Categories 21st Century Media Practice, Film Making

Zero Project


“The film drama is the opium of the people…down with bourgeois fairy-tale scenarios…long live life as it is!” Dziga Vertov

TASK-The verite piece must be a real story about real people. We are not looking for television formats or fabricated spectacles. The essence of any engaging documentary is a story, strong characters, strong imagery and a journey, conflict, resolution or crisis that we follow through the video. These should be your guiding principles when researching and producing your piece. We want you to really explore a more fluid approach to image making in conjunction with a multi-layered use of audio to build a simple soundscape. The film should be three minutes long and should be sensory in its approach.

The breif was to create a Cinema verite film, for myself it has been a case of relearning, less thinking, reflecting and developing experience. This blog is about the exploration into verite both in the past and present. I have reflected on how I have been challenged, what my experiences are and how sensory ethnography is something I want to further research and apply. This is a historical account of technical application, meaning and practice into Cinema Verite.

Back to the Darkroom.


My first film of cinema verite was not really cinema veriete. I found myself in a situation whereby, I had thought to much about what I was doing. In the stageing of asking Jon to process some negatives. Even though it was part of his role, it wasn’t necessarily natural and in the moment. However this opportunity, did on a technical level, allow me to experiment and think about narrative.

Kodak Brownie Canada

The Panasonic GH4 is a mirrorless, micro four-thirds camera. I will admit that it is a totally different camera to use. And the technique and the environments you use them in are important. I found that in low level light it slightly failed to perform, even with the correct lens being used, ISO and shutter. I found as well, that due to the view finder not giving a “true” filter to the view finder, some of my photos were under-exposed. Where it did perform well was in the Photography Lab, where the lighting is very white, bright and continuous. The camera performs well in these well lit environments and outside light. Therefore I know that this is not a reflection solely on the camera. I think this is down to how I use DSLR’s and its about retraining myself to use these types of cameras, where appropriate and to master a new type of camera, which leads to a new way of filming.

The film “The Wardrobe Master”, was my first objective Cinema Verite film. I decided to film my colleague Kieran Steward, who spends most of his time creating costumes for theatre performances. His Wardrobe is an emporium and labyrinth of stories. I had spent around 2 hours recording him, cutting out patterns for waistcoats. People were coming in and out, wanting alterations, asking questions and there was no clear narrative being captured here.

The Wardrobe Master from Beck Stewart on Vimeo.

Then Kieran discovered some velcro, hidden away in a cupboard. All of a sudden this eureka moment happened, and the narrative took a natural course of direction. The content became more interesting. I think I captured Kieran working fluidly, whereby there was an initial original thought and the process of creating, was not essentially a thought out process. He knew organically and intuitively how he was going to create this piece of costume.

Cognitive fluidity is a term first popularly applied by Mithen in his book The Prehistory of the Mind, a search for the origins of Art, Religion and Science. The term cognitive fluidity describes how a modular primate mind has evolved into the modern human mind by combining different ways of processing knowledge and using tools to create a modern civilization. By arriving at original thoughts, which are often highly creative and rely on metaphor and analogy modern humans differ from archaic humans.- (Mithen, S. J. 1996)

Technically I don’t think that this is my best work. I find that the depth of field is limited, due to the lenses I decided to use that day. The space that I was filming in was not the most easiest to navigate around in. For Kieran it is his space, and this creative chaos works for him.

To summerise the Wardrobe Master as a Cinema Veriete piece, I hope it captures the creative thinking of someone who is quite sporadic, who can work with instruction, but actually when given the opportunity to create, they do so, so very well.

The Lighting Designer from Beck Stewart on Vimeo.

“The Lighting Designer” is a film about another colleague of mine Jon, who works as a Skills instructor in Theatre. This particular day he was rigging for the production of “Hell Raiser”. I spent around 2 hours filming and once again it was particularly busy, lots of noise, lots of people coming in and out. Also Jon’s job isn’t just process of doing one thing, he will be rigging it up himself, directing the technical team within the space, whilst also giving skill instructions to students working on the production.

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 21.28.58

In hindsight of editing this it shows the many aspects of Jon’s job, but fails to focus on one clear narrative. Technically it is more experiential, in the application of filming. Which is the polar opposite of the Wardrobe Master.

Many Stories, not one clear narrative.

When editing the lighting designer, I came to a point where I made a wrong choice on the narrative of the film. What I should have done is focused more on the part where the students are learning about the filters and gels. I was tempted to show the clips where the students are left cutting gels and it leads to a funny conversation. I decided not to do it because of the brief, I felt it lead away from Jon. However these students are part of the story and essentially, that is what Jon is there for. So it should have been more about his legacy in the narrative more than the many roles.

The Monks of Wat Bo was created from achieved footage filmed in April 2015. As described in the blog link above. I felt that I had been maybe filming using a Cinema Veriete style and hadn’t actually acknowledged this. I wanted to revisit this footage, as firstly I hadn’t really done anything with it and I actually wanted to analyse my own work. When I wasn’t necessarily really thinking about what I was doing, and it was more of a case of just “being” with the camera and present in the moment.

Monks of Wat Bo. Cambodia.Staberlised version. Cinema Variete Experiment from Beck Stewart on Vimeo.



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