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Students overcame the challenge of lockdown restrictions to create a documentary that explores the effect of the pandemic on working musicians, from the loss of live performances to government’s lack of support for creative industries.

18th March 2021

Film Production students didn’t let lockdown get in the way of producing a documentary about a subject they are passionate about. Overcoming challenges of remote working, they collaboratively created a film using video interviews and stock footage from gigs. We spoke to Mark J Jackman, editor of the film to find out more.

How did you come across the idea for the film?

On the BA (Hons) Film Production course, we are set a module called ‘The Cinematic Documentary’. This entails studying all the different types of documentaries and the theories behind them, with the ultimate goal being, to produce our own documentary. This was both interesting and a challenge, as documentaries can often be overlooked by student filmmakers in favour of fiction pieces, so it was a great experience making one, even in COVID-19 times.

Why did you choose this subject?

Our group settled upon this subject after a lot of group research and planning. It’s a subject we are all passionate about, and felt it was really something that needed to be brought to people’s attention. Bottom line is, we all love going to live music events. The communal experience is unparalleled, and it’s frustrating when that is taken away. But what about when it is taken away from those who perform? Livelihoods start to be affected, and for up-and-coming musicians, the publicity and spotlight that is so crucial to their future career is taken away. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone terribly and there is no denying that, but the government has pushed aside the music and arts industry to an unacceptable level. Our documentary is all about hearing from those effected most, and how they have dealt with it and adapted to the situation. We are all usually based in Southampton, which is home to so many great music venues which have been forced to close their doors. We all hope that live music will come back in a big way when it’s safe to do so.

How did you go about arranging participants and interviews?

Our producer Rosie Wimbleton is from the Isle of Wight, which is home to the music college Platform One. She also has connections through some great artists to students from Guildford, and was able to organise the interviews with the musicians. They were all eager to get involved and tell their stories through this medium. They got to share their stories about the lockdown, not just focusing on the negative aspects either. Our film crew were ultimately surprised on how much the artists benefitted from the lockdown, and through the hardships still managed to come at it from a positive angle.

Image of interview of music producer on zoom

How did you get access to video footage?

Our interviewees were very gracious and gave us access to their archives of concert footage, which makes up the larger proportion of b-roll in the documentary. We also asked them to film their home studio set ups, as these are their replacements to the stage for the time being. Rosie Wimbleton (Producer) and Ronny Torrico Vladivia (Cinematographer) were in Southampton during the time of production, so were able to use their one exercise a day to get some cinematic b-roll of closed concert venues.

What are your hopes for the film?

We hope that the film brings forward just how hard it’s been for people not just in the music industry, but the arts sector as a whole, which has been neglected so badly. The Government suggested ‘retraining’ artists into more technology-based roles, which really is the most backwards step that could be taken. Great art comes after hardship and tragedy. We don’t need a siesta from art after all this, we need a resurgence.

How did you work as a team, especially remotely?

It was definitely a challenge, all the issues of a normal production with brand new ones thrown it! We adapted well as a team however and worked well as a group through all stages of the project. Filming over Zoom had its obstacles, but we managed to overcome them. All crew members were present during the interviews that Lauren Hanks (Director) conducted, just to make sure everything went smoothly from a technical aspect. There was a lot of file sharing and virtual feedback when it came to carrying out the edit, but we can all say we have produced something we are now proud of.

Image of Ben Jones music studio

Do you have any plans for future film projects?

We are all working on multiple projects right now, both as part of the course and just as individual filmmakers. We are anticipating getting out of lockdown again to begin a more traditional production! There is a great anticipation to get behind the camera again.

You can watch the documentary “The New Reality of Music” on YouTube

Directed by: Lauren Hanks

Produced by: Rose-Anna Wimbleton

Cinematography by: Ronny Torrico Valdivia

Editing by: Mark J Jackman