Sunday, 10 February 2019

Why I Chose to Make a Documentary

by Douglas James




I’ve always been fascinated with various aspects of filmmaking. As an avid actor, this has of course meant that I’ve always wanted to make my own fictional film. Nearly everything about it interests me, from the editing to the camerawork, the composition of the score, the directing, the writing and of course the acting itself. But it wasn’t just this type of film that interested me. While it does interest me the most, even the making of trailers, the news and documentaries caught my attention. So when I realised that I had the opportunity to expand the PGS Extend project further than the restrictions of a simple essay, I naturally went with something that utilised multiple skills, and allowed me to write something less formulaic.

The Battle of Agincourt had always been something that I wanted to learn more about. Not least because it’s a good story to tell in the midst of French person if they mention the American Revolution, but also because there seemed to be so much more to the English victory than just ‘the mud’. I had caught hints around that there was a deeper, political backstory, and I finally realised that I could combine my interests and skills into a massive project in a attempted to slap my love for science, english literature, politics and of course history into my (somewhat limited) skills of presenting, narrating, editing, music composition and even gaming and create something brilliant. So I decided to make a documentary, something that seemed natural even to my friends (notably Alex Gibson (gotta give him some sort of credit)) as it was suggested to me shortly afterwards.

I quickly decided that I needed a good way to show the Battle of Agincourt for the viewer so they could get a sense of what actually happened before I analysed the true reason for French failure. I realistically had three options: film a reenactment of the battle, animate the battle using army blocks similar to YouTube channels like Baz Battles, or I could use what I knew was a good Total War: Attila game mod for the medieval era and film that cinematically. Obviously the first one was out of the question I had a very small budget in comparison to the millions that would probably cost. I had no previous skill or experience with animating, so learning how to do that would use up valuable time. So the third option it was. I purchased the game while it was reduced and started my research.


A description of the making of the documentary itself would be many pages long, so I won’t be getting into the details of that. I did my research, wrote a script, decided not to make my music because I started trying with the software that I found ages ago and it would have taken a ridiculous amount of time to learn everything and compose it all so I just went with some music I thought suited it. The whole record the game thing turned out to be… a little more tricky than I first thought. So that took up a lot of time. Most dramatically though, I decided to go to France with Ben and film parts of it there. That was an experience indeed, as we were under heavy time constraints, so I got to experience the joy of presenting and the pressure of time running out all in one.

All in all an exciting project - check it out if you haven’t already!


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