So if you had asked me a month ago what a desktop documentary is, I probably would have said “um, I don’t know – a PC based doc?”. I wouldn’t have been entirely wrong but it’s a lot more than that.
In the middle of January, I attended a virtual workshop hosted by Bertha DocHouse on desktop documentaries as a genre and mode to be explored in an upcoming competition they would be running. The session, hosted by Kevin B. Lee , was not only informative but he gave us great tips on how to get started with this particular documentary genre. My understanding after the tutorial had expanded some, essentially this emerging genre uses desktops, mobile phones and tablets as the sole source of all the material used to tell a story. Screen recordings and screengrabs of things found on the internet or in personal libraries are one’s visual anchors in these documentaries. Many desktop documentaries are research-heavy investigations that let viewers journey along with the filmmaker as they discover things in their searches.
Some of the useful tips shared by Kevin for those who want to make such films:
- Study screen stories – watch as many desktop documentaries as you can, while watching think of possible themes and forms you want to explore.
- Turn your own screen life into a story – record your daily online interactions and habits, analyse them and see what they say about you (or others). Try the Pecha Kucha method of telling the story of a day in your life with just 20 shots that are 6 seconds each.
- Use online your own resources – just by looking at your own search history, usage patterns, emails, texts etc you can begin to critically analyse this data and make a story of it.
- Technical tools – screen capturing software, editing software and interface simulation tools will not only help you source material but will aid your creative process when you begin assembling everything.
- Use questions to stay on track – in telling your story or a story, show a process that answers the who, what, when, where and how questions that viewers may ask.
After some research, watching most of the films he had recommended and quite a bit of procrastination, I decided I could give it a go. The competition deadline helped in lighting a fire under my ass and I managed to make and submit, i miss everything. I was hesitant to share it publically when I was done, because it was my first try and I was sure it sucked and and and. Then I saw the tweet on the left by a photog I follow and admire, which gave me the confidence I needed to just share it for the heck of it.
I am going to keep making stuff, writing stuff, shooting stuff, producing stuff, for the heck of it. Sometimes I will need the fire of a deadline, which is why I have started entering paid writing competitions for instance, because if I don’t I just won’t grow. A lot of it will be bad but not all of it will and I guess that’s the point for me right now.