The Voice

I’ve been promising this for a couple of posts now so it is about time I got around to addressing the voice. Pre taking on the challenge of making a documentary, this was a concept I’d never consciously been aware of and certainly never given it any thought. I was aware that some documentaries felt different to others, but I didn’t know why.


The simple answer is that the voice is the drive of the documentary. It is often the documentary maker or the main subject but there are nuanced ways of achieving this.

We can have the documentary maker on screen clearly leading the action and doing most of the talking a la Michael Moore.

Or we can have the documentary maker on screen acting as an interviewer who directs the action with well placed questions, this time Louis Theroux is a good example.

Then there are documentaries like Sync or Swim, which is a BBC Storyville documentary featuring Dylan Williams but does not feel like it is driven by him.

Finally, there are documentaries where you hear a collection of voices talking about one person or topic, sometimes including the voice of that topic, with no central narrator except the occasional bit of text. This can be seen in another Storyville story about the amazing Randi Exposed: Magicians, Psychics and Frauds


What will I choose? This is something that I have been asked repeatedly by my tutors and something that I have had to put a lot of thought into. I can imagine myself making a Louis Theroux style documentary around this topic as I am very comfortable in the martial arts world, but I wan’t this to be about women in the arts and if I include myself too much it will become about me and my experiences of women in the arts and interactions with female martial artists. I’m not sure that’s what I want.

What I do want is to be lead by Gemma’s voice with as little of me on screen as possible and I don’t want my voice intruding (I mean my actual voice, who doesn’t hate their own voice on camera?). But I am cogent of the need for there to be evidence of me in the film as I don’t feel it is right to hide that I am a man talking about women and their experiences.


So yes, all going well the documentary will be Gemma’s voice, even if it is me putting it together.


Not something I was planning on blogging about but having just watched Fade by Kanye West I feel I just need to talk about it.


My work is all about the performance of gender and Teyana Taylor’s performance in the video is an astounding piece of work with references back to so many other strong female performers that it took my breath away. As it started I thought, ‘oh bloody hell, this is going to be a masogyinistic piece of bollocks’ and yes, the thong she wears is possibly a bit OTT but that is soon forgotten with the precision and strength of her dance.


I don’t think any criticism of sexualising Teyana stands up for long when held against the performance she gives and the references that have been worked into the video. The only bits where this falls apart, for me, is the shower scene at the end of the video. That struck me as a bit unnecessary.


In summary, for me the performance of gender is down to the performer and I feel that Teyana owned this performance.



TMA1407 Feedback Reflection

TMA1407 is the module which dealt with Processes and was intended to help us develop and further our projects. It was fairly good for this but (as I may have mentioned once or twice) I don’t feel like I was able to dedicate as much attention to this module as it deserved due to TMA1402. But that aside the feedback from 1407 was useful to me:

There is some good work here you are tackling the filming and post production effectively, you are taking on the challenge on scripting and edit to build a narrative, the is way to in this respect but progress is sure and steady. The next stage regards the critical development of the piece, there are things to consider which will influence how the project progresess from here. What is the film about and who is it for, so that’s context and audience. Critically, you have a tendancy to measure relevance of material/research etc based on your own parameters, but by asking the simple (yet complex) question of context and audience,  you can begin to tease core themes that will then allow your studies to not be confined to or read as  “women martial artist doc”, but to move across subject, genre and medium to get to deeper level regarding gender, representation, purpose and authorship: E.G: do you speak for her? Do you articulate what she cannot? If you are speaking on her behalf, what is being said and how? that is where you build from.

So again we are talking about the voice and this is where my research is going to have to focus for now, to truly understand the concept of voice. I don’t know that I can speak for Gemma and I don’t feel that I need to. She has a strong voice of her own so at present I am leaning towards using her voice and bolster that with the voices of her friends and family.


As I promised before, there will be more to come on the voice

The Amazing Randi!

As I’m sure I have previously mentioned, I have been given the task of watching lots of documentaries to really get a feel for how they are made and to further understand the voice. The voice is something I’ll go into more in a future voice…


The best bit about having to watch documentaries is that it is completely up to me which ones I choose, albeit with some that come recommended by tutors. This one however was one that I’ve been wanting to watch for a while as it is of particular interest to me and is all about James Randi’s exposé of various charlatans and fraudsters over the years. I won’t list them as libel laws in the UK are not the best when you want to exercise free speech, so to find out who just watch the documentary Storyville Exposed:Magicians, psychics and frauds.


It’s a really well put together documentary and which tells the story with hardly any use of the makers voice but instead tells the story through Randi himself and through his friends and husband. This is a way of telling the story which I have not really explored so far and so will put some more thought into. 

121/Group tutorial with Rowan

It was a 121/group as I had Greté there briefly but then it was just Rowan and I. The general gist of the conversation was around the conflict I previously mentioned between where the focus of the documentary lies. If its me and my exploration and showcasing of Gemma or if it’s more focused on Gemma with just the occasional VO from me to move the story along.


To help decide I have been scripting the two options and showed these to Rowan and she agrees that I should continue with this exploration and also suggested I watch yet more documentaries so that I can compare the styles.


Next time I’ll talk about one of those documentaries which was a BBC storyville one called Sync or Swim

Observation – Alessia Grassi

Coming into this I wasn’t sure how helpful it would be, I’ve already done a lot of research into research and this is one of the methodologies I have particularly focused on. But with it being the main research method I have been using I was hoping to get even more insight into observational research from PhD student Alessia Grassi; and she didn’t disappoint. 


One of the first points she touched upon is that observation cannot be done just once. It is an iterative process which must be interpreted, then analysed, then done again.


It can be structured to give quantitive data but through participation it can also be qualitative. The beauty of recording observations is that the then allow the study to be both participatory/qualitative  and later analysed to be quantitative which means that video can be primary and secondary – participate and observe.


She went on to talk about ethnography and how the ethnographer needs to participate in the observation. She told us that it is best to use a natural (to the subject/activity) setting but went on to add that the ethnographer should watch, observe and talk. The talk being a discussion with the participants to get their views on the situation.

Some key elements Alessia pointed out were:

  • Live in context for extended period
  • Fully engage
  • Use normal conversation as interview technique
  • Keep records
  • Use tacit and explicit information in both analysis and writeup


She talked about the reasons for being a participant, observer or both and how these are utilised in research and she touched on the ethics of not letting people know you are a researcher. This is or can be important as it may bear on what they reveal.


One of the downsides of observation is that OBSERVATION IS TIME CONSUMING! There is the travel, time spent on location and afterwards there is the analysis and write up to do.


Why use observation?

  • Makes it possible to use different capture methods
  • Because over time you get a more accurate view of how people are acting
  • Helps develop further questions such as happened when I held the focus group
  • It can yield a deeper and broader understanding
  • Sometimes, it might be the only way


One last point was on the importance of how you take notes and then write them up for consumption. After this there was some further discussion before we were released into the savage jungle, red of tooth and claw, that is Huddersfield. We suffered through drinks at Costa and put into practice some of what we had learned from Alessia before heading back and reporting on what we had seen. 


So, nothing majorly new from what I have already read but good to have it from another perspective as always.


121 with Juliette MacDonald

Coming up to this one-to-one I was a bit unsure as to the point of it. Right at the front end of the module I didn’t really feel I had too much to show her but of course, I went in anyway as I enjoy talking with Juliette. My 121 wasn’t until half two so it was a good chance to go in early and really focus on some other work I needed to finish, such as the new poster  for my daughter’s dance school. 


I’ve just recently been actively looking into developing a shooting script for the documentary and I have now got the first draught sorted out. Not going to share it here because there are a few things I want to ok with Gemma first. But having written the first shooting script it did give me something to show Juliette along with footage of Gemma’s fight up in Strathclyde. 


The 121 went really well and Juliette has challenged me to really think about how I am framing this documentary. Is it about me and my exploration into women in the martial arts with Gemma as the main subject, or is it more about Gemma with the focus being away from me? Honestly, I still don’t know but am going to work up a couple of alternative scripts to help me think through the options. Another thing we talked about was the length of the documentary. Do I want a shorter more crafted work or a much longer piece with fewer edits? At the moment I’m leaning more towards a shorter piece with a website to support it with supplementary information.


So it was definitely worth my going in to see Juliette and make the most of bouncing ideas off of her. Thanks, Juliette!

Invisible Flock

Invisible Flock, (I could only see one of them, can 1 be a flock or were the rest truly invisible?) are an interactive arts studio based in East street studios, Leeds who create interactive digital artworks. They describe themselves as an “Interactive Design Studio”.


So what do they actually do? Well, from the lecture they appear to work a lot with the arts council to produce digital, online work that interacts with the physical world. One of the ares that sounded particularly interesting was the concept of embedding their work in the internet of things and this approach is allowing them to be proactive, not reactive in embracing new technologies and areas that have not been explored before. The other benefits if embedding seem to be:

  • To allow what they do to permeate across geographical boundaries.
  • To increase the reach of their projects without having to increase financial costs.
  • To increase participation in the development.


These three things are potentially massively beneficial to any artistic enterprises which are often constrained by how much you can afford to do, and who you can reach. Maybe there is something here for me to look at in terms of getting my work more widely seen but that is probably more relevant to the next part…


Which is the use mobile phones to host work.  Using mobile devises as platforms for artworks and projects is not a new concept but there has long been problems with the medium: 

  • Very unspecific, different devises have massively different screen sizes, ratios, power, colour pallets, etc.
  • The balance between form and function, how aesthetically pleasing is the program and how does that affect the usability of the app?
  • Ongoing maintenance and updates. Getting people to keep the work up to date, the data that this consumes and unexpected errors updates may create are unpredictable.
  • Lastly, where do these apps sit in the app store. Are they game or entertainment, is there even an option for an art category in the app store?



We were also told about the current projects that are ongoing and the global reach of the company which was fairly interesting, but unlike the above, it wasn’t massively relevant to my practice and so  won’t go into it here.


Thank you to the Invisible Flock team for sending a representative in to talk to us.


Starting point for TMA1403

This is it, I’m now on the final run to finish off the work for my master’s degree. So posts from this point on will be related to this module and my reflections on the tutorials, lectures, guest lectures, practice and research. After my previous post I will try to remain on-topic… 

A TMA1402 Final Reflective

So what can I say about this module, what should I say, what is prudent to say?


Here’s a nice post:


and with that out the way I suppose we should get on with the not so positive post…


Let me start by saying that this is the most amazing exercise in futility and time wasting I have experienced in four and a half years at Huddersfield university. At least in other collaborations the topics were relevant to the course. So let’s see if we can work out the point to this module. 


From the brief we had to form a collective with a range of skills, decide how the business works and is set up and work ethically to investigate the health and wellbeing properties of materials, their affects on lights and sound, how they look and feel and how these affect our emotions and promote creativity and health. From this we had to develop plans for a biophilic working or leisure environment.


Why? Other than to generate ideas for a company that we’ll never be paid for I see very little benefit to this project. If anyone has made it to an MA without some experience of working with others collaboratively or even better in a real job in the real world I’d be very surprised and that is what this felt like. A make-work activity with a nod towards giving students some semblance of work experience. It is meant to help us learn about group processes and collaborative working but I can honestly say there was nothing new here. In a collaborative group with a set project of interior design their is little motivation to do more than the minimum. A range of briefs to choose from may have alleviated this a little.


As in all groups some work harder than others and there are always outside influences pulling us away from the uninspiring work, so there were times when tensions arose within the group, but through a bit of simple communication these were sorted. We decided early on not to assign job roles and instead chose tasks and put our names to them which on the whole worked.


My next gripe, as I think I mentioned in a previous post, was with the very concept of biophilic design. At the time I called it a distinction without difference and weeks on this still strikes me as all that biophilic design is. A marketing gimmick to sell what all good interior designers and architects do anyway with a few extra plants thrown in for good measure. Beautiful, light, acoustically sound environments don’t need the biophilic tag, they are already doing it and anyone with a slight awareness of mans impact on the environment, the anthropocene, will try to work in an environmentally sympathetic way.


The one good part of this module, and the reason I chose it, was the sessions with the BBC. Their knowledge and advice was exceptional and something that I can take with me but unfortunately it does not make up for the failings of this module. In future, I’d like to see this module scrapped and just have the BBC as general guests. 


So in summary, it’s a pointless module but we’ve gotten on with it anyway and done the work. Sometimes that’s all you can do.