on learning (and failing) by doing

I promised that in doing reallybigroadtrip that I would learn and fail publicly. I promised myself, just quietly, that I would publish a weekly video to help push my crowdfunding campaign, improve my skills as a documentary filmmaker, and start to share some of the issues that reallybigroadtrip will cover.

reallybigroadtrip campaign trends in day 1

reallybigroadtrip campaign trends in day 1!

The beauty of this idea is that I’m learning by doing. I’m getting myself out there, and explaining what I do and how I do it, while I’m trying to make what I want to do a reality – kind of getting over that chicken/egg thing. The downside is that video is really not my strong skill, so what I’ve in effect set myself is the task of using one of my least developed assets to sell something that means the world to me.

Frankly it doesn’t really matter if I get a video out every Friday. No one will yell at me or fire me for not doing my job. In fact very few people would even notice whether it was out at all, never mind go and watch it. But I would know.

So… this is a compromise. Instead of posting the video I planned to share here today, I’ll share my learning curves from a process I’m still struggling with. But I’ll share this because have learned something really interesting (to me, at least).

Firstly, what was the video and why haven’t I published it? I figured the first (post-launch) video for a crowdfunding program should be about crowdfunding as a concept. Crowdfunding is a relatively new thing and something I get asked to explain a great deal. If I had blogged about it I would talk about its origins, explain the model and why it’s powerful, reference the comparison to ‘traditional’ funding and offer a few comments about how these things might or might not work together, alongside tax breaks etc, to help aide a more sustainable creative economy. I would provide images, references, quotes and links. It would take time to research and articulate, but I would enjoy it because that’s my confort zone.

But reallybigroadtrip takes me purposefully outside my comfort zone. So I promised myself that I would make more video. The media arts world is frequently not very well documented, and I want to increase the amount of documentation that is out there. I am not a filmmaker, but I have been around filmmakers nearly all of my adult life. I understand the theory and I’ve even made a few short films, mainly shot using mobile phones and treated as experiments, not serious productions. i don’t even watch a lot of video, so this whole space is relatively unknown to me. I am far from being a proficient editor and where I used to use Final Cut 7 I’m not using the new Final Cut Pro X, which is different enough to throw me considerably. But I’m a determined little bugger, so I have persevered.

And I have struggled. Last week I launched the campaign with a video featuring largely just me. I hate being photographed or filmed. Like 98% of the world I’m not comfortable with my image or the sound of my own voice, so filming and then editing myself is my own private hell. But I kept being told that people wanted to see the person behind the project, so I bit my lip and went for it. The result is, well… tatty. It lacks perfection in the cuts, has no transitions, contains to much information cut too quickly together, using shoddy titles and a rough version of an ident-idea, has no sound balance, and features what people keep telling me is a “nervous Fee, one who isn’t as smiley and cheeky as we know her to be”. But it was at least “raw and honest”. And above all, it was published! (Oh and thanks yet again to all the lovely folk who held my hand as I went though this first publishing process, your feedback & support was invaluable!).

This week I thought it would be different. I had been interviewing a few people (over Skype) about their experiences with crowdfunding. I would simply chop those together, using the questions asked as the basic structure and find flow within the footage. And overall it would be easier because it wouldn’t feature me (at least, as much). Um, yeah. If only life was so easy. I’ve been nomadic since last September and am often reliant on my little 3G modem for internet access. This means Skype calls vary from ‘stasis/dropout’ to ‘clean/high resolution’ with apparently no logic. Some of my footage is frankly un-usable, made even more frustrating by the fact that underneath the staccato technical delivery is a lot of smart observation fighting to get heard.

So, what I’m admitting with all this is that I just don’t want to publish the footage I currently have in its current form. I can add to it, I can find other ways to represent bits that are too annoying to just watch/listen to. But I want to take the time to do that properly. So today there won’t be another video. But today you get to see what I learned, and I get to note all this for personal future reference.


  • filmmaking is like print. I don’t typically do print because I like to be able to make minute changes at a moment’s notice. I like writing and blogging because you can articulate your argument’s precise position, add links and justifications on the fly, and then publish it knowing you can always go back and edit it when needed. video, and print, mean you have to be much better prepared and committed to the exact final destination at the point of capture. much less flexible/enjoyable to my current way of working. but if this is a direction I have chosen to take I have to realign my perception, expectations and practice accordingly.
  • what I was trying to make by video is never going to be the blog post I would have otherwise written. both require significant dedication and focus but don’t replace each other. they are different communication styles and have different purposes – and often, audiences. maybe i need to do both while i’m gaining confidence in video, or maybe i need to let go of one to focus on the other.
  • the conversations within my interviews might ‘flow’, but i need to have thought-through – in fact, storyboarded – the final video a great deal more articulately before I get to the point of interview. going back for a re-shoot is really not often an option, even if all i’m re-shooting is myself.
  • i need to honestly consider if i personally need to be included in the video and if i do, just accept that instead of avoiding it. maybe then my segments will be done with a bit more fun instead of the ‘serious fee-to-camera’ face i seem to have adopted.
  • if the skype connection is just not good enough, then stop the call and reschedule. it’s surely better to wait until you can capture at the quality you want rather than thinking ‘oh i can salvage something later’. sure i could ask for a re-shoot, but the person i interviewed already generously gave their time for my needs. to ask that again feels like a serious imposition.
  • my lovely thespian colleague Kate Foy says “smile”… but how do you smile when you’re not sure what you’re doing, hate being on camera, are worried about whether or not you’re even in focus (which is rare when i film myself, it would seem) and generally just feel like a fool?! as a person who enjoys spending quite a lot of time alone, I talk to myself a great deal more than is probably considered normal. so maybe i should cut to the chase and just video those little self-narrations. over time i’ll get so used to it that it will become perfectly normal – just like when my MA lecturer forced me to do the dreaded public speaking every week until I lost my fear of that too.
  • i need to leave much more time for the edit. i don’t really know my tools (hell i don’t know what I’m doing in all sorts of ways) so i need to give myself more room to make mistakes without the pressure of a deadline (although deadlines are useful motivators too).
  • i saw Life in Movement this week. it was stunning and moved me in all sorts of ways. not least it made me realise that my ‘style’ (if i have one) is far more functional than visual. i need to watch more documentaries, learn how they maintain a flow and a rhythm in their storytelling without identing each section with a little title header like it’s some kind of database.
  • this isn’t a competition, and there’s no hurry. maybe understanding that will help me let go and just publish *some* kind of video at *some* stage in the next week or so, instead of ‘a video I’m proud of that explains what I think needs to be shared: today’.

So, that’s it. These are the lessons that this week has brought. I have promised myself to stop apologising, but have still been told I act far too apologetically (including the lack of smiling!). I have also been told my blog posts are too long. Both these things are true. But I’m feeling my way through all this and just letting myself learn from what comes. It’s all about the journey…

Oh and on a different, but wholly related, matter. Today marks one week in to my thirteen week campaign and I’m near-as-dammit up to 10% of my target! I think all-in-all I can chalk that up to a pretty good start! If you are enjoying my growing pains and haven’t stumped up a fiver or two already, then at least please share the call with your networks. And thank you to everyone who has shown nothing but support for my journey to date x

reallybigroadtrip needs a bus! contribute to @feesable‘s crowdfunding campaign to help #rbrtOZ become a reality! http://reallybigroadtrip.pozible.com

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