The project progression is highlighted by the key milestones made throughout the project. This includes forming the project proposal, pivotal points in the research and development stages and commencing filming.
The Project Proposal
The initial ideas surrounding the report and practice were relayed within the project proposal form. Despite, having several prior ideas for research proposals, I finally settled on researching 1990s to 2000’s home movies, due to coincidentally finding my own footage and recognising their significance. The proposal details the intention to explore nostalgia through home movies with a particular focus on Roland Barthes proposed theory of semiotics. The aim to produce a short, documentary film was also shared alongside examples of existing documentaries that I greatly admire and utilise home movies, such as ‘Evelyn’ and ‘Love Antosha’. The question ‘How does old home movies footage instil a sense of shared nostalgia ?’ not only proposed to explore nostalgia as a unique experience but how memories and signifiers identified, link to other’s responses.
Below is an extract from the proposal.
I will explore how nostalgia occurs through watching old home movie footage of occasions or family experiences, and if this sense of nostalgia is shared or similar, connecting one person to another. I intend to apply the theory of semiotics to examine the signifiers or symbols that cause people to garner this nostalgia, i.e. attire, mannerisms or the footage quality. The intention is to see what the recurring signifiers, connected to nostalgia are and if particular signifiers are dependent on the year, age or gender of the participant. The home movie footage explored would have been captured by amateur videographers, primarily on a digital video recorder/ camcorder, with the exception of accessing available cine film. These digital camcorders, which were taped on video cassettes, were predominantly rendered obsolete by 2010 and were used largely by growing families.
The idea of shared nostalgia equally relates to whether the footage of these moments and occasions correspond, due to their related epoch. This can be explored further by investigating if nostalgia is experienced from old home movie footage in present-day films or documentaries, such as ‘Evelyn’ (von Einsiedel, 2018) and ‘Love Antosha’ (Price, 2019). In particular, ‘Evelyn’ highlights how home videos help to clearly structure a narrative and show the evolution of a character, by utilising the change in the camcorder video quality, to signal a slight shift in time. As I plan to create a short documentary film for my digital video project, I think this is a beneficial example to reflect back on.
As part of the methodology for the report, filmed responses were conducted of participant’s watching their home movies and commenting on them. The process not only provided relevant findings for the research but insights into the potential set-up and participants to use, as well as the extra equipment that could be incorporated. This specifically refers to the projector that projected alongside the participant to show what they were watching. Alternatively, a split-screen could have been used or a smaller screen in the corner of the video, but I felt this approach divided the video with two points of concentration and looked uncomplimentary. Whereas, the projector added to the nostalgic atmosphere, as the quality and appearance resembled that of a vintage film projector. Below is an example of the film projector used and the appearance of the projection.
First Review Session – 8th February
The first peer review stage, otherwise known as ‘the crits’, was the first instance in which I officially started exploring my proposed project ideas. It provided an opportunity to receive feedback from my supervisor and peers on the strengths and weaknesses within the video and how I could progress. For the crits, a 2-minute video was produced of 2 subjects responding separately to the same home movie clips and relaying memories or signifiers that were evoked. By causing them to watch the same home movie footage, it showed their separate or shared memories of the occasion and gave insights into what memories were significant to each person.
As this was produced in lockdown, only 2 participants within my household were available and the quality of my equipment was limited. However, the projector used in the methodology was incorporated to provide viewers with the perspective of the subject. The projection takes up a large portion of the right side of the screen and the participant is positioned on a stool, on the left.
Supervisor Notes : The response was informative and portrayed a nostalgic atmosphere. However, the projection was quite faint and a darker background would be beneficial.
After producing this video and receiving feedback, different compositions and ways of incorporating the home movies were explored. Although the projector is a significant piece of equipment, it is utilised best in a dully lite environment, however, the lighting used consequently caused the video to appear dark and colourless.
From this video, it was also made apparent that shorter participant clips next to those that were longer made the video appear choppy and inconsistent. This was quite difficult to resolve as shorter comments were often proceeded with long pauses and cutting them out to connect the comments would show an obvious cut.
In a pursuit to try alternative formats, the composition was changed and the number of participants featured. Unlike the previous set-up, this composition had a more natural and comfortable appearance with the sofa, instead of the stool that had causes the participants to take on a forward-leaning stance. The introduction of another participant also assisted in making the composition appear less vacant and evoked a more explorative form of documentary, due to its now discursive nature. Although the new seating somewhat blends into the wall, due to their similar beige tones, the aim was to implement a new effect to cover the backward and incorporate the participants back into the home movies.
The new effect incorporated were overlay techniques that caused the home movies to appear over the top of the participants, while they were still visible in the background. This made it seem as if they were re-emerging in their own home movies from the future and shows a direct comparison between the past and the present. This effect was achieved in post-production, unlike the projector equipment and clearer visibility is shown. Despite previously intending to recreate the projector appearance in post-production, the software used would not allow it and so the style was adapted.
Second Review Session – 22nd March
In comparison to my first review session, I tried to alter the appearance of the video to showcase the home movies more effectively and to create a well lite environment to reflect the upbeat mood. This crits video was also longer and included 2 participants conversing and discussing, as opposed to one speaking to themselves.
This video had the same objective as the first, as participants had to watch and revisit their home movies and mention nostalgic signifiers or memories, although in this instance with each other. The intention was for participants to express their own raw emotions and hence were not asked questions or interrupted during their consumption of the footage. Although this could have been beneficial, I did not want their responses to feel forced or prompted. However, involving 2 participants helped avoid moments of silence, as they asked each other questions and started more in-depth responses. I initially hoped that this video would cut between 6 different couples, but due to lockdown, I was unable to bring together that amount of people. As a result my parents were featured again, reflecting on several different videos.
Supervisor Notes : Consider trying different post-production formats, such as just audio over home movies or just participant’s responses.
The new overlay projection method was used as an alternative to the physical projections next to the participants. Although the projection was initially tried with this composition, it did not cover the wall behind the participants and appeared faint. Projecting footage only on the back wall was also difficult, as Premiere pro could not be accessed and iMovie has limited effects. This software also caused the home movies to appear degraded in quality when the opacity was reduced and the original colour were removed to a monotone grey shade. In the final project video, I intend to have the original colours, to add to the nostalgic atmosphere. I also intend to alter the seating and setting, as the sofa creates an overly relaxed environment and the current composition washes out the participants with the wealth of beige tones and yellow overhead lighting.
Additional Feedback – 31st March
After the second review session, I was given additional feedback on the video. It was in relation to my own involvement in the video and how I could contribute. This caused me to draft up short, potential questions that I could ask the participants after they had watched the footage.
Supervisor Notes : Play around with the background projection and contribute by asking questions behind the camera. Look at Nick Broomfield’s documentary ‘My father and me’ and his inclusion of home movies and self-narration.
These questions include :
- Did you enjoy watching them?
- Did you enjoy being nostalgic?
- Do you wish old home movies were still taken today, in this format?
- How does the past compare to the present?
Although they are quite short and direct question, they can still produce impactful answers.
Gathering my participants
The participants in this project included close family members, friends or well-known acquaintances. All participants either had their own home movies or were heavily featured in someone else’s and therefore qualified to appear in the video. In many cases, the subjects had not watched their home movies in a long period or were watching them for the first time. Initially, I had reached out to over 12 individuals, but in many instances, they had lost their home movies, did not own any or could not get them converted to DVD, as non-essential shops were not open. Regardless, I was very fortunate for all the participants that appeared.
The participants varied in age, gender and held different occupations. This range was important to gain an assorted variety of responses. As the youngest subject was 19 years old and the oldest was 81, the significant memories they remembered within the home movies would be completely different, as one would have been a child and the other an adult. Equally to someone’s gender contributing to their responses. As the home movies feature these participants from 15 to 25 years ago, it is essential that they appear as though they live somewhat different lives, so a clear comparison can be defined. The participants included in the project can be identified in the image below.
Alison – 21 . Albert – 75 . Mary – 74 .
Diane – 81 . Anna – 28 . Sarah – 53 .
Eleanor – 19 . Alan – 54 . Susan – 53 .
Within the project, 3 single participants and 3 couples were secured to show a variety of compositions, but also to collect varied responses. The age difference, in particular, would be interesting to observe as the older subjects would be assumed to respond more frequently, as they were older in the home movies. In comparison to the younger participants, who are below 5 or babies.
In the majority of instances, the participants in couples appeared together in the home movies and so could discuss their joint memories, whereas the single participants frequently appeared with people not involved in the project. The mix of participant numbers is largely based on the experience of the first crits using singles and the second crits using couples, which indicated how the people that had repeated involvement responded best, but also how the responses linked together.
Final Project Video
The final video for this project continued to follow the central idea from the proposal, although this has evolved through reviewing related practices, research, supervision sessions, my own filming experiences and my expanding knowledge on this genre. The smaller and larger milestones within the project assisted in a lot of the decision-making process. Despite, originally intending to include drawings or graphics overlaying the video, much like Charlie Tyrell, I realised that I did not need to over complicate the video to communicate the right message. The emphasis of Roland Barthes interpretation of semiotic theory has been demonstrated throughout the report, methodology responses, crits videos and continued to the final project video. The idea that all signifiers have additional messages and those messages could be recognised by the masses or unique to one person’s memories was an interesting avenue that I got to explore. Even though the idea started as a simple response video, I believe it has highlighted the importance of home movies and our need as people to be nostalgic, through recalling memories or pointing out things that only exist in the past.