the hierarchy that exists. This is also an interesting counter point to the Ren Faire which is based in history but only anchored there as a starting point.

3. Costumers are Dorks: This is an idea that we are counter with costumers are imaginative and creative.  It is quite possible that they are creative and imaginative dorks though, so I think we need to also show that MANY MANY people are involved in costuming on various levels. It is not so fringe at is seems. We will have to do research to help us develop this more. I think interviews with some academics regarding fan culture might also be really helpful.

I need to stop for now, but I want us to continue developing these ideas.

Gus Van Sant’s Portraits

I have been continuing to consider beautiful portraits. I keep coming back to the idea of the portrait as key to our project. Shelby mentioned that we need to move farther from the event and more to the individual subjects, it would help us turn the costume into the centerpiece. This seemed so key to directing our vision. I wonder if it wouldn’t help us to practice setting up these portraits of ourselves or friends just randomly to learn how to develop this style. The transition to video portraits will pose some significant challenges for us as we develop our style and for the subject to develop confidence and comfortability. We will have to have examples to show and clear direction to achieve our vision.

I was struck by the way Gus Van Sant really slowed down several times during Paranoid Park to take portraits of his characters. He used his signature walking down the school hallway take several times.  This simplicity created a slowness that offered a space for reflection that can be challenging for video. I realized that this is one of his signatures that I love from several of his films. One of the strange effects I experienced was that when I was watching the film I found these sections sometimes so slow that I would initially get distracted and even bored. The fascinating thing is that these are the images that really stayed with me for days after the film. If you haven’t seen these films or at least these sections I would recommend seeing them. If you only have time for one I think PP does a great job. I included a portrait from Paranoid Park above and Elephant, Last Days and Gerry following for inspiration.

Finally, I couldn’t leave off the portraits we reference so often from Confessions of a Superhero.


Reneke Dijkstra is a photographer who knocked me off my feet when I first saw her portraits. When we talked about the overall look of our photographic style that we wanted to develop for this project, this artist immediately came to mind. I think that the etherial background and lighting is significant, but also the nakedness that you feel from the portraits amazes me. Somehow she is able to set the people in front of you to be observed so completely. The subjects look right back at you with such confidence that it is disarming, yet you are able to keep looking at them. The full body take from head to foot also allows you enter as a total observer. Here is a closer look:

Rewrite strategy

After reviewing our footage and talking about our style, Sarah and I have decided to reapproach the project.  What we have is a handful of shots that cover the event, but are unfocused.  We have decided to focus on a creating a tightened script and narration using what we learned from our time at the Faire.  This has helped us to create a new workflow:

1. Explore: We found we couldn’t really get a feel for the event/the costumers until we were there.  We saw what was the most dynamic, interesting and prominent.

2. Assess: After the event we were able to focus and reflect on where our story would lie.  We came away with questions, and found we were able to focus our research with more direction.

3. Write a script: With research, broll and pre-interviews in hand, we should be set to create a tight, interesting story.  This includes visual story, so we know what shots to get

4. Pre-production: Record voice over narration, arrange portraits with subjects

5. Re shoot: We decided to do a lot more directing, which means much more control with our shots.  We want control of environment, background elements and lighting.   We hope to create more beautiful, staged shots.

6. Re Edit: Using b-roll as backup, cut together a more controlled, dynamic piece following the script and timed to already recorded narration.

Documentary: Objectified

Working at Trek in the industrial design department has made me more aware than ever of the design that we are surrounded by. In school I ran across the material culture department and found it fascinating. They just research, analyze and generally study the material objects that we humans create all around us. The idea is that we can read all kinds of things about the culture that they come from. 

My boss, the head of the ID department sent out an email about this documentary and I think we will have a lot to learn from it.

Objectified will start showing in Spring 09. Check out their site: