Our chosen location for the My Street Project was St. Andrew’s Church, a historic building which is situated in Plymouth’s city centre. Being told a story when I was a child by my Grandmother about the church in World War 2 and its history, I thought it was a good subject to base the project on.
My Grandmother, Muriel Adkinson, happily accepted to be interviewed about her experiences during the war and at a certain time, being caught during an air raid while out to dinner in Plymouth’s town centre and using the church as shelter while the bombs dropped, this leaving an impact not only on her but many others it sheltered.
It was fairly easy to collect the research we needed, especially for the script, as The Plymouth Blitz is very well known and there were many books and information on the internet. However, this being one of the subjects I knew well of before starting the project, I used my own knowledge throughout the writing process.
We decided that we wanted the film to be the typical documentary style that would include the main focus, the church, and the main character, my Grandmother. After getting permission to film inside the church we made sure we got as much of the historic architecture on camera, for example the beams on the ceiling and the stain glass windows. Shooting the scenery shots of the hoe and other locations around Plymouth went smoothly, we were able to get a lot of footage and enough for cut-aways if they were needed. The only problem we had while filming was that we had a very faulty tripod. As the camera turned left or right it would tilt slightly and ruin the moving shot, it also would stick when you tilted the camera up so for the long shots looking up, we had to hold the camera and shoot; this resulted in very shaky camera work. Some shots were so bad we could not use them in the final piece.
The interview went very smoothly, we asked the questions we had prepared to help Muriel get into the flow of the interview and to get used to being in front of such a big camera. My Grandmother being my Grandmother, you give her a topic and she will take the lead on her own and tell you the story in great detail as well as she can remember. The story of her experience during the air raid was fascinating to hear from a primary source who can actually say they lived through it. We loved the story so much we used it in the final piece of our video, not having to cut much out.
We wanted the documentary to start with a narrator telling the viewer facts that they have probably heard before and in a context that is fact after fact, then go into the interview and story told by a primary source, this is so the viewer can compare the two and see how different and how effective it can be hearing from a first person point of view.
Editing went very well, we were able to work together in order to decide how we were going to storyboard the documentary, what music would be most appropriate and what it was we wanted for a finished piece. Final cut Pro was easy to use and from spending hours at a time in an editing suite we were able to get the film finished on time.
The pictures shown of Plymouth in ruins during the Blitz are all from various sites from the internet, we made sure every photo was available for anyone to use by the owner/up loader. The photos of my Grandmother were taken with the camera we used to film, however some are blurred because the lens would not let us get close enough without blurring and had little time to re take the photos, however you can clearly see they are of my Grandmother from when she was younger.
For our narrator we wanted someone who had a clear speaking voice and was easy to understand. Again, with the lack of time we had to find someone willing, we took the time we had and I narrated the beginning of the documentary myself. We had more information than what is shown during the documentary however we had to cut it in order to keep the time of the documentary down and to hold the viewer’s attention until we introduced our main character.
The only piece of music used during the film is ‘We will meet again’ by Vera Lynn (1940). Not only is this song still well known today but is one of my Grandmother’s favourite songs, so we thought it went well to show more of her character. We were originally going to use the instrumental to a song; however we found it didn’t quite fit with the feel of the film or the timing.
I am pleased with the final outcome considering we had to make do with the footage that was useful when it came to editing. We worked together all through pre-production, production and post-production, listening to each other’s ideas and working off one another. There was no trouble with our times and our schedule went to plan. The camera we used, the d70 and the audio equipment worked fine and we easily got the footage we needed.
If we had a longer time span for the film, we could have put more of the information we had into the documentary, however the time it is at now is the right amount to hold the viewer’s attention. I enjoyed this project and working with my partner was both educating and appreciative.