BBC Bristol have been putting on the ‘sharpshotz’ programme that in works with various schools across the community to create short pieces of work addressing social issues. This year I was invited to participate as the programme partners with the University of the West of England. Along with a group of filmmaking and animation students our aim is to help the selected projects to build upon their ideas in order to produce a 3 minute film – 2 minutes documentary, 30 seconds animation, 30 seconds titles.
Six teams from Fairfield School & John Cabots Academy came to the university campus for a couple of hours working on their ideas before pitching in front of industry professionals. Those six would then be narrowed down to three to go into production.
I was working with a group of 4 male students (13-15) from John Cabots Academy whose idea that got them to this stage was a 30 second animation between two people talking online as one continues to shape shift. The idea behind this was you never know who you are talking to on the internet, highlighting their theme of the risks and dangers of the internet.
Working with the group my main advice was Show it, don’t say it. I was encouraging to avoid the stereotypical idea of documentary being constructed around interviews. Documentary can be based on solid facts and become something experimental and fictional in a sense. Our idea developed into asking questions about social media, in particular Facebook, the zeitgeist of today.
Rather than simply ask questions I got all of the students to write down questions revolving around how you act on social media. From this we then started constructing the idea about how certain things are acceptable online but not in real life. This soon became the strongest idea cutting in and out of the animation, demonstrating Facebook behaviour in real life and getting the audience to question whether it is acceptable.
How Many Friends Do You Have On Facebook?
How Many Do You Actually Know?
Suggested ideas to act out in documentary:
- Showing people photographs
- Shouting out feelings/status
- Tagging places where you’ve been with post-it note
- Walking up to people who say they’re fake and walk away (spam)
- Billboard with all your personal info on
- Loads of people following one, all dressed identical
- Following and comment on someone else’s food
The above diagram outlines the narrative structure. The story follows Jake as he acts out various Facebook items in real life, leading to him making a new friend. The next part is animated where he is talking with this shape shifter online as they get more aggressive as they groom. He closes his laptop to end the conversation and get himself away from the danger. Both the live action and animated elements will run alongside one another interchanging through the film.
My group did extremely well pitching, I had them rehearse time after time to ensure they got it correct, also asking them any questions that could come up. The outline for the pitch:
- Poke judges – explain how its not acceptable in real life but it is acceptable online.
- Ask how many facebook friends they actually know.
- Explain film: highlights the dangers of social media, make people think before they post online.
- Explain influence and animated element.
- Explain documentary.
- Clear narrative outline.
- End with spoken out Facebook update.
The panel really liked the pitch and loved the fact the group broke the fourth wall by interacting with them, instantly engaging and drawing their attention. They loved the idea of acting out Facebook in real life and how it will be thought provoking. They did query whether the animated and filmed elements were slightly disjointed as they tackled similar but separate issues at the same time.
The Next Step
The team made it through to the finals and will be heading into production! I am extremely proud of my team and feel great pride in helping them to achieve this feat. I will see them at the BBC for the next step of developing ideas. Having spoken to Alistair Oldham (UWE) following the event he is happy to have me act as the lead on the group I assisted, I am really eager to get this idea created.
It has been great to pass on my knowledge to younger students and help them in their filmmaking pursuits. I am eager to help them in the following stages of the production. I have definitely appreciated the opportunity to help out someone else’s project rather than worrying about the seven I am currently working on in my final semesters.