University of Birmingham
In this documentary, I am exploring what influenced the city of Birmingham to evolve from an Anglo-Saxon village during the 7th century to a multi-cultural city in the 21st century. For this reason, I have decided to name it Birmingham Culture Future.
The idea behind the documentary was to unveil the past of Birmingham revealing how the city has evolved into the industrial giant it is today. When examining events of the past we can identify similarities that are happening in the present.
The curiosity to understand what made the city looks like what it does today was the power that drove me to finish this project. How far back does the history of Birmingham stretch? What are some of the mysteries that surrounded this city? Where do the first habitants of Birmingham come from? Where is the city going in the future?
My idea was to elaborate a narrative based on those questions and produce a documentary which reveals the city’s past. By looking into the city history my plan was to identify the reasons why Birmingham has to evolve in the direction it is growing today and where it might be heading towards the future.
In the Birmingham Culture Future documentary (2017), my intention was to produce a time line of events that reveals how Birmingham has evolved from Saxon-village during the 7th century, into a multicultural city it is today. I wanted to take the viewer on a journey of discovery and reveal to them important factors that have helped Birmingham to transform into one of most creative cities in England.
Shortly after I moved to Birmingham, I became curious to understand what has made the city into this powerhouse of creativity and innovation. I then started my research, I have discovered that the history of the city goes back as early as the 7th century, and was eager to make a documentary that would explore the evolution it took in order to become this great city of today.
I feel like history needs to be preserved, and be passed on for the next generations so they can learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of our ancestors. Many important events took place in the streets of Birmingham during the past, and I believe much more will happen in the city over the next years. It is our mission to keep the flame burning in the heart of its citizens, and incentive the next generation to continue to produce ideas and innovations that can help transform the world into a better place to live.
The city of Birmingham is on a constant process of evolution, and the city council is supporting the development of technology and creative arts around the city. At the moment, the city has many hubs which support and incentive collaboration amongst different cultures, some of these hubs are briefly covered in my documentary. These are very important places which have been helping the next generation to collaborate into the discovery of new ideas and production of new inventions. It is important to pass our goals and ideologies to the kids that are coming into society, so the lessons we have learned are not lost, and our wishes are moved into the next cycle of evolution. Some ideas can take, years, decades, others can take generations to be achieved, for this reason, I believe it is important to preserve the history and the ideas that were born with it.
This documentary was made in dedication to the people of Birmingham, who shared their stories and their ideas with the world, helping it to advance into the industrial revolution and transform into the fruitful planet it is today. The citizens of Birmingham are what makes this city unique, my idea of this documentary is to reveal that Birmingham has been a mixed culture ever since the beginning of the town. The success of a city depends on it citizens, and I wanted to make obvious in the documentary that the reason why Birmingham was able to grow into the industrial giant it is today, was because of the collaboration, immigration, and imagination of many people who decided to call the city of Birmingham their home.
In the documentary, I reveal that the first commercialized computer was produced in the city, however, there are many other inventions who came from the Birmingham region such as the microwave, the internet, Discatron portable player, amongst others. The creative spirit of the city is strong, and I wanted to understand what made the citizens think the way they think. Why out of the 4000 inventions copyrighted in the U.K every year, 2800 come from the Birmingham region? I sure knew there was something special about the Brummies’, and I was on a mission to discover its secret.
One of the ways to reveal Birmingham’s secret was to understand what were the key events that have placed Birmingham on the map so we can learn what influenced the city growth. I thought of different ways in which I could have produced the documentary, my initial idea was to produce a dialogue between museums and manufacturers around the region of Birmingham. I wanted to create a conversation around the theme past and future, exploring how the city was before the industrial revolution, to where it is going into the future. However, during the pre-production phase, I had little luck booking interviews and I was forced to change my idea around.
I had a complete research about the city, and I was not going to change topics just because I could not find anyone who would give me an interview. I needed to prove myself the fire of the Brummies’ was burning in my heart. It was at this moment that I had an ‘A-ha moment’ and envisioned the documentary being told from the perspective of a time traveler who is inviting the audience to join in on a journey of discovery.
Working on historical documentaries can be challenging. Because of the amount of research needed in order to complete the project Filmmakers need to have a clear understanding of historical events and important facts before the development of a script is started. The main question I constantly kept asking myself was: “How to transform facts of history, into an interesting narrative that captures the attention, and frees the imagination of the viewer?” This is was my main objective and it is the force that drove the production forward. The documentary is meant to reveal interesting facts during the growth of the city, and also highlight the importance the city of Birmingham had in the development of the world, as well as to inspire the next generation and invite them to take part in the transformation of the city themselves.
In the documentary, I look into the history of Birmingham and attempt to make connections to what has happened in the past to what is happening in the present. The city is a constant process of evolution and I wanted to discover what has influenced the city to evolve into a multicultural society.
I have watched other historical documentaries in the past, and my main concern was how to present all the information I have planned in a manner that is easy to understand and enjoyable to watch. Some of my other concerns were knowing the pitfalls of having a documentary without interviews, and knowing what to avoid, so I would not produce a long and boring monologue. One of the solutions I have thought was to deliberate ask the viewer to join me on a time travel journey, where the narrator would accompany them along the trip.
My intention was to take the viewer on a journey of discovery. For this reason, I thought of having the viewer to take part in the evolution of the city themselves. The idea was to produce a “time travel machine” inside the documentary. I have attempted to produce this with the help of motion graphics and sound effects. The audience is invited by the narrator to take part in the experiment, and will then go back in time and fast-forward throughout the centuries, observing historical events that have marked the evolution of the city.I believe it was important to tell the story of Birmingham from the very beginning, so the audience could understand where the first citizens of Birmingham came from. The city of Birmingham is currently an international multicultural city, but some of its residents have roots in the regions over generations. I believe this documentary reveals some of the questions that surround the very first citizens of Birmingham.
Early in the documentary during the intro, I have a group of people seated in chairs with VR headsets in their eyes, and the narrator then says “Come with me, and let’s take a look at how the city has evolved over the centuries.” The very next shot I have a person stepping into a new world, the image is revealed from a first person perspective, to give the impression to the audience that they are the ones exploring this new land. My intention was to leave the audience with the feeling of discovery, as they are exploring past events themselves, and are found now in the middle of the action, watching the history of Birmingham unfold before their eyes.
The reason why the documentary is presented in a participatory narrative mode is that I imagined the audience would find pleasant having someone with them as they time travel into the past. The narrator’s job is to work as a tour guide, explaining what is happening on screen, as well as providing the viewer with a sense of security during his journey. There are moments where I tried to add a bit of humor, attempting to make a deeper connection with the viewer. It was crucial to make them aware they were being observed, but not just by anyone, but by a trustworthy time ttravelerwho was there to show them how Birmingham has evolved along the centuries.
When the narrator is participating in the story, the audience is constantly reminded that what they are watching is a film. I have tried to use this in my favor, and have written the narration to inspire the viewers to take part in the transformation of the city themselves. When they realize that what they are watching is a film, hopefully, they will remember that history of the city is made every day, and they as well can join forces in the creative innovative forces of Birmingham.
The score for the documentary has been designed to match the time period of the events being narrated. The music sometimes invites the audience to relax, while other times speed up, making them aware that something is about to happen. The sound effects are there to give the viewer an impression that the events they are watching, it is happening live. I have attempted to reproduce the experience of what it felt to live back in those time periods.
I have also made extended use of diegetic sounds attempting to reproduce the atmosphere of the various centuries. I wanted the viewer to feel immersed into this world I was creating, and sound design played a great part in this documentary. A sound is a powerful tool which I wanted to experiment with, there are times during the documentary when the music fades away and only the atmosphere remains. I see the score in the documentary as a constant back and forth battle, the idea was to catch the audience by surprise, having the sound ending where it does not have to end, this way helping to emphasize events that are happening on screen.
Foley techniques are also used to magnify certain points of the narrative where I wanted to grab the attention of the viewer. I also found the use of sound a great get away to swap between one century into the other, without making it too distractive. In the documentary, the sound effects are used to reinforce the idea that the viewer is present during that time of events, and is observing them as they are happening in the present. I used sound as a bridge between object and subject. The idea was to retell the history of Birmingham by ways of reenactment.
The use of sound effects during the documentary was to transform the atmosphere of the events into vivid memories, after all, it is not every day we are observing history fast forward into the future. The idea was to capture the audience attention with the sound bites and to slowly move them along with the narrative. My idea was to attempt to recreate the feelings of what it was like to be there when history was being written. I wanted to emerge the viewer into a medieval Birmingham, so I have decided to utilize stock footage and foley techniques in order to produce a re-enactment of the evolution of the city.
The Birmingham Culture Future documentary is produced by ways re-enacting key events that were important in the evolution of Birmingham. With the help of sound design, public domain stock footage and motion graphics I was able to reconstruct the history of Birmingham from the 7th Century until modern day. All the items used in the documentary fall under the creative commons license, meaning that I am allowed to use and remix for personal use.
I have used the various stock footage to help me elaborate the re-enactment of time periods that Birmingham has gone through. There are moments where we need to create a vision of the future using the lenses of the past. This is what I have tried to achieve when using stock footage in the documentary. By using other filmmaker’s footage, my intention was to link past with the present and transform the documentary into a collective vision amongst different filmmakers.
In the Birmingham Culture Future Documentary, there are various videos formats, playing in all kinds of resolutions. At firsts, I thought this would throw the viewers off, having different qualities of videos playing together into one format. However, after having a chat with my professor and mentor Dr. Richard Langley, I was convinced that it could actually be a good idea as reminded me that as time progresses, why would not the video quality progress along with it?
There was an important need to have real archive footage in the documentary, as I needed to gain credibility for the narration, and the audience could feel assured that what they are watching are historical events. Although shots are collected from a variety of sources, and scenes shown in the documentary are not from the city of Birmingham itself, my intention was to mimic in the screen the facts that were being described to the viewer.
I have also made constant use of motion graphics to support the narrative. There are moments where is crucial for the viewer to understand where the transformations were taking place, and the most effective way to achieve that was to reconstruct a map of the region. On a few occasions when I reveal some of the maps during the documentary, I tried to produce a feeling to the viewer that he was watching events outside time and space continuum and give the viewer a feeling that he was traveling in time himself. I have specifically designed masks to supports the idea that the viewer is watching events from a ‘’black hole” from a first perspective. I have made eyelids blinking and have placed it across the documentary to give the viewer a reminder that everything is happening from a first person perspective. My intention was to break the fourth wall between narrator and audience.
There are moments where my intention was to give the viewer the sensation of floating in space while watching events unfold. To achieve this effect I have made a vignette that resembles clouds and thunder, items that are commonly seen in other time travel films. I also have the screen surrounded by a glowing aura and have the music changing altogether with the transition to give the impression that for a few seconds the viewer is fast forwarding in time. I have also realized that when narrating the documentary I was being part of the evolution of the city myself. This was the idea I wanted to transmit to the audience, so they can also take part in the evolution of the city. “What happens in front of the camera becomes an index of the nature of the interaction between filmmaker and subject” as Bill Nicols explains in his book Introduction to Documentary (2001).
The main point I wanted to get across with this documentary, was to reveal to the audience that it was not just a single person or a single event that was responsible for the transformation of Birmingham from a Saxon village to an international city. The city of Birmingham has been through many transformations along the time, and many people from many different cultures have taken part in the evolution of the city. If Birmingham continues to grow at the speed it is going, I believe in a near future the city might find itself having another industrial revolution, except this time, it will be a digital revolution. The citizens are constantly pushing barriers in the creative and innovative fields, and without a shadow of a doubt, Birmingham will continue to produce inventions that will delight the world once more.
My objective was to preserve the past of Birmingham revealing how it has evolved over the centuries, and give an idea of where the city is heading towards the future. However, nobody knows what kind of surprises Birmingham will bring to the world, as the city is on a rapid process of transformation and it evolves unpredictably as its weather. We must continue to learn from our mistakes by preserving the history. It is important to learn from the past, so we can build a new future because as the historian and theorist Arthur Schlesinger suggests, history can be cyclical and old lessons will haunt us until we learn from them.
The city is what it is today, not just because of the efforts of engineers, merchants, and entrepreneurs; all citizens played an important role in the development of the town. My intention was to reveal how Birmingham has changed along centuries and excited the viewer to take part to the next step of the city evolution themselves. I wanted to inspire the next generation by showing them that real changes sometimes are difficult to achieve in one life time, but it is important to perceive in what we believe and be patience in order to achieve great objectives.
History should be preserved for the next generations. What are we if not our memories and dreams? An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. And even the smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you. Inception (Christoher Nolan, 2010). If the viewer watching the documentary felt genuinely interesting in discovering more about the history of Birmingham, I feel like my mission was accomplished. Similar to what the lunar society has done in the past, I have tried to achieve with this documentary, spark a flame of imagination into the minds of the audience.
I consider the documentary experimental, and I wanted to make it that way because being a film student gives you a great excuse to experiment with different kinds of narratives, and I really enjoy producing narratives that give the viewer a chance to come a little bit closer into the world I am creating. I have combined a number of different techniques, transitions, and sound design to transform the narration into a journey of discovery. I did not want to follow any dogmas and have tried to produce the Birmingham Culture Evolution Documentary in a unique manner, one that feels unorthodox, something different and original, like the city of Birmingham itself.
The hero of my documentary is the audience, and I have tried to take them on a journey where they are discovering history for themselves. My objective was to generate an incentive towards learning about history and show how it can be fascinating to discover secrets of the past. Birmingham has a rich history and all of its citizens take part of its transformation every day, being a true Brummie is more than just being born in the city, anybody with good intentions and courage to follow their intuition can alter the course of history of the city. It is the Birmingham state of mind and I wanted to share it with the world.