Portfolio Essay – PIM (S1 2015 Meg Mappin s9756866)
How has my practice changed over the duration of the semester in this studio? What have I learnt?
I began the semester from a position of mostly using my mobile phone to record travel or family moments, as a personal record. I used a DSLR or video recorder for my creative projects and had recently completed a documentary I’d Rather be Surfing which premiered at Lorne Film in 2014. Making that film was a total learning experience. I didn’t have a plan for it beyond finishing and certainly didn’t have a plan for it online. My attitude towards filmmaking is changing strongly towards making content consciously for an online audience which means short, concise, relevant and timely content. This subject has been a great opportunity to explore not just the affordances of the mighty smartphone in terms of filming, editing and sharing the content, it has also helped expand my thinking in terms of making and sharing stories.
At the start of semester I teamed up with Anna Jones and Lucille Schnierer. For our case study film we selected Lisbon. Live from MINA 2104_B. This is a five-minute observational documentary shot on a mobile phone. The film captures one day in the life of a tourist exploring Lisbon by tram and clearly the strengths of the mobile phone were at play in this video: light and small, portable, unobtrusive, ubiquitous. This led us to decide to investigate the affordance of portability which allowed us to explore the capability of the smartphone very widely.
One of my early sketches captures this interest in filming people and what they do. This is a sketch of a lone skater early on a Sunday morning.
This is a very simple work (I was taking portability very literally at this point) and the clip is not that well edited but a key element for me in this work was that I talked with the skater, asked his permission to film and engaged with what he was doing. As a film maker I find it challenging to insert myself into other people’s space and this is an area where I want to push myself. I didn’t film our conversation, but it would have been a better piece if I had.
My early sketches were very much exploring the capacity of my iPhone and using apps such as Cinematic and editing tools such as iMovie for the first time. All the sketches were of what I saw in my everyday life and I was excited when I came across Ito Mizuko’s writing about the use of mobile phones in Japan which I discussed in this post:
In this post I reflect on the portability of smartphones. The fact that we have them with us all the time, like an extension of our bodies, means that many people are using their mobile devices to record the ordinariness, the mundanity of life. Until quite recently this has been via text and images, but now the capacity to share short, quick, easy to make video has really changed the conversation. In this and an additional post (below) reflecting on Mizuko’s work I also discuss the capacity of the mobile phone to make the content itself portable noting that the ‘making of mobile videos is inextricably linked with sharing them‘.
As I continued to make sketches I was exploring both the capturing of the everyday and the idea of the sharing power of the smart phone. In this sketch I used Vine to capture very short clips of letterboxes in my area. I shared them on Vine and then edited this sketch in iMovie.
The sketch that went the furthest with the idea of shared content was this clip, My Sunday:
Here I worked with user-generated content captured from a call-out on Facebook for friends to share videos of their Sunday. Again I was interested in how we can so easily capture a moment in our day. Although I wasn’t satisfied with this edit I was tempted to follow the idea of user-generated but came back instead to the key thread of my sketches – capturing the everyday.
I had already made a number of sketches of people at the beach and at the park enjoying their day. This one is in my local park:
This clip is a pivotal moment for me in the journey of this semester. I shot the people at a distance, from behind, as I didn’t want to film closeup without getting permissions etc. I considered coming back to the park for my final work but decided instead to follow an interest I’ve had for a while, filming the people who work on the streets of the city.
So my final work was shot in the city, along Swanston Street. I interviewed workers, buskers, artists, musicians asking them what it’s like to work on the street, what is good and what’s bad. My early sketches for this work focused on the individual workers such as kiosk worker, Harun:
I had great feedback on these sketches which helped me decide that I also really wanted to capture the sense of being on the street, the noise, the people, the trams, the music and creativity. Also that for all these people the reward of their work was meeting and talking with people. The result is I work on Swanston Street:
This video has pushed me in my filming and editing skills and certainly highlights the capacity of the smartphone to capture the intimate, to be flexible, to be unobtrusive. The processes of sketching, presenting in class and reflecting on my work have built my ideas about making and sharing media content. This video is itself portable, it can be shared, it can be aggregated, it can have a life. In my media practice I want to build on this learning by creating spaces for my content online and working with others to find their voices, to tell and share their stories with the world.