Final Evaluation - My Life with Puppets

This is my final blog entry for my Project Management module at University Centre Doncaster. In this evaluation, I will be discussing the development stages, the final product created and reflecting on the overall development of the documentary that I have created.

I am pleased to announce that I have finally completed the documentary film ‘My Life with Puppets’, which evolved from a small conversation between Ronnie and myself over a year ago. The project has gone through a remarkable journey from start to finish.

As explained in my first blog, I wanted to create this documentary as a “thank you letter” to Ronnie for the support and guidance that he has given to me over the years. I was also inspired to create a documentary because of my previous experiences working on a smaller documentary called Inside the Box. I found the process of creating the documentary an exciting journey which provided challenges that were beneficial to my practical and technical filmmaking skills.

I wanted to take the next step and challenge myself. Once Ronnie had agreed to the documentary it became apparent after conducting extensive research how large and challenging the project would be. On one level, this is great due to the amount of information and archive material that can support the documentary but trying to fit all the key facts into the short duration allowed proved to be a difficult task. This issue was covered in an earlier blog.

The documentary had a number of challenges throughout its development which have been discussed in my previous blogs, such as the copyright laws and rules associating to television programs and archive material.

At times, I felt that the problems with copyright took up much of the pre-production time leaving other essential and relevant documents to be completed later. One lesson I have learnt is to schedule my timetable and structure a corroborated plan for future projects. By applying this structure I believe that next time I will be able to overcome any problems that may arise.

One area I believe strongly that needs to be improved on and was an error on my behalf is the preparation for the first interview with Ronnie and the length of the overall interview. Set-up time took over an hour with the overall interview taking around five hours. In my view this is unprofessional and must be improved on in future projects. Taking that long to set up and complete an interview is not professional. When tasked to make a documentary or corporate video it is imperative to get key facts and the essential information as quickly as possible.

Time management on Post-Production is another key issue that I believe affected the project. Reflecting on my blog about the composer it is clear that whilst the project seemed to be swiftly on its way to start Post-Production, the issues relating to my original composer affected the time schedule. While I was able to get a composer quickly, I believe the short time schedule that Andrea had affected the time she had to work on the project, leaving her with a tight and limited schedule to work on the project. It also affected me working on the final cut because it became clear that Andrea’s time was limited and she would only be able to score the film for a restricted number of days. This resulted in me having to work quicker on the final cut in order for me to send it to her in time.

The film also encounters a few sound issues during the interview. I was unaware of this issue but it became apparent during the cutting of the film. After discussing the situation with my tutors it was decided that the services of a sound mixer would be required.

However, hiring a sound mixer was also problematic. After conducting a search on Star Now, Casting Call Pro and Facebook I was unable to find a sound mixer. I was fortunate that I knew and was able to contact Paul Howden who quickly came on board and helped to correct the sound issues within the, by that time, limited schedule.

Although I had explained in my pitch back in October that a sound mixer would be required for the film, the search for a sound mixer had been on-going since then without success. However, I am pleased that the score and mix turned out well and with how quickly Andrea, Paul and myself were able to turn around the final cut of the film in a short space of time.

The documentary has taught me a great deal across each production stage from providing me with extensive knowledge into various sectors of the professional film industry. It has given me an insight into collaborating with known production companies. I have been able to demonstrate my professionalism with the writing letters concerning rights, releases and broadcast related issues.

While the documentary at times had its difficulties, it was also a learning curve in areas such as the copyright acts relating the programs such as BBC’s Watch with Mother series which were broadcast during the 1950s. At first I thought that the series was Royalty Free because of the research that I did. However, it became clear after having on-going conversations with Copyright Enquiries and the BBC that this was not the case and certain copyright permissions would be required for me to use the footage which is both costly for me as a student and would be time consuming to gather the required licensing.

This took valuable time but with the use of Ronnie’s scrapbooks, which he had kept over the years that are full of clippings of the listing guides of the shows he use to watch, we were able to use this and avoid any copyright concerns.

As a young filmmaker who is searching for a path within the film industry I am confident that the path of documentary filmmaking is a path that I shall be following once I leave University. Documenting my progress by using blogs has been beneficial because it gave me a structure which helped me to reflect on what I have done, what went well and where to take the project onwards. I will continue to use this process in the future.

To make a documentary about Ronnie Le Drew and his career is something that I regard to be an honour. Without the support of Ronnie, Fremantlemedia and my tutors I do not believe the project would have existed.

The documentary has taught me some valuable lessons to reflect on when creating another documentary in the future. The last two documentaries, My Life With Puppets and Inside The Box, have been my most exciting and thrilling experiences as a young filmmaker. I believe that I have still got a great deal to learn but I hope to have a long and exciting journey with a possible career in this sector.

I am happy overall with the final cut of the documentary and the response it has received from tutors and peers. My next objective is to finally show the film to Ronnie, to create an extended cut of the documentary that explores the sections that were briefly touched on in the version of the film that was submitted for my Final Major Project module.

I also plan to arrange a meeting with Fremantlemedia and show them the final film in person and to possibly suggest the creation of new content for possible DVD extras or broadcast on the Frematlemedia new Flashback Kids TV YouTube Channel with new content.

In conclusion, there are areas in my development as a filmmaker that I believe need to be improved such as time management and improving my organisational skills. I am now aware of the areas I need to improve upon and explore ways on dealing with them in the future.

Although there will be difficult times with future projects similar to the issues expressed in this blog, I am sure that these issues resolved quicker.

My early relationship with Fremantlemedia is a clear sign of great things to come. I have devised a detailed plan which I hope that they will agree to which will result in more documentaries being made. The process of making this film has seen my confidence grow and I am sure that documentary filmmaking is the path that I want to take.

The biggest goal I have set myself is to continue to challenge myself without losing any of my drive, passion and motivation to be a Filmmaker.

Take you for talking an interesting in reading my blogs over last few months, you can watch My Life with Puppets here (edited: 29/01/2018)

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