I jotted down my initial ideas for the documentary I have decided to produce for my major project. I have decided to stick with the theme of disability as it is a topic personal to me and a topic that affects society even more so today than it did 10 years ago. I have decided to do a documentary as I feel documentaries are important in showing the world, topics they know nothing or little about. Documentaries are important in shaping the current world we live and educating people on particular issues. Documentaries help improve the way we think, they could help improve communities and relationships between different cultures and society making them more tolerable. In the past, documentaries were used as a source to change the world. I think there has been a gap in the market for documentaries the past few years due to the increase of digital technology. Less people are watching TV and TV Channels no longer have the same economy as advertising between programs has changed so its harder to make money. Today, very few TV directors expect their programs to change anything. The ambition is for a large audience. There is little interest in bringing society closer together. I learnt on a recent TV Producer course that directors have been taught that what attracts a large audience is conflict and so they create ‘manufactured jeopardy’. Conflict is made up and added to the film, even in documentary . Differences between people are exaggerated.
The incline of free to watch TV channels are not accommodating documentaries as the channels don’t attract the audiences either. There are however much more documentaries on government funded channels, such as Channel 4 as they have a duty to include all backgrounds of society and cultures and documentary is a good way to portray this. And, there are no limits to the types of stories told, so there is a huge variety and difference. However with the increase of other, cheaper, digital technology such as mobile phones, GO-PRO cameras and drones, documentaries are much more widely accessible now as even on mobiles, we can document our lives and can do so cheaper than production companies. These days anybody can access an editing suit on their smart phone and edit footage they take on their device then share it to social networking sites within a matter of minutes. Devices also allow us to record live footage via social Media. So, because of these advances, very slowly I think documentaries are back on the rise.
Doing a documentary on disability means I can inform my audience of a topic and get my point across and also get point of views from different people. I don’t want my documentary to be a light hearted entertainment piece, structured like a drama. I want it all to be real stories, real facts and real conflict.
My initial ideas were:
When thinking of ideas’s I tried to think of subjects that would be interesting to the viewer. I used subjects that I knew I had ties with so would possibly have contributors should the documentary go ahead. I was put off doing the documentary featuring children as I thought it would be too hard to get children to take part and there would be too many problems in getting the children to film due to school times, travelling to their homes and just generally getting children to take part. There would also be a lot of restrictions due to child working laws and the amount of time a child could spend filming due to age. I learnt all about child working laws on a recent children’s TV producer course so know just how hard it is working with children as there are so many laws and rules so for this project I was put off doing a project with children at this stage in my career. The ideas I really liked was the disabled performing Arts theatre group that tour all over the UK doing various different productions per year and a documentary on the Disabled Discrimination Act which I touched on in my critical essay. During my critical theory project, I found that rights for disabled people have only been in place for the past 20 years and this really shocked me. I thought of many different topics that could be talked about in a documentary on the Rights Act including disability payments, access and transport. Due to my personal links with MDUK (a UK charity that focuses on disabled people with muscular dystrophy) I knew I would be able to get many contributors.
I decided the project I wanted to pursue was a documentary on the disabled theatre company, The Graeae Theatre. I decided on this because disabled performing arts artists are not widely recognised. When researching similar documentaries, I could only find documentaries from other countries and those were years and years old. I also found many documentaries featuring disabled artists were either blind or autistic. There wasn’t anything focusing on disabled people with muscle diseases. I did find one documentary from the USA called ‘There’s still hope for dreams’ made in 2010. This documentary focused on a topic similar to what I want to create with Graeae, it’s a theatre company made up of physically handicapped musical actors. What I really liked about the trailer of this documentary was the interaction shown between the teachers and the artists. It really pulled at your heart strings. The documentary portrayed emotion well. I liked how they used their own performance of the theatre group performing a song from the production they were working on as the background music. It drew the audience in and made it seem personal. It was inspiring. I liked how it showed not only the performing side but the ‘real life’ side of these disabled actors needing help getting dressed or other day to day activities we take for granted. However I didn’t like the text in between shots. I liked how it was moving the story along but I didn’t like the choice of font or colour, it seemed child like and the ‘broken’ letters signify that the artists (the disabled performers) are broken. The choice in font and colour didn’t seem to fit with the message of the documentary that there are no barriers. The black and white text seemed final, like it was saying everything is black or white there is no in-between. I would want it to be more open and optimistic signifying there are no barriers to what a disabled person can achieve. The voice over also seemed very Disney too. It was like the voice over was mocking the performers rather than encouraging and accepting them. Overall I liked the message of family that the trailer portrayed but I would be careful that it wasn’t reiterating that disabled people belong to a particular family as they don’t fit in, in a ‘normal’ family.
The fact that I couldn’t find any documentary on disabled performing arts theatre’s in the UK, shows me there is a gap in the industry for this type of documentary as it’s never been done. So I started to think why?
A quote that really stuck out to me during my critical essay project was a quote by disabled activist Paul Longmore who said:
“Those views of what disability is point to the fact that disability is not simply metaphysical and physiological, it’s much more. Importantly, it’s social and cultural; it’s a constructed identity… The stigma is globalised to engulf their entire identities.”
This highlights how, even today, society act towards disabled people due to the stigma surrounded by disabled people. Stigma says disabled people cannot perform in a theatrical production, they cannot learn lines or follow direction as they are not capable. Stigma is an issue I want to explore in my documentary to show non disabled people that being disabled does not mean you don’t have a quality life and cannot do the same things as others. When speaking to peers, they all said if given the choice they wouldn’t go see a play full of disabled performers. The reasons why, included: It wouldn’t be as good as they are disabled; they can’t sing; How can someone run if they are in a wheelchair? and I don’t really fancy watching disabled people. This here just shows the segregation the physically disabled are under even in society today. I want my documentary to highlight this stigma and show society theatre can be just as enjoyable with disabled performers as with non disabled performers.
The above quote can also be applied to my other ideas. Stigma surrounds the disabled in everything they do whether that be living alone, leaving the house alone or having a relationship or family. Society just assumes a disabled person cannot or at least should not do anything non disabled people do. I want my documentary to help change people’s views on independent disabled people living in society today.
Further from this initial research, I decided to contact Graeae theatre on FaceBook to see if I could get permission to feature them in a documentary. 20/01/2017
From the email above, a set back already was the theatre company don’t have a theatre base. The head Office in London are offices so unfortunately the only performers I could film would be performers currently in a play where I would need to gain permission to film rehearsals and backstage activities. However the offices would be a good base to film interviews with the owners and directors of the company. I sent an email to Richard to enquire about performers as the latest performance was coming up in just over a week.
I received an email from Richard’s secretary and it seemed really positive so I was awaiting a reply. Unfortunately by 02/02/2017 I still hadn’t received a reply from Graeae so I decided it would be best to discard this idea and decided to pursue my second choice. I knew with the second choice I could get contributors confirmed. I was a little disappointed as I felt a disabled performing arts theatre was a subject missing from documentary today and would have been a real insight into the world of putting together a performance made up of entirely a disabled cast all of different capabilities. It would have helped change the perceptions and attitudes towards disabled performers.
So I have decided to pursue with my second idea; a documentary on the Disability Discrimination Act in the UK.