Future suggestions

September 1, 2010 Leave a comment

I have still yet to wrap up production. I should be finished by Saturday. So this gives me a chance to catch up on some blog work. It’s been difficult to maintain the blog with the workload of the project.

It has been a major task finding replacement characters, but it’s given me an opportunity to try something a little different with a character narrating a their experiences.

For over the past two weeks, I kept telling myself “these things always do happen in production”. I would just to have to find a way to deal with everything. However, this mentality wasn’t ever going to give me a learning experience.

What did I do that contributed to these characters not taking part? How can I avoid this next time?

–       Firstly, I had approached both of the characters through other people. I didn’t approach them directly. I was assured through people that knew them that it would be fine, and they would be willing to speak.

–       However, when I approached them by myself, and they realised the scope of the project, they backed down.

I should have approached them directly, and built a rapport with them.  This would have allowed them to be comfortable with me. There has to be a level of trust there between the filmmaker and the interviewee. I had neglected this but I’ll be sure to do this next time.

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First day of filming

Today I have completed some filming. The character wanted to remain anonymous, so I’m just going to refer to him as Mr. H Singh. Due to fear of being falsely implicated, and fear for family safety, he also didn’t want to show his face. He explained to me that during 1984, the aftermath led to people being randomly arrested and harassed by the police.

To complete the filming I had previous experience, from filming a character who wanted to be anonymous. This was during Wedlock, where me and my co-producer heavily lit the background, which created the shadow effect.

I had already prepared the questions, which appear in the blog. The main cause for Mr Singh being included in the documentary, was because he was closely associated to Bhai Fauja Singh (leader of silent protest against the Nirankaris) and the tragic events of 1978. The filming went well, and I had just taken into account so many things that I’ve learned on productions. Things like always making eye contact, and making sure there will be no external noises, or disturbances. I kept the questions on my iPhone, rather than ruffling through papers, which can become irritable.

One occurrence that I wasn’t prepared for was the chairs that we were sitting on. They kept squeaking, when my character would move around. I had to adjust the tie mic towards the beginning of the production as  the character kept moving it whilst talking. But this was only a minor issue, and I solved it quickly.

These are some of the images of Bhai Fauja Singh, who had adopted Mr Singh, along with many other children.

Bhai Fauja Singh preaching

Pictured here with some Western Sikhs in the background

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documenting research

Here’s some evidence of my research:

I was given all these legal papers that are Sarbjit Singh’s legal documents for his request for asylum in the UK. The documents also contained these personal letters from his parents. I might use some excerpts from them.

Sarbjit’s wife also gave me her scrap book, which had some interesting snippets of news. Along with a very inspiring article that was given to me, it appeared in human rights magazine. It’s by Indarjit Singh.

I had visited my local library, and looked for news paper headlines. This is because in archival based documentaries, or documentaries that are revisiting a certain time, often use this tool of showing news headlines.

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For the interview questions, I had methodically thought about trying to ease all of my characters. The subject is going to be a very emotional one.

I’ve tried to use the first few questions as ice breakers. This will ease the tension he might feel at first.

Also an old interview technique that is used by some journalists and reporters, is that they actually show the questions to the interviewee. This is a sign of trust so that the interviewee knows that the journalist or filmmaker is not going to try and catch him out.

Lastly, as I’m intrigued by character emotion, I have tried to use questions such as:

*) what did you feel?

*) What were your thoughts?

Along with asking reflective questions. However, in my experience of interviews the best type of questions arise spontaneously. Also when there’s  something, which I feel needs to be expanded on, then I probe for more details. Here they are:

gursharan singh questions

H SINGH Questions

charan kaur questions

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These are usually selling documents, which try convince studios to invest in your film. However, I’m against the studio structure of financing a film, and pitching your idea. Try to encapsulate your idea into a business type of product.

Also I don’t have to convince any studios to finance my documentary so I’m not going to do this.

However, that is not totally to neglect it. The document can be useful, as it requires you to ask yourself questions about your film.

The template I have used:

documentary proposal



Here is some production documentation that I have analysed over the past few weeks. I will be using this for my documentary, and will submit this with my report.



These are location release forms that I will need for my shots within a Sikh Temples.


Before the shooting of any characters, I will get each individual to sign this form. This perhaps one of the most essential things, as sometimes people do try to interfere with your production. Or some have second thoughts about doing the project. So it’s always best to get this form signed.


This was just useful to read, as I was preparing myself for the shoot


I found this list of contacts in the Raindance book, which I have suggested for reading to everyone serious about production. It’s an excellent book. After my documentary is complete, I’ll send it to the following companies to see whether they’ll be interested in it.


These are some useful links that can be helpful throughout production. The film festival and publicity links are the ones that i am interested in.


I came across Gannt charts in my under-graduate degree, which was Multimedia. They do give you a rough understanding of the timescales for each task, however, you really can’t be prepared for what’s to come. Sometimes there are tasks in production that are finished quicker than you anticipated, and then you might end up with your characters pulling out. (Like in my case) You tend to put a few extra days just to cover yourself, but like I said you can’t always expect to go according to schedule. Nevertheless, it does let you take the workload into account, so you can be finished well before the deadline.

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I’ve found this past week really difficult. Two of my main characters have refused to talk about the 1984 events.

Gursharan Singh, who was present in the temple during the 1984 attacks was going to be the core of my documentary. However, he is afraid of speaking about the subject. Even if I darken out the screen, and don’t include his name. He still doesn’t want to be mentioned.

He had initially agreed. I feel he thinks that he’ll be wrongfully implicated or he maybe associated with Bhindranwale, which he is fearful of. During that time, a lot of innocent people were held in police custody, some tortured, and others even killed. India is not a place where they have human rights.

I’ve further been disappointed by an elderly lady, Charan Kaur who was to speak about her son, who was killed during 1984. I had even confirmed 17th August as the filming day. I saw her this past Friday just to confirm everything, but she broke down in tears and decided that she didn’t want to do it.

She was emotionally distraught, and even though I wanted to desperately wanted her to be in my film, I wasn’t able to. Her daughter in-law tried to convince her, but she was too distraught.

I think it would have been the first time, she would have talked about her son. All these years, and she’s never opened up about it. I think she came to realize that period again, and wasn’t able to open up to it.

My initial thoughts before taking on this project, were that I shouldn’t be making it here. I should be in india, and that’s where it happened. Those people would openly talk about it. I felt that there was a story to tell here, of people who were quite vocal about their frustrations. However, looks like they were just not ready to speak about it.

This leaves me in a catastrophic situation. But I’ve done my fair bit of sobbing, being a media producer, you have to find ways of manoeuvring around these obstacles. So I’ll find someone else, who I approached a while back.

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11’09”01 September 11 – Mexico

August 4, 2010 3 comments

This is a short film made by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. It featured in a collection of short films from around the world, by some `acclaimed international film directors.

I am thinking of using a similar ploy in my documentary. There’s something powerful about just seeing the blank screen, awaiting to see something. The clever use of sound being a bit muffled to begin with. The use radio news, and people’s reactions is something I think could work quite well for my own documentary.

The reversal of no sound during the clip where the tower collapses, was also a brilliant choice. The images said everything, and sound wasn’t needed. It made me absorb the image more, than if sound would have been used.


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