Below are some excerpts from The Garden Shaman visual movement poem directed, conceived and performed by Eli Acheson-Elmassry. I was responsible for the filming and the Video Production of this piece. See Also: The Garden Shaman and The Garden Shaman – Reflection.
For The Garden Shaman project I was commissioned to film some performative elements and produce a video from the footage that was acquired. Below is my overall reflection of the project now that it has come to an end. Some video clips from the final work are located here.
This has been a good opportunity to film outside with another artist. Some of the film footage was good, yet some of it overexposed – I think in part due to the light on the day.
Getting to film a performing artist and then to edit the footage and produce a video from the raw footage enabled me to reflect on the level of skill I have achieved with Premiere Pro over the past four years.
I only have my own experiences of shooting footage outside to go on – and I am aware that further research in this area is required. On some of the video footage my breathing is audible. On some clips it works and then others it will be edited out.
The amount of raw footage that was shot in the first instance had to be condensed massively and this took a significant amount of organisation. Several review meetings also meant that the ability to roll back any content to a previous state had to be built into the video files.
These regular review meetings mean that the project could move forward and the content reviewed and agreed at different stages – the content was also critically evaluated at every stage.
This video piece has become by far the largest video project I have been involved in to date. It has given me the opportunity to deepen my relationship with Adobe Premiere Pro and improve my editing skills along the way which I see will stand me in good stead in the future.
Producing a video that was originally going to be 10 minutes maximum but then turned out to be over 20 minutes was a good exercise in creating content that maintains the attention of the audience.
The best part has been the ethereal expression through editing what is very simple footage showing mundane tasks in the garden.
The greatest challenge has been managing my time while completing this project. This work has been in addition to my day job and my masters work. Originally the scope of the project was that it would not take too much time. However, during between November 2018 and February 2019 this project took on average an additional working week per month. The impact of this was that something had to give and although I have kept up with the practical side of the Masters, making my own work whenever time allowed, my blogging has been put on hold and as I write this (April 2019) I have a significant number of unpublished posts ready to be added to my blog.
I have put a lot of effort into making this video piece as manageable as possible. Taking hundreds of source videos into 96 edited videos and finally at this point 9 individual videos leading to one final piece. This has proved time consuming however necessary for the successful completion of the project.
I am really enjoying working with Eli and find our meetings positive and constructive where she provides me with the things that she would like to see in the video. It has been a fine balance with this piece of work, treating it as my own so that I am fully committed and engaged in the process yet being detached enough to let someone else direct me in the process.
My working life as a Technical Writer has helped me remain detached in the fact that as a Technical Writer your work is continually critiqued and there is no space for personal feelings in that environment – it is just a collective effort to meet an end result – this I find is very apparent in this project too.
There have been some important lessons learned for me in preparing to embark on such a project. Most specifically around the area of clarifying the scope of work in its entirety at the beginning of the project.
This project was undertaken with limited agreement in writing where clearer terms should have been outlined and written up at the outset. What this has highlighted for me is that I need to prepare my own terms of service in readiness for future artistic projects.
Copyright and Attribution is an important part of this for all involved to know where they stand. The copyright workshop I attended during the Low Residency really gave me food for thought in this area and made me realise that for this project none of this had been considered or agreed formally.
Initially this project was only meant to be for a short period of time. However, as a project it seemed to grow and before long a considerable number of hours over a six-month period had been completed. This impacted my availability for other projects and has resulted in my own personal artistic endeavours, particularly when applying to exhibit having to be put on hold waiting for the project to finish.
I chose to charge a nominal hourly rate on the basis that I was going to be attributed in the work for my contribution to the project. This was agreed verbally and at least meant I was compensated for the time actually spent working on the project. However, given the number of hours that this project eventually took, Eli would have probably benefited from agreeing a set fee for the project up front.
Previously I have worked for a fixed fee and this definitely benefited the client more – I still put in 110% effort into the work but as it was a fixed fee, this equated to a particularly low hourly rate.
This has raised a lot of questions for me though about the project management side. In particular when agreeing a set fee, very clear outcomes have to be established to ensure a reasonable compensation for the effort involved.
Where I was not compensated was mileage and time travelling to the Eli’s home for review meetings and to shoot footage. It was my own decision not to charge for mileage and travel, however each review meeting meant two hours of travel time which over the six months soon added up.
I also did not charge for some of the video editing work where I placed an expectation on myself to finish parts of the work more quickly. Particularly as the video files became larger and took longer to compile and upload to send to Eli. It didn’t really feel fair that I was charging for the compilation/upload time although I did have to sit with it and wait for the compilations/uploads to complete
I now realise that I charged the nominal fee because I personally didn’t value my own skill and expertise. Recently I have experienced a shift in this thinking about this issue and now see more clearly the value in my skill and expertise and will charge appropriately for this in the future.
It’s definitely time I developed my own terms of service and I will consider all of the lessons learned during this project when I do so.
All that being said though, this has still been an extremely positive and rewarding experience with some valuable lessons to take into my future artistic life.
Would I do this differently – probably not – overall working with another artist in this manner has been a positive rewarding experience. I’ve really enjoyed working with another artist and look forward to similar experiences in the future. It’s been a fabulous project to have been a part of.
I am very proud of the outcome of this project and the end result definitely demonstrates the effort that has gone in to it. From filming and producing the video, providing creative input along the way and collaborating with the other artist Eli Acheson-Elmassry who imagined and coordinated the project, directed and performed in her original artwork as The Garden Shaman.
Update – April 2019: Having completed this project I have retrospectively considered the lessons I have learned as a result of this experience. These considerations are recorded in The Garden Shaman – Reflection. Some video clips from the final piece are located here.
During November 2018 the artist Eli Acheson-Elmassry contacted me with an invitation to produce a video piece for a new piece of work. The Garden Shaman provides a metaphor for the connection that the garden has with the cyclical nature of life and death. The natural processes that occur in the garden along with the assistance we provide to the garden to enable these life cycles to continue.
Attached to the cloak are latex moulds of commonly used garden tools and a painting of flowers that remind Eli of her childhood. A piece of work that invokes memory of life and death
My role is the project is to provide video production services, shooting and editing footage to produce an ultimate video piece with a duration of at least 10 minutes.
We began the project with an initial site visit. The filming was to take place in Eli’s back garden. During this visit, we discussed Eli’s ambition for the project and initial ideas for filming. I also shot some footage to give Eli an idea of how the cloak appeared when being filmed.
The weather was cloudy but sunny for this initial visit and it would later prove difficult to get the same weather conditions – however as it turned out with each day we recorded footage the weather was perfect for us to progress the project and the filming further.
During this initial visit, we noticed that the silky nature of the fabric produced interesting light and shadows in the sunlight – with the light behind us – yet appeared very flat in colour with the light ahead of us. The wind also improves the appearance of the cloak as well.
On the second site visit, the intention was to shoot as much footage as possible. Weather – a much duller day and very still – not so good but still recorded some useful footage. One issue that appeared in the resulting footage was that some of the images were over exposed. Having checked the camera, I did conclude that this was due to the light on the day – however it does require more investigation. Overall, though this issue affected only a small number of clips Going to use Premiere Pro to fix the over exposure for footage that is used.
This video and photography shoot then led to the first lot of video editing. Being aware that this is a collaboration with another artist, I decided to err on the side of caution and not heavily edit the clips at this point. I decided to create a collection of clips intended for use as a starting point for a review conversation. Initially because of these clips, it became apparent that another site visit to shoot footage was required.
Around a week later I shot some additional footage – this was the best day weather wise so far. Not too dark, not too bright and lots of wind.
At this stage we took the opportunity to review all the footage taken to date and for me to get a better understanding of Eli’s vision for the project. A successful discussion with a definite way forward and I now have a clear idea of what is required in terms of the video editing.
In January 2019 I then set about creating a collection of short video clips. I will then use these clips later to create the final video. Considering the fact that there is a considerable amount of footage available to use it has been important to be super organised with the footage to make it easier to access and use in the future.
Because of the amount of footage and the extent of editing required, I had be been particularly well organised. As part of this process I have created a collection of smaller video clips which I can use at a later date to create the final video piece.
The following points were key considerations to be taken during the video edit. For some video clips the speed was increased or decreased accordingly. For others reverse speed was used to create interest. Some content was zoomed and/or flipped either horizontally or vertically and mirror images were produced for some. Some of the sounds were amplified in the footage to create a sense of boldness, particularly with the digging sounds. Layers were also created in the audio by duplicating and moving sounds around to improve the audio experience of the video piece.
Finally, some experimentation with different video effects was used to demonstrate different ways of looking at the video material. Currently I’m not uploading any video clips as this project is ongoing – however below are some of the stills taken from the video clips that have video effects applied to them.
Having reviewed all the video clips, I’d produced March 2019 marked the stage where I’m putting the final video together. Having discussed with Eli at length her ideas for a sequence I have divided the content into 9 sections. This is to make the video content more versatile and more applicable to multi screens if required. For this stage though the draft video provided to Eli is one complete video with all the clips in the required sequence.
Initially the video was meant to be around 10 minutes but Eli was so pleased with the footage that the intention is to use as much of the footage as possible. The result 25 minutes and 40 seconds- the longest video I have produced to date. Two review meetings later and a final video was complete.
After two more review meetings and finalising the edits required by Eli, at the end of April, I finally got to a place where there is a final video which I am really proud of and is a good testament to the video production skills and expertise I have brought to the project.
Keen to respect the integrity of the project I am only showing images that have been placed onto Social Media by Eli. Below are some of these images from the final video produced.