Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Keeping it 'real'

Our culminating practical project in our Film class study of the 'Reality TV' phenomenon this semester was to produce a season trailer for a new show of the students' own devising. We did not have enough time to create 'genuine' shows, so the various scenarios had to be carefully scripted and staged for the camera (this in itself was one of the most important elements in this unit of study, demanding that students pay attention to questions of how much manipulation and fakery goes into many of the actual 'Reality' shows they enjoy, and what the ethical implications of this are).

There were two really outstanding productions. This one, The Sweet Life of Stacey and Tracey, a 'real life soap' concept depicting the tense relationship between a pair of pregnant middle-class teenagers, was filmed and edited by Tiffany Ng; her teammates Yew San Cheah and Vrithik Metha provided logistical support, and produced the voiceover narration and some other additional sound recording. Vital input also came from Emily Duncan and Frances Amos who improvised most of the script in playing the two leads.

And then there was P-Ranked, a competitive prank show that is intended to pit friends against each other in an escalating series of tit-for-tat practical jokes. This was created by Tristan Wong, Fenton Garvie, and Lauren Justice - with a lot of help from various of their dorm mates. This one, I fear, was at times a bit too 'real' for comfort, with some of the pranks being staged without the victim's prior knowledge or consent to capture genuinely surprised - and annoyed - reaction shots.

Other groups' efforts also achieved much of merit, but were compromised by a failure to get to grips with the extreme time pressure we were under: they just didn't get enough footage to present their concept fully and coherently.

Dominic Law, Hugo Chan, and Tippy Pei came up with Hell's Dorm, an 'extreme makeover' style of show focused on the occasional chronic untidiness of our dorms - but unfortunately they didn't get around to shooting the crucial mentor intervention/successful transformation scenes.

Jae Lamb, Ethan Chu and Kevin Ho produced Rap Wars, a talent show format in the style of American Idol, which boasted a few very stylish lighting effects, but omitted to include any actual rapping, or an introduction of the judges. 

And Daniel Carolan, Constance Lam, and Samantha Koo created a piece called A Couple of Wheels, which was intended to be a challenge competition for couples - something in the style of The Amazing Race, but involving goofy physical tests like bubble-wrap wrestling. They underestimated the difficulty of arranging shoots with large numbers of actors and failed to shoot many of the scenes they needed to complete the trailer. Daniel, in the final edit, came up with the ingenious idea of padding out this patchy footage with a lot of explanatory captions, now trying to pass the piece off not as an actual trailer but as a jokey film school re-enactment of a long-forgotten Vietnamese (?!) TV show.

Content advisory:  'Reality TV' has an unfortunate tendency to concentrate on some of the less attractive aspects of human behaviour, and our students embraced this dark side of the genre rather too enthusiastically. There is quite a lot of swearing in all of these films (one key skill students learned was how to 'bleep out' offensive dialogue!).