The Television and Broadcasting course has been designed to allow us as students to develop a broad range of skills. In addition to producing our live broadcasts throughout the year, we have been creating our own short documentary film. We decided to base ours on a local pub, The Fawcett Inn, which has continued to thrive in an age where as many as 30 UK pubs a week are having to call ‘Time at the Bar’ (roll titles!).
Creating a documentary was something that was new to us, requiring a different set of skills than producing the kind of content that we’ve been used to as VTs within our programmes. After three years of producing these kinds of ‘newsie’ content, being told to forget the ways we’ve always worked wasn’t easy! (and in hindsight, perhaps it would have been useful to learn some of the basics of this in my first or second year at uni, to avoid getting too set in our ways when it comes to creating a video). Creating a documentary required a different approach to covering a subject, as well as much more time in production.
After some initial confusion in trying to work out “so how do we even make a documentary rather than just a VT?”, thinking around ideas like an investigative documentary into CCTV in public places or a factual one into the construction of the Mary Rose Museum, we asked Jodie and Michelle – the landlord and landlady of the Fawcett Inn – if they would be up for us filming them and the pub, and luckily they were (although Michelle wasn’t keen on being the next ‘Jeremy “from Airport” Spake’, so we agreed she wouldn’t appear on camera much).
As we’ve spent the best part of three years living around Southsea, we know Jodie to be quite a character who would be good fun to feature in a film. The Fawcett Inn’s recent accolade as being chosen by the Portsmouth News as Pub of the Year 2016 gave us a good angle for a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary. It would allow us to follow Jodie, Michelle and the Fawcett Inn’s staff as they run the pub day-to-day, showing some examples of the kind of things that led them to be named ‘Pub of the Year’. It was for this reason that we discuss other aspects of the pub first. The pub’s history and connections with smuggling, how deliveries work and the St. Patrick’s Day festivities all serve to provide some context into what life is like at the Fawcett Inn before we reveal it was chosen as Pub of the Year towards the end of the film.
Production of the documentary took place over several weeks in February-March 2017, which we were able to capture a variety of different nights that show some of the events that happen at the Fawcett Inn. As we knew there was a possibility of the documentary being entered for an RTS award, I wanted to make sure that we had every conceivable bit of paperwork sorted. In addition to the usual location agreements and other release forms, I also produced call sheets and logs for each card that was ingested. Here is an excerpt from one of them:
Although this was something new, and challenging, I found that sitting back and watching the finished documentary to be much more rewarding than other videos. With the packages we had to create for our TV programmes, it sometimes felt with the quantity of 2-3 minute videos we were making as part of a larger programme, we never really had time to give them the attention (or appreciation) they deserve. Watching ‘Time At The Bar’ back after so many days shooting on location or in an edit suite filled me with a sense of pride in my work that I haven’t felt in a while about a video! With the VTs that go in as part of a live programme, I was often more used to thinking “we go live in _ hours, this needs to be exported and ready for broadcast!” rather than taking the time to stop and appreciate the good qualities of the pieces. From production value, quality of editing/camerawork to finding an amazing contributor; my focus was often on having the floating time on a running order locked down, which the documentary made a pleasant change from!