The scent, the chase, the thrill - When law confronts culture the chase is truly on, two sides, divided, but what happens when law is made to be broken?
The Hunt is a documentary that focuses on the struggles that the hunting act has had on enforcing the law. The documentary will use mixed media in order to explore this subject in a non-biased way, informing the viewer of the truth behind the Hunting Act of 2004, using Fox Hunting as the main case study. The project will take place across the United Kingdom and branches into Ireland where fox hunting is still legal. We believe that the hunting act has been misrepresented and in the mist of the upcoming debate it is essential, regardless of the outcome for us to present the real stories, real opinions, and real facts. We are in contact with companies and charities such as the Countryside Alliance whom will give us access to hunts, interviewees and possible funding.
We will complete this project by utilizing our diverse production team who are passionate and dedicated about producing a successful documentary. The production draws inspiration from the direction of “The Whale Bowl”, for its creative use of animation. Sound design of the BBC’s 360 soundscape of “Planet Earth 2”, and the naturalistic cinematography style of Louis Theroux’s “Dark States”, whilst specifically using the RED EPIC-W with the features it offers as a documentary camera. This brings the combination of fictional animation and real-life documentary together in the edit to create a new form of engagement for our audience.
At our current stage of production, we have draft script and are currently in the primary research phase of pre-production. To further our crowdfunding campaign, we are now focusing on our online presence with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and website. Access being limited, it has been essential to form relationships with the hunters and Countryside Alliance, as this allows us to gain access to the hunt locations that they will source for us. Once confirmed, in mid-January we will be traveling to Surrey to do a location recce for one of the hunt locations. We expect to commence production in late January/early February as this is middle of the hunting season and will offer more opportunities with both hunts and weather feasibility.
To enhance efficiency of our documentary, we will be focusing on various ethical, financial and accessibility issues, which have grown over the course of the production. We aim to successfully remedy these aspects by drawing on the neutral style of Fredrick Wiseman’s films “Deaf” and “Basic Training”. As well as the sense of controversy seen within Molly Diheems’ “The Lie of the Land” and Louis Theroux’s “Americas Most Hated Family”.
The distribution and marketing of our documentary will take advantage of online platforms created throughout the duration of the production, these elements will be crucial to market the documentary to a broad demographic. The documentary will be advertised using multiple platforms such as Vimeo and a vast range of films festivals, to which a portion of the budget has been set aside for marketing and submission fees.
In documentaries, production designers have to work with what is available, but it is possible to create a sense of space with existing features by focusing on details. As a production designer of the film, I have researched different uses of the medium in documentaries and the history behind the hunt, which will be of benefit for creating the world of the film. By carrying out secondary researches by going to museums to find references for traditional hunting and styles of documentaries, I have planned ways to represent hunters and saboteurs in a visual way. The guest lecture by an assistant art director Liam Georgensen on December 5th also gave me an insight on how the production design department plays a role in the industry and the hierarchy of it in terms of contributing the creation of the world of a film.
Overall, there are three main things I have considered at the pre-production stage; controlling the overall look of the film, researching the ways hunting has been viewed and how we might use archive material, and encouraging a neutral perspective. Although some these objectives are difficult to achieve, it is vital to consider how these would contribute to the narrative.
Controlling the look of the film
Production designers are responsible for the overall look of the film or creating a world within a film along with directors and cinematographers. They work with most departments in film production including such as lighting department. As a part of my responsibility, I engaged with the early stage of establishing the brand of the film, where I faced difficulty tailoring the brand to the continuously changing concepts of the film.
Branding the film is one of the key elements in marketing, and as a production designer who helps to create visual element of the film, I was involved in the process of visual branding, although plans have changed in the course of the production. As we were discussing the use of animation in the beginning, I have made sketches of foxes in different styles.
The idea of creating a crest for the logo as a part of branding emerged, and I developed the initial sketch.
This would have given the notion of traditional approach to the film, which would be linked to the hunters. Also, we concluded to use realistic drawings of foxes for animation using watercolour to create a sense of authenticity to generate a genuine argument on fox hunting. Then, our concept for the branding shifted from traditional to modern, “clean” design. This includes design styles such as double exposure and low polygon graphics. I have created a low poly logo
,but this was replaced by another logo (Then the group started using another logo that combines a fox and a hunting dog). Although I left the group, I will continue to provide materials that will be used in the animated part of the documentary.
The style of branding influences the look of the film and vice versa, and in this case, the use of traditional logo may have led to a “biased” image of the film as that reminds us of the hunters that keep their traditions. Therefore, it is vital to establish a brand that reflects the image of the overall narrative. This is related to the ways hunting has been viewed and stereotypes that are attached to it, which affects the neutrality of the documentary.
In interviews and documentaries, production designers often have to work with what is existent on the set, instead of creating the whole visual world from the beginning. However, it is possible to derive atmosphere from what is available. The space in a location or a set is the production designer’s responsibility. A play "Labour of Love" written by James Graham and designed by Lee Newby, inspired me with what we can create using everyday object such as office desks and labour posters in a confined space to create mood for different situations.
Also, the production design of "Manchester by the Sea", depicting everyday life of a white working class man, gave me an insight on how we can create a believable world of ordinary people.
In addition to these, first part of a film "The Death of Stalin" takes place in Stalin's office room. The film is based on a graphic novel of the same title, but the film derives more humour by the blocking of characters, such as moving Stalin's body from the floor to a bed by politicians surrounding them. In here, an everyday environment creates drama and humour. This is obvious when we compare stills from the film with the graphic novel, which depicts the narrative in a dramatic way.
As we were discussing to interview one member of each side sitting together in one room, which may not have been gone the way we wanted, I was planning to place them in a room with traditional interior such as bookshelf and a lamp, and on a red sofa which indicates the dominance of a hunter. However, this setting may not be effective as it can create unexpected response from both sides, so it may be beneficial to interview representatives from both sides in different settings.
“The Death of Stalin” was also useful when considering how to use animation. Options I have considered include showing different views of the fox as natural predator, vermin or character in children’s literature. Another possibility is to include a ‘mock interview’ of fox, chicken and dog, which all participate in the controversy but have no voice.
Researching the ways hunting has been viewed
As a part of the research, I went to several museums including Tate Britain, The Wallace Collection and Victoria and Albert Museum for visual inspiration of traditional hunting, and to obtain the sense of history. Also, documentaries and footages that are exhibited at Imperial War Museum London, National Museum of Royal Navy in Portsmouth and Royal Air Force Museum provided an insight on the use of archive footage and visual resources with interviews.
Paintings such as Henry Thomas Alken's "The Belvoir Hunt: The Meet" in Tate Britain depicts the aristocrats going to the hunt in the early 19th century.
"Dead Hare and Dog" by Jan Weenix in Wallace Collection reflects a sense of achievement in hunting through a still image of a game. The sense of prestige was often connected to traditional view of hunting.
On the other hand, images of saboteurs are linked to sensational headings of news reports, protest marches and balaclavas. The beginning of the film is currently dedicated to a montage showing both sides in visuals and audio. I have created a mood board of hunters to aid the visual development of the film which may relate to the use of montage.
Interviews displayed in museums listed above contained mixed media approach, combining visuals of archive footage with interview audio. In some sections, only the audio of interviews of people who experienced incidents can be heard, which makes visitors stop and listed to it as they imagine sceneries or people speaking by them.
Analysing the script is essential for planning the production design for a film. A production designer can look within the script for prompts of the story. The period where the narrative takes place, locations and sets, characters and their development, and possible visual metaphors need to be considered at this stage. Then, a shooting script is made stating where the cameras are pointing at in relation to props and costumes needed. In the documentary following a hunt, the use of a colour red can be considered, which reflects the colour of traditional hunting coat to make a colour code of the film. The writer of the film struggled to maintain a neutral perspective in this subject, and aiming to create a non-biased documentary seemed difficult, which led to the structure of the film to be unclear.
It is a difficult task to make such a documentary neutral. Both sides need to be sympathised with by the audience, or problems of both sides need to be addressed so that the audience can make their conclusion. Considering that it may not be beneficial to have representatives from both sides in one room that are argued in the first part of this report, what can be done with the documentary is to start from setting up a contrast, such as interviewing hunters outside with traditional uniforms, cars and horses, and saboteurs in interior situation with placards to show them in their own "home ground". Also, the voice over can be in contrast to the visuals (e.g. Saboteurs arguing the meaning of the hunt while hunting dogs run cheerfully). Farmers and Countryside Alliance can speak in support of maintaining the countryside and natural vermin controls, hunt protestors can talk about animal cruelty and alternative methods.
We can also differentiate two groups with colour scheme or peripheral actions such as how they sit down or how they talk. By depicting each group as they are, we can leave the conclusion to the audience by creating a genuine argument. A German Documentary film "Our Daily Bread" depicts how what we consume is produced in a neutral, almost cold-hearted manner, which leaves questions to be drawn by the audience.
Through interviews and the use of mixed materials including archive footages and animations, we can show how each side has been demonized and how both sides have a rational argument to make, leaving the audience to have further understanding on hunting and how legislation interferes with it.
Although the group had faced some difficulty in maintaining continuity of the overall look and finding ways to represent both sides neutrally, the pre-production stage was meaningful for the planning of the film. These objectives and challenges interact with each other, and researching creates a possible solution to the difficulty. As a production designer, I have learned ways to progress by focusing on details and learning from different mediums to achieve visual unity of the film.
Our Daily Bread. (2005). [film] Directed by N. Geyrhalter. Germany.
Graphic Designer: Fabian Geyrhalter
The Death of Stalin. (2017). [film] Directed by A. Iannuchi. UK.
Production Designer: Cristina Casali
Art Director: Jane Brodie, David Hindle
Manchester by the Sea. (2016). [film] Directed by K. Lonergan. USA: Studiocanal.
Production Designer: Ruth De Jong
Art Director: Jourdan Henderson
Thomas Alken, H. (1830). The Belvoir Hunt: The Meet. [Oil on canvas] London: Tate Britain.
Weenix, J. (1717). Hare and Dog. [Oil on canvas] London: The Wallace Collection.
The Stage. (2017). Designer Lee Newby: 'Labour of Love is my first West End show, it's my breakthrough' | Interviews | The Stage. [online] Available at: https://www.thestage.co.uk/features/interviews/2017/designer-lee-newby-labour-love-first-west-end-show-breakthrough/
Nury, F., Robin, T. and Aureyre, L. (n.d.). The death of Stalin.
Lee Newby. (2017). Lee Newby. [online] Available at: https://www.leenewby.com/