Social Action: Unit 31 – Outcome 4

Unit 31 – Outcome 4

Recently we created the film Subjected to Happiness to raise awareness of mass media’s influence on the mind. The document aims to evaluate my own performance within the group, how effective the film was, and how we functioned as a team.

As the Director of Photography, my job was to ensure that the film looked the best that it could. Perfectionism is something that I’ve been afflicted with to the point where I will put myself off doing something because it won’t look exactly as it should, I had to work on this for my own development and to keep the ball rolling on set. To prepare for the film I drew some concept art of the butler’s costume, the jelly and Specimen #B1032 which gave us an idea of what props we needed to acquire. Thankfully, Jacob drew the storyboards up for the film which worked well, he possessed the vision of how the final film would be pieced together and even though they weren’t drawn in great detail, it came together perfectly. The lighting in our film was subtle enough and was complimented although if I had to approach pre-production again then I would definitely spend more time on a lighting plan to avoid experimenting too much on set, wasting precious time.

Group work is the only thing that matters in film making. If you can’t work together then the film won’t get made, that’s the bottom line. Kasia, Jacob, Simon and I worked very well together over all. The inevitable moments of panic and stress blew over leaving no marks and we managed to keep morale high throughout the production. In post-production we started to slack, putting less effort in than we should have to the sound and special effects. I’ve spoken to Sam and we both agreed that we’d like to revisit the film and re-do the After Effects work and the sound. A few comments were made about the film’s narrative being slightly incoherent, which it was. We fell into a common trap in filmmaking whereby you assume that the audience can make sense of your work just because you can. It’s important to get more perspective on the film from peers before it is properly released, however we were pushed for time so decided to put it out there regardless. It’s possible that the film wasn’t as fit for purpose as we intended it to be, we ended up making a very ‘artsy’ film that perhaps deviated from the brief, though it still carried elements of social action media. It would be important to stick to the brief more directly if this was a commissioned film to ensure that the customer was satisfied, but college is a time to experiment with different mediums; our exploration had its benefits.


Social Action: Unit 31 – Outcome 2


Subjected to Happiness is a grossly accurate portrayal of human conditioning. Monitored in a dystopian cell with no access to humanity – synthetic emotion, brainwashing and silence decide the fate of Specimen #B1032. Our film aims to question the way in which people view the media. We’re using an experimental idea in order to attract a more focused audience, as we believe that there aren’t enough social action films that challenge an audience. The film is aimed at younger audiences with an interest in the artistic side of film, it hopes to gain attention from an older audience as well but the importance lies in making young people question not only the media, but their own habits. 


The social issues that our film will tackle are becoming more topical; the media is becoming more see-through in their efforts to manipulate viewers. I created a survey to establish how people were affected by image manipulation software, as the film will focus on how a young girl’s mind is altered by television. The survey showed that the youngest group – 13-15 year olds – were the most severely affected by the media, the statistics showed that older people weren’t as bothered by image manipulation and showed less insecurity in general. Creating a ‘universe’ in which the film exists was important for us to ensure that the story was convincing. The background story involves world politics and other social issues such as environmental damage and mass government control though we didn’t want to involve too much of this as it would take away from the original point, if we revisit the film we will already have a story.

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Our film will use pornographic imagery to exemplify the damaging repercussions that it has on the mental health of young people.

We decided that we wouldn’t be showing any genitalia because it would cross a certain line. It is possible to create a more impactful piece by experimenting with audio. Due to the fact that we’re uploading the film to YouTube it’s impossible to control who views it. If a child were to stumble upon a film with overly violent or obscene imagery in it – regardless of artistic justification – they could be traumatised for years; an irresponsible step for a film maker to take.

Something that we need to get past is Copyright and fair usage. We originally planned to use clips from BBC News broadcasts, Big Brother and certain other television programs without considering the copyright infringement issues that we would run up against. Kasia looked for fair usage loopholes however it would have been too many holes to jump through for the designated time. It will be more beneficial to create our own faux content.


For our film we will need certain resources. The college has recently invested in a great deal of high quality equipment, so we will be using the Panasonic GH4 with the variety of heavy lenses that we bought. We aren’t shooting this in 4K because the only editing platform that we could use is FCP X and it would take a very powerful computer; Jacob intends to edit from home.

Regarding location, we are looking at downtrodden dark places to shoot with brick walls, so when we visited Carlisle train station we were pleasantly surprised.  It was the perfect location, peeling sandstone walls with a concrete floor and a high ceiling. This is a valuable community resource and an important tie to make at this stage so Kasia is talking to the station manager to organise a filming date.


Our project has a certain uniqueness to it because of it’s symbolic value. Western filmmakers seem to forget that in your film, it’s your universe. Physics doesn’t have to exist in the same way that it does on planet earth. Because of this Americanised view on film, this allows for much more individuality when you begin exploring outside of the box. I would compare some of the shooting style to Channel 4’s 2013 series ‘Utopia’. Jacob and I both watched the series as it firmly touches on world politics, population control and art combined.


We are only going to show our film on YouTube, until we decide to screen it. Once we have completed the film there are plans to try accessing the vue cinema for a private screening.

Social Action: Unit 31 – Outcome 1

With digital film production becoming more accessible and affordable on a consumer level, a fresh meander is carving it’s way through our civilisation in the shape of social action and community media. Social action will take place for as long as social inequality exists, and with the mainstream media conglomerates fuelling television sets with disproportionate representation of race, sex, class and religion, it’s up to film makers and all artists alike to spread healthy ideals throughout local, more widespread or even global communities.

The sole purpose of a social action film is to make people challenge their own views on a subject. From here it can change those views, reinforce them, inspire change or simply raise awareness for the presented cause. For a social action film to make an impact it has to be easy to interpret so that the viewer can extract the message from it no matter how analytical they are.

Over the past two years, the price of broadcast standard cameras has dropped drastically. If one can obtain a Lumix GH4 for £1000, it takes little from the imagination to see how much freedom this gives independent film makers. The college recently worked on a project to demonstrate the impact of the 2009 Cockermouth floods which affected many in the community. The screening was a success; reminding people of their collaborative feats, however the project was tainted by certain crew members using the project more for personal acclaim than to raise awareness for the cause. This is a common complication with films like these; people have the right to be credited and use the work for their benefit, but when the initial purpose is forgotten, the film can lose it’s touch.

Whilst social action can be used as a tool to bring the community together, it can also be used to challenge the foundations that society is based on. It’s no secret that American policing is heavily prejudiced and inhumane. In 2011 a song called ‘Film the Police’ was released, encouraging bystanders to record any activity of the law. This would provide information and evidence against unjust prosecution. The campaign quickly blew up. More and more videos are emerging of police brutality, some of which have featured on mainstream news channels, bringing national attention to the issue.

In previous decades, it would be a stretch of the imagination to think that anybody with a mobile phone (which is now everybody) would be able to shoot a film. This revelation put power into the hands of the people; hundreds of videos are released daily challenging the environment around us. From politics to animal rights, prejudice to poverty, anyone with a smart phone and an eye for film can make a statement. The problem is that very few people have an eye for film. A failed piece of social action media will work against the cause by distracting the viewers attention. Bad actors, cuts and audio will humiliate the film and trivialise the cause – making the viewer less inclined to shed light on the subject in future.

It is generally very hard for an independent social action film to infiltrate the mainstream media; the broadcasting standards are extremely precise (white/black levels, sound quality and clipping), which means most films simply will not qualify for broadcasting before the content is even considered. When it comes to content, only recently have programmes which question the current regime been allowed to air. With the BBC working closely with every government over the years, the broadcasts have been heavily biased. However, since the coming of social media and heightened awareness of political strategies they have been offering a more balanced platter of content. A fantastic example is ‘The Super-Rich and Us’, a program presented and written by Jacques Peretti; well known for ‘The Men Who Made Us Spend’ and ‘The Men Who Made Us Fat’ – both offering information into the way corporations manipulated the UK into a consumerist society.

The examples I’ve given previously exist to raise local and national awareness. For a campaign to get attention around the globe it generally has to involve people that have earned celebrity status. In 1984, Bob Geldof and James Ure founded Band Aid, one of the biggest super groups the world had ever seen. Band Aid existed as a charity to raise money for famine-struck Ethiopians, and came together again in 2014 as a reformed ‘Band Aid 30’, this time raising money for Ebola. There are however, so many problems with Band Aid. Over the years it raised over $193 million for the impoverished, (last years release made $1.5 million for Ebola). Bono sings in Band Aid. Bono’s net worth is $600 million. Bono also decided that his band ought to move from Ireland to escape paying taxes.

My point in highlighting this injustice is that whilst social action is a powerful and necessary part of our society, we must respect that it is also an emotional pitfall. A distraction, used to satisfy the individual who responds with selfless acts to keep our starving society afloat. If the annual earnings of the richest hundred people combined can put extreme poverty in the history books four times over, then you can only imagine how hard they’re laughing at the other seven billion of us. Without inequality there is no action, and without action there is no heroism. In the words of Aldous Huxley, “Stability isn’t nearly as spectacular as instability”.