Seeking documentary projects!

I’m always looking for documentary projects – especially if there is a marketing budget or crowdfunding opportunity attached.

However, I don’t just mean quirky films documenting issues like pole dancingGerman wild campers or independent food producers making good. Perhaps not even traditionally formatted videos for charities and business start-ups.

For example, I’ve been documenting events relating to an international arts project called Pixelache recently in preparation for a major cultural festival to be hosted in Sheffield next year by the city’s pioneering organisation Access Space. The budget to do this came from European Union funding – albeit only covering travel and subsistence expenses – and I certainly wasn’t the only creative person involved with creating a documentary record. Exciting it was – and is!

Below are the pieces I’ve produced so far. The Iceland film involves a lot of still photography (with audio clips overlaid), whilst the Finland video includes filmed interviews plus plenty of b-roll.

If you, or anyone you know, would like a well-produced document of their project using video, still photography or text, please do get in touch.

Using multimedia could benefit your marketing, publicity or fundraising efforts: This can be for print, web or on DVD for presentations and lectures. I’m pretty sure we can work out a way of making it happen! (testimonials here)

People helping people helping people

I shot a simple video on Sunday and edited it yesterday – a piece about people helping people helping people.

Let me explain that. It’s a production for the homelessness charity I support and depicts another homelessness organisation who kindly helped us with our fundraising.

The vid has had nearly 100 views over the past 18 hours on the charity’s dedicated Youtube page, been shared several times over Twitter and has drawn favourable comment in emails. It will be shown with other media work I produced at the charity’s annual general meeting next month at the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield.

Prepping for Christmas in July

This past week I completed a three-minute short video for a charity that helps Sheffield’s homeless each Christmas and New Year.

HARC – Homeless And Rootless at Christmas – provides meals, social activities and much more for our homeless over the festive period during which other charities traditionally close down. Although fundraising throughout the year, HARC starts to get particularly busy around September.

My previous blog post features audio interviews I recorded with three people who have experienced homelessness and who used HARC. The video below contains interviews with three donors to HARC. The idea is to produce original media for HARC’s website pages that will help with fundraising and volunteer recruitment.

Of course, one of the challenges for me as a multimedia producer making a film about Christmas in July is that no original footage exists from previous seasons. However …

Audio interviews with homeless

I recorded three audio interviews with homeless folk in Sheffield yesterday for use on a charity website.

The piece will be embedded on the site’s pages as part of a drive to recruit volunteers and help with fundraising. The site is in a state of total overhaul right now but its current version can be found here.

Below is the audio piece:

The next task is to video people who have made donations … then film some of the volunteers …

hackers & makers

Hackers & Makers audio interview

I produced this short audio piece yesterday about hackers & makers based in Sheffield’s Access Space for their imminent website relaunch.

The idea is to offer the public a flavour of what the club is like in order to attract wider interest. This is one of a number of ongoing multimedia items that will populate the news channel section of Access Space’s new site that’s due up soon.

Broadcast journalism students Parkhill interview

Great fun in the sunshine this afternoon as three broadcast journalism students interviewed me about my time living on Sheffield’s Parkhill housing estate.

broadcast journalism students

Julia (on the right) and her two colleagues wandered around the estate with me as they shot drop-in footage and filmed what is one of the city’s hated / loved landmarks.

There’s more work to be done and probably a few more interviewees to record. The finished result will be submitted as part of their MA course at University of Sheffield (and will be uploaded to Youtube at some point too).

A lovely way to spend an afternoon – great company, super weather and a location I have very fond memories of. (And see my own Parkhill homage video here.)

Whither legacy media?

Terms like “online journalism” and “citizen journalist” have entered the global lexicon over the past decade, heralding a profound change in the way news is reported. Whither legacy media?

legacy media dead

I keep a lever-arch file thick with photocopies of published print articles and campaigning “letters to the editor” that formed my freelance journalism portfolio in the 1990s. Dipping into it now, on rare occasions, I vividly recall times when I’d just put the phone down after an editor confirmed article commissions – jumping for joy that my outline had been appreciated and knowing 1,000 of my authoritative words would be read widely.

When friends asked in more recent years what I’ve been up to, I may have dropped in that I’d appeared again on BBC local radio. They were impressed – even though none of them are listeners (and neither am I!). Sure, I was a major part of a BBC Panorama investigative programme (when I advised on debt law) and enjoyed brief appearances on national BBC television news as a rights campaigner, but all that was around the turn of the century.

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Kickstarter video case study

kickstarter video crewMaking a Kickstarter video for a crowd funding bid is considered essential.

Artist and digital wizard James Wallbank has been a keen fantasy board games fan since the 1970s. He successfully used Kickstarter to fund manufacturing of 3D terrain designs.

James is an expert with laser cutters and computer-aided-design. Using prototype units (plinths, walls, portcullises, stairways, etc), he decided to share his new product on a global scale with the wider gaming community.

But James needed £6,000 capital start-up in order to make this ambition possible and, being a progressive thinker, he didn’t want to approach lenders for the money. So he chose a Kickstarter crowd funding option instead. Crowd funding provides a direct way to approach potential backers who often receive the product as a reward for their donations.

Kickstarter video case study

So I made the promo film and James exceeded his £6,000 target by raising £10,813 in 30 days. Production is now in full swing and he has started employing people.

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Mothers Day

Given today is Mothers Day, I present a portrait made in 1987 of my late mother.

Mothers Day

It was submitted as part of a project during the second year of my BA Degree in Photography at Napier, Edinburgh. The brief was “modelling jewellery” and my tutors wouldn’t accept this image at first, for this was no stereotypical babe sporting a sparkler.

However, my mum liked making craft pieces out of junk and the articles she’s wearing in the pic were constructed from discarded bits and pieces. I used flash and underexposed the ambient daylight. I was finally awarded a B pass mark.

Happy Mothers Day, Jeannie Cavanagh, wherever you are now.

colin macaulay

Novelist Colin Macaulay discusses writing

Historical novelist Colin Macaulay discusses the writing process behind his book The Scottish Malcontent in this mini-documentary.

I produced the film towards the end of last year and it contains evocative clips of central Edinburgh plus an insightful interview with the author.

On second camera was my great friend and occasional colleague Sinclair Smith (whose own fabulous films are up on Youtube). By the end of the shoot, we’d all struck up friendships and Colin received a video to help with marketing his fine work.

Welcome GIMP cheat

GIMP is a free photo-editing tool that easily rivals expensive alternatives such as Adobe Photoshop.

I had a commission to produce cover photographs for several issues of a print magazine a few years ago. The brief for the example reproduced below was to find a building that looked like a dense office block.

Welcome GIMP cheat

The first “cheat” was to photograph University of Sheffield’s Arts Tower using an extreme telephoto lens on my DSLR camera. In a pre-digital world, keeping those verticals straight would have required a 5″ x 4″ camera with tilt features. However, this presented no problem thanks to GIMP’s ability to correct angle issues.

GIMP works on Linux and Mac operating systems (maybe even on Windoze – who knows?). It can be downloaded here.

My only regret about the above image is that the graphic designer seems to have been taking hallucinogenic substances, given the multicoloured text (begging for a text box) that’s difficult to read.

pole dancing

Pole dancing documentary

I made this video documentary about pole dancing this last year.

Produced entirely in Sheffield, the film explores reasons people like to take up pole dancing. Some do it in strip clubs and many more see it purely as a fitness activity.

All the participants were keen to share their enthusiasm for “pole” with the camera, and for that I’m grateful.

Rhineland Redneck documentary

The Rhineland Redneck is one heck of a guy who lives a double life in Köln.

Ralf Pulheim cares neither for money, the material world nor authority. He has a large Youtube following for his videos about wild camping – an activity forbidden in Germany.

A lovely and kind man who works in the care sector, the Rhineland Redneck let me spend a few days last December filming aspects of his life. This included drinking whisky and beer in a frozen Köln wood!

The resulting documentary video is also featured at

Richard Bolam

Videoing Richard Bolam at 50

I produced a video last night at an arts exhibition launch by Sheffield creative Richard Bolam.

The piece contains drop-in shots and an interview with the artist. Several people who have seen it gave favourable comment, including the artist himself!

I also wrote a short piece about it over at the Sheffieldist blog site.

Multimedia work

April has been a good month for progressing my multimedia work.

In addition to the commissioned dairy farm video going live on earlier this week – see previous post – the Imperial War Museum is currently adding to its oral archive an audio interview I produced in Cologne this year.

The audio interview contained full German speech and English translation. The clip reproduced below is an abridged version:

The video for

Copywriting cliché

Use of the cliché – a trite or overused expression or idea – writ large is oft frowned upon, and a close relative once hit me with the startling revelation that a photo I considered using (below) for my “Linked-In” page is in fact a cliché.

russcamerav2at250Now, avoiding the issue over missing the boat if discounting absolutely everything that’s been done under the sun, a cursory examination of what’s good for the goose surely requires clear water thinking outside of the box.

Indeed, whilst seeking to avoid making a mountain out of a molehill, I must confess that although all oranges are orange, not everything comes in pears … And if one is scrambling to get a foot in the door (or feet under the desk) by jumping in with a brave new cash cow business bonanza – bearing in mind that what goes around doesn’t necessarily come around in our dog-eat-dog world – one has to fire on all cylinders right off the starting block and leave no stone unturned if seeking to blaze a trail and avoid being left or even sacrificed at the altar.

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