When brainstorming ideas for my documentary, the prefix ‘trans-’ of the words ‘transgressions’ immediately caught my interest. I researched the prefix and found this definition:
a prefix meaning “across,” “through,” occurring orig. in loanwords from Latin, used in particular to form verbs denoting movement or conveyance from place to place or complete change [freedictionary.com
, Webster's Dictionary 2010]
When looking at this word, I thought of the word transgender. As someone who is a member of the LGBT community with my own sexuality, I had met many people and had made many friends who are transgendered. I have learnt a lot about gender and being trans through them and through the internet. I had already learnt that gender is not as simple as we are led to believe and I felt that this would be a fascinating topic to make a documentary about. I wanted to do this also as I am passionate about educating people about the world as I have faced a lot of ignorance and seen my friends face ignorance and hate for their gender identities.
There are a lot of gender identities that I grew up not knowing about. This is a very brief guide to gender:
I spoke to my friends and other people online about what it was like to be transgendered and how it felt like they were living within skin that wasn’t their own. I also knew someone from college called Reuben who was currently transitioning FtM (female to male) and had taken part in this documentary series called My Genderation. I watched this and other episodes within the series to learn more about the subject as well as a TEDxTalks Reuben recently done at Sussex University.
[Lucky Tooth Films, YouTube, 2013]
[TEDxTalks, Youtube, 2013]
Through research, I have learnt that it is vital to do so in order to get your facts right in what you are producing. You have to know your subject and information well and I feel that I have effectively done this through thorough research.
Process and Development
For the documentary, a lot of my ideas developed and changed as the idea went along. I originally wanted to film a friend of mine, showing his day-to-day life to show that transgendered people are no different from the rest of us. I wanted to help beat the stigma in which surrounds the trans* community. When my subject fell through, I decided to do this still with my next person. I toyed with the idea of having the screen split in two; one side showing footage of them at home and doing day-to-day things and the other side showing photographs of their body in detail. After going through several people who all had to drop out due to different commitments, complications, etc. I decided to solely look at the idea of showing the human body whilst having a voiceover. I at first was going to pair this with a poem, however, my idea changed and I wanted to write prose myself, about the struggles of the trans* community and the things I had witnessed my trans* friends go through.
I felt motivated to continue on with my idea through all of the complications as I had a lot of encouragement from people to stick with my idea. From my friends, to those within the trans* community and people online, I was told that it was a very interesting idea and something that they would love to see. I felt that it would be worthwhile sticking with the idea and seeing where it would take me and I’m glad I did.
When developing my idea, I practiced a studio set-up with my one minute screen test in order to see if my idea was do-able. My screen test didn’t go very well, however. I found that my subject looked too flat and blended within the background. I kept practicing and working out the perfect positioning for lighting in order to achieve the best results. I think that I have managed to do this well. Some of my shots do need a lot of post-production work on them but my final shoot went a lot better than my practice one.
When shooting, I didn’t go into the shoot with a lot of confidence in myself as I was worried about the outcome. However, I found that the shoot went a lot better than I expected.
My ideas changed a lot for my shoot. I was originally influenced to do all photographs for my film by Chris Marker’s La Jetée but felt more influenced after rewatching Sans Soleil, so I decided to stick with all footage.
When I was unable to find a macro lens, my shoot idea had to change greatly to the studio set up. With this changed, I felt that clothes wouldn’t work as well, so I had my models in their underwear in order to make it more effective.
I have learned from this that in future, I should definitely look at booking the photography studio a lot earlier so I wouldn’t be shooting in a small bedroom and shooting a lot earlier with stricter and much better planning.
Overall, I am very happy with my piece. Although I experienced a lot of ups and downs during the planning process, I think I have successfully created a piece that I am proud of.
Originally, I wanted to keep my piece in colour. When filming, the lighting was quite warm even after white balancing but I felt that this was better than it being too cool as it would be easier to make it cooler within post-production. I had to do a lot of editing within After Effects with the lighting, however, I knew that I had to do this when I was shooting as I found it difficult controlling the lighting.
When I got to colour correcting the footage and making it cooler, I realised that the piece just didn’t look right in colour. I felt that the colour really pulled away the focus from what I was trying to achieve. I wanted the focus to be the shapes and the shadows of my models but I found myself too focused on the colour whilst watching it. I tried to edit it with the colours saturated so that there was still a hint of colour but I still didn’t like the effect that it gave. Therefore, I tried it in black and white and it was perfectly what I wanted my piece to look like. The lack of colour made it more basic and didn’t distract the eye from what I wanted the viewers to look at. I initially wanted to avoid black and white but once I edited it in this way, I really liked it. It creates a strong contrast with their pale skin and the black background.
I also initially was going to record a poem to be used as the voiceover of the piece. However, I instead decided to write prose myself and I really liked how it worked out. It helped to make my documentary a lot more understandable as the poem I was going to use was very abstract and described gender like a sweater that we are given and assigned with. I really liked the poem but realised that it just didn’t fit what I was looking for. The prose has worked a lot better and I like the final outcome a lot.
I also toyed with the idea of having the shots all the same length so that they would flow easily into each other. However after trying this idea out, I realised it felt very monotonous and boring. By mixing the shot lengths up, it made it more interesting on the eye. I didn’t make the shots too drastically different, with having some very long and some very short but created a range that wouldn’t be uncomfortable to watch.