Week 3 – Developing a Working Hypothesis

Continuing on the journey, we delved deeper with the class into the story making process.

Much of story is about making meaning of our lives and the world we around us. It isn’t easy to take a specific event, such as a youth traversing a rope course, to find the larger universal idea of person conquering self and obstacle to find success. It takes seeing a lot of evidence of it to believe that this is a universal pattern. On the other hand, students might start with the large concepts but not have enough specific detail to make it real. Concepts such as women’s rights, homelessness, or cancer patients are important topics that require story details to make meaningful.

One student came up with a very interesting story concept. What if we followed the perspective of a ladybug who finds itself trapped in someone’s cupped hands? The ladybug being so small has no sense of why it’s there. Then what if the ladybug is released and suddenly sees the vast world beyond? For me, I immediately thought about how we as small human beings are also trapped in our own little world. And what are we to do when we awaken to the broader world? What will this class find when they venture beyond the classroom?

When it comes to documentaries, the students will struggle with bringing together the conceptual and the specifics. I wonder, will they get mired in the details of “what is happening” and not draw out the larger meaning? Or will their video reside in the abstract and not tell a story that lives and breathes?

To help whet their appetite, I showed the class this incredibly well told six-minute story about a paraplegic basketball team.

What I love about this video is the camera work, the compelling interviews, the creative way in which the people are introduced. Even the titling of the video felt just right.

I will confess that I am not yet at this level of production, but I know I can eventually get there. It’s an aspiration like every film from the Calgary filmfest I watch. Likewise, I’d like the class to see what amazing work looks like so that they will have in their minds their own model for excellence.

My hope is that the students will see that a work of art requires an endless series of iterations. There is always better. The goal is not the final film, but to find new ways to improve with each iteration.

Also for this class, I had them thinking about developing what in Rabiger’s text on Directing the Documentary calls a working hypothesis for their idea. It’s a helpful way of thinking through a potential idea to see if it could work as a documentary.

But like formulating the hypothesis of a science lab, I think students find it a bit abstract to grasp at first because they don’t see a connection between the thinking and its impact on the final product.

Time to bring out the cameras methinks!