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We are delighted to announce that December 2020's Film of the Month winner is the inspiring documentary Coronavirus: Overcoming Adversity as a Community, from filmmaker Aodhán, in Northern Ireland. See his winning film above!
Coronavirus: Overcoming Adversity as a Community is an uplifting documentary on how groups and individuals in Derry, Northern Ireland, have adapted their day jobs and workspaces to contribute to the wellbeing of their community, especially those most vulnerable during COVID-19 pandemic.
A beautifully-made and truly inspiring documentary about community spirit. Thank you for submitting this, I thought it was a very uplifting and hopeful documentary that should be seen far and wide!Film of the Month judge on 'Coronavirus: Overcoming Adversity as a Community'
We got in touch with Aodhán to find out more about his film.
Ever since I was a child, I've always had an interest in creative media. I was always doing bits and pieces for years, but eventually I started my own Facebook page in August 2019, which in turn built up over 3,000,000 unique users that have seen my content at the time of writing. The page basically consisted of coverage of personal stories, events, festivals, press releases, floods and sometimes hostile environments like public order situations and security alerts - all within my local area. I started with my phone, then I earned a profit to be able to afford good filmmaking equipment.
Running my page helped me in developing my writing, visual storytelling, research and social media skills. It also made me further skilled with camera operation, sound, lighting and programmes such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Photoshop, and Lightroom. My connections have built up massively because of this too.
Since then, I have also been involved in making short films and music videos which have gone on to be involved in many film festivals, and in many instances, have won these festivals.
I woke up early, went to the city centre with a camera and tripod, and just started to film the streets around my local area for my introduction. I filmed mainly things that relate to the effects of coronavirus, such as empty streets, pubs closed, coronavirus public advice signs and church bells from clap for carers.
The rest of my short documentary mainly consists of interviews, which were all filmed with the subject eye level to the camera, speaking to me beside the camera rather than looking directly at the camera, and with the rule of thirds being used. These interviews were cut down to a few minutes each with a lot of B-roll being used to hide the cuts, while at the same time, showcasing the work that these organisations do.
There were also drone shots at the start and in-between interviews which helped to link up shots and give a sense of community across Derry/Londonderry. Aidan Campbell assisted me with these drone shots, as he is a registered drone operator. I chose the shots and he captured them.
I would always advise capturing more footage than you need to and recording certain clips for longer periods of time, because when you come to post-production, you want as much material to work with as possible. The footage I captured was shot in a raw colour profile that was then colour graded in post to make the colours pop really nicely.
Using my Facebook page, I made a post to appeal for different organisations to come forward that wanted to get involved. I got over 50 comments from interested participants. I then made a list of these organisations, gathered details and contacted them, sending them my pitch for the film to explain what it was all about in more detail.
In the dark times, sometimes you just need something that shines and brightens up people's days, and I think that's what my short film does. It's so important that positive stories are highlighted and that the generosity of the community is shown, so that these organisations can get the well-deserved recognition they need so badly.
My original idea was a documentary on coronavirus, similar to a news piece, focusing on the facts about the pandemic. However, I quickly scrapped this because I thought it was too common… people already knew about coronavirus. The news cover it every day!
So I was scrolling down my social media and saw all these organisations doing amazing things for other people in the community and not being recognised, so I then came up with a more innovative idea which was to make an uplifting and inspiring video focusing on overcoming adversity, which I think people will generally want to watch more. I believe this was the best decision, as it's undoubtedly more engaging for the viewer and something that will be more positive and better to reflect on in the future as opposed to a pure journalistic factual piece.
Obviously, since my short documentary was filmed during the time of coronavirus, there were many constraints that had to be considered. My biggest consideration was how to keep myself and others around me safe. I made a risk assessment where I touched upon these things. I also explained in great detail to the organisations that I was working on this short documentary alone as I am multi-skilled; no large crews.
I had a telephoto lens which I used to get most of the close indoor B-roll footage to avoid getting close to anything. In interviews, I also used focal length and an external shotgun microphone to my advantage to avoid getting too close to anybody. I carried my own face mask and hand sanitiser.
First of all, Practise.When you're trying to gain experience to make your first documentary, practising is important, there's no doubt about that. When you practise, the quality of your work only gets better as time goes on.
Remember, the internet is your best friend. Over recent years, the internet has evolved and it's a place to learn now more than anything. There are so many resources online, especially YouTube, where there are a lot of helpful videos you can watch when starting out to see how other people do it. I would personally recommend Philip Bloom and Epic Light Media.
As Miles Davis once said, "First you imitate, then you innovate". You need to start somewhere, so don't be afraid to look at how other people are doing it, gain knowledge, practise and develop your own style from your creative desires and experience. Always put your knowledge into practice or you will lose it.
For the people worried about equipment, most smartphones shoot at decently high resolutions, so you could easily make quality content. I think it's important to note that any practise at all, no matter how small, will build up over time if you stay consistent and will develop into something much better.
Secondly, Research and Pre-production. Filming and editing your documentary is one thing, but remember, it's the story that engages people with your content. Research the topic, develop your story and narrative and know your material. Pre-production, in other words, is decision making, something which cannot be avoided.
So always ask yourself some fundamental questions and lay them out clearly. Ask yourself: who am I trying to reach? What is the best way to reach this audience? Why am I making this film? What is the purpose of the production? What do I want my audience to think, feel, or do as a result of seeing it? What should it look and feel like, thinking visually and aurally and are there other documentaries that it should resemble? How are those structured?
Write your treatment, script, shot sheet (if applicable), decide shooting locations, scout locations and make all the arrangements. It's hard to talk about it all, but really the point is, always put your plans on paper.
And lastly, remember that Failure is Part of Success. Don't be afraid to fail. Everybody fails, and if they don't, they weren't even trying! As long as you get out there, give it what you've got, take chances, think outside the box and do what you feel passionate about, then that is what matters.
People become successful from hard work in the creative sector, and trust me, hard work does work, and you will get to where you want to be if you keep trying. Think of failure as motivation to work harder.
Aodhán's film will now be showcased to over 300,000 film club members online and all of our Film of the Month films are now on the Into Film YouTube channel, and he has also secured a £100 Amazon voucher to help further develop their future films. Think you could win Film of the Month? Find out more about how you can enter our ongoing Film of the Month competition.
If you've been inspired by Coronavirus: Overcoming Adversity as a Community then make sure to check out the following films:
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We've put together a list of key titles which are currently available to stream on BBC iPlayer and All4 along with additional resources for each.
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