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Photographing War


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#1 K Borowski

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 02:20 AM

I've always been fasinated by the organized activity of warfare. I don't glorify it, but, for some reason, I've always wanted, badly, to experience the horror, and show to other people a slice of it that is as close as possible to actually being there for the audience, to portray it in a way that is so compelling there won't be "suspension of disbelief" or the typical sort of audience distancing you get from being bombarded with so much violence by the entertainment industry these days.

The idea has been brewing in my head since I first became interested in cinematography, and I thought it'd be just one of those fleeting ideas that would fade with time. It hasn't though. I look to the photographer Robert Capa as an inspiration. He stormed the beaches with American troops during D-Day, carrying two cameras instead of a gun to defend himself with. If this were a perfect world, there would be no more war, and people would just accuse me of being stuck in the past, and being glad that that sort of conflict will never happen again, but it's happened many times since WWII and Korea and Vietnam. Something changed after Vietnam though. I saw a documentary (I think) that chronicled the photojouralists and filmmakers in Vietnam. They were given free reign. Go anywhere, shoot anything. Many were sent there on assignment by the United States government and instead they brought back horror and truth, if there is such a thing as photographic truth. Then, after Vietnam that type of free access stopped. Now all you see is propaganda. You don't see the War in Iraq on television, you see what the military wants you to see, or the *aftermaths* of battle, not the battles themselves.

I don't want to go to Iraq and villify the United States military. I don't want to pick sides or come up with my own take on the war, but I urgently want to go over there and show people that war hasn't changed, and is as terrible as ever. If that dissuades people from joining the military, so be it, but I think it will do the greater service of showing future politicians what war really is, a horror to be avoided at all costs.

I'm still struck by an image from the documentary I saw on the filmmakers and photographers of Vietnam. There was a cameraman, in the middle of a jungle, in what looked to be the middle of a battle, or the aftermath of one, with a huge Auricon on a tripod, just filmming, as if he were impervious to bullets.

My question is this: Is there a need for this type of documentary, or have they been made, and just never been mainstream enough for me to have heard about? Where can I find footage, preferably intact documentaries of war, made independently? How do documentary filmmakers arrange filmming during combat. How do you trade off the risks with the need of immediacy, of being there a part of the action? It's just something that I want to go about learning, and, without actually being there, it's kind of futile trying to prepare for a project of this nature. I'm looking also to find other people interested in this type of project. Are there groups out there that specialize in this sort of thing, if not war documentaries then documentaries in general?

With the exception of National Geographic and March of the Penguins and Stock footage, I don't know anything about documentary filmmaking. I want to make a film that will have appeal because it is immediate and real, but have no idea how to go about preparing.

So any books, films, people I shoudl contact, groups I should join, or personal experience in this type of thing, especially ideas how to prepare, would be great. This will probably take at least a full year to put together. I'm thinking of trying to do a survey of every U.S. conflict since the revolution and tie modern warfare in as being different, but at the same time very much the same as it has always been. I want to go about trying to "resensitize" people to the continuing reality of war, in an age where we are made numb. When you see footage of bombings or terrorism, with the exception of September 11th, they're sterile, depicting violence that seems subdued even though it is real, because Hollywood violence is more dramatic.

I don't know if this post makes sense. If it doesn't, let me know so I can make another attempt at it. This is such a broad question maybe I should try to break it up into more discreete units.
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#2 Nick Mulder

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 03:29 AM

**the following was a PM to you but your inbox is full so here it is in the full glory of the public thread**

Karl,

Your post sure is interesting... Over the past few months I've been thinking heavily about getting into the photojournalism of wartime - not just the combat itself but whatever story needs telling that is affected by the combat - not from a stills perspective but from a cinematography perspective instead ... I felt that there was perhaps a blank area in between the immediacy of news gathering and the documentary format where film could make an impact.

Basically I would love to at least investigate become a film journo - super16 reg16, 35mm whatever, but in film - I would even go so far to shoot everything in 2x speed to really capture as much as possible. Not that I think sound would really be necessary it still could be synced to sound easily at this rate.

Excuse the technical digression :rolleyes: but you've caught me at a stage where my thoughts haven't fully cohered yet and I'm also finding research into the 'trade' a little hard to find facts about and I'll be watching your thread with interest (I attempted started my own one about a month ago but got a little fuddled trying to explain exactly what I was about so left it as a draft) - however I will say again I'm certainly interested in the concept and if you decide to go further with it do please feel free to get in touch with me about any possible ideas/discussion/collaboration etc...

Nick Mulder
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#3 K Borowski

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 04:17 AM

**the following was a PM to you but your inbox is full so here it is in the full glory of the public thread**

Karl,

Your post sure is interesting... Over the past few months I've been thinking heavily about getting into the photojournalism of wartime - not just the combat itself but whatever story needs telling that is affected by the combat - not from a stills perspective but from a cinematography perspective instead ... I felt that there was perhaps a blank area in between the immediacy of news gathering and the documentary format where film could make an impact.

Basically I would love to at least investigate become a film journo - super16 reg16, 35mm whatever, but in film - I would even go so far to shoot everything in 2x speed to really capture as much as possible. Not that I think sound would really be necessary it still could be synced to sound easily at this rate.

Excuse the technical digression :rolleyes: but you've caught me at a stage where my thoughts haven't fully cohered yet and I'm also finding research into the 'trade' a little hard to find facts about and I'll be watching your thread with interest (I attempted started my own one about a month ago but got a little fuddled trying to explain exactly what I was about so left it as a draft) - however I will say again I'm certainly interested in the concept and if you decide to go further with it do please feel free to get in touch with me about any possible ideas/discussion/collaboration etc...

Nick Mulder


Ha, that damned PM box has been full a year now. I guess I need to scrounge up the money to become a paid member, kind of like a miniversion of joining a union.

My thoughts on the subject haven't cohered either. I've only seen war movies and still photographs, and snippets of footage from Vietnam, but I want to move beyond that.

Definitely want to use 16mm for this project as well. I'd love S16, but will have to settle for whatever I can scrounge up. You'd think there'd be some sort of public funding out there for covering this sort of thing. I'm actually thinking of maybe using Ektachrome, although 7285 might be too punchy. I want a modern reversal film look though. I don't want nostalgic VNF look, but something that's reminiscent of documentaries from the past with a clean, fresh look. Really, I probably had just planned on using my beat-up old Auricon. Problem is, I don't know if it is practical using such a big camera. I couldn't afford to buy or rent long term one of the new lightweight 16mms like the AMinima. Then there's the problem of capturing synch sound.

I'd be all for shooting at a high frame rate, like 48 fps, and projecting/transferring at that speed, but again, that doubles rawstock costs, which I have no idea how to get money for to begin with anyway. I think a project like this needs a group of people, maybe 10 or 20 to pool resources and experience, to actually figure out how to get money, make arrangements, lay out, and then edit the finished piece into something coherent. Problems with film would be getting it processed, and transported safely without being lost or destroyed in a chaotic environement.

Of course, this type of project is terribly risky. It's not that I'm afraid of the risk, but protecting the production and protecting the crew are of paramount importance because without them the film doesn't get made, and the whole production is for nothing.

It's such a foreign concept, I wouldn't know where to begin. You can't "scout" a war zone. I don't know how you find the action. Following troups is one way, but I seem to be under the impression that some of the guys in Vietnam were off on their own, observing combat from an objective viewpoint, or setting up in between both sides. Crazy stuff. . .
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#4 Jason Reimer

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 04:32 AM

**the following was a PM to you but your inbox is full so here it is in the full glory of the public thread**

Karl,

Your post sure is interesting... Over the past few months I've been thinking heavily about getting into the photojournalism of wartime - not just the combat itself but whatever story needs telling that is affected by the combat - not from a stills perspective but from a cinematography perspective instead ... I felt that there was perhaps a blank area in between the immediacy of news gathering and the documentary format where film could make an impact.

Basically I would love to at least investigate become a film journo - super16 reg16, 35mm whatever, but in film - I would even go so far to shoot everything in 2x speed to really capture as much as possible. Not that I think sound would really be necessary it still could be synced to sound easily at this rate.

Excuse the technical digression :rolleyes: but you've caught me at a stage where my thoughts haven't fully cohered yet and I'm also finding research into the 'trade' a little hard to find facts about and I'll be watching your thread with interest (I attempted started my own one about a month ago but got a little fuddled trying to explain exactly what I was about so left it as a draft) - however I will say again I'm certainly interested in the concept and if you decide to go further with it do please feel free to get in touch with me about any possible ideas/discussion/collaboration etc...

Nick Mulder


Hey guys,
Interesting thread. I've have been thinking a lot about this the last couple of years, albeit from a somewhat different perspective. I have known a lot of guys who have been to Iraq and/or Afghanistan, are there now, and will be going. I myself came very close to joining the army a couple years back, and it pretty much took herniating a disc in my back to stop me. A couple of years before that, I spent a month in Saudi Arabia with my brother-in-law who is in the army (in Iraq as we speak), and that was when my interest in filmmaking and cinematography started to get pretty serious. While I was there we spent a lot of time hanging out in the desert, cruising around various Saudi towns and cities, making friends with them, eating dates and drinking tea and smoking a hookah with them, and on dive boats with Europeans, Saudis, Airborne Rangers, Phillipinos, you name it, videotaping anything I thought would be interesting to my friends & family back home. When I came home and started learning how to edit all of this footage, I started thinking that getting into documentary filmmaking would be something I might enjoy doing, and in particular, a documentary in a war zone embedded with the troops. It's something I'm still looking seriously at doing, so I'll be interested to see how your thoughts play out on this.

Technically speaking, I agree, it would be great to see something done with film, although at this point 90% of my experience is with video, but if I were to gain enough experience with it, as well as the resources to do it with film, that would be preferable I think. But either way, video or film are both valid approaches; some artists like watercolors, some like oil, and some like pencil.

Some books that have been really helpful to me and that I think you'd probably enjoy as well have been Writing, Directing, and Producing Documentary Films, by Alan Rosenthal, Doing Documentary Work, by Robert Coles, Cross-Cultural Filmmaking, by Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Taylor, and Making Documentary Films and Reality Videos, by Barry Hampe.

I think that besides the technical aspects of conducting good interviews, structuring and editing documentaries, etc, the most important thing to think about would be the ethics of making documentaries. Gaining and honoring the trust of your "subjects" (to use a rather impersonal word), while at the same time honoring the truth of what you've observed, can be really tough, but it's also something that any serious documentary filmmaker has to confront. One thing to keep in mind, which I'm sure most are aware of but still bears repeating, is that there is no such thing as a completely objective perspective in documentary making. Everyone has a perspective and a point of view, and everyone is coming from somewhere. This is not necessarily a bad thing; the key is being aware of your point of view and your presuppositions, your worldview and the framework through which you engage things around you, finding your unspoken assumptions, and be aware of how they might color your work. Being honest with yourself about these is huge, and will help you better see exactly how you are relating to your subjects, and the truth of the situations you find yourself in. There are as many schools of thought on these issues as there are people writing about them, but regardless of where you might fall in that spectrum of ideas, always strive to get as close to the truth as you can get, however close that might be. I know it's kind of a no-brainer idea, but at least for myself, I find it never hurts to have the reminder. So for me, the war is much more personal, and I would need to be aware of that while making such a film, but if I'm honest with people about it, it could also be instructive and interesting to see the war through the eyes of someone for whom it is more personal. The same could be said for someone who has had a much more detached view of the Iraq war, or any other war, for that matter. (Africa is full of people who have been affected by wars, and there's a lot that those of us in the west could stand to learn about them, so that we can help alleviate their suffering. Maybe kick around the idea of combat journalism in some of the other areas around the world that are experiencing conflict, such as Darfur.)

It's funny that this came up, though; just yesterday I was kicking around ideas for what sort of camera one might want to take on a project like this. DVX, HVX, Aaton A-minima? I was browsing around the Abel Cinetech website checking out their 16mm cameras, and there was something about a guy who was going to be embedded with some Marine Force Recon units, shooting with an HVX. Needless to say, I was jealous. Seriously, keep me posted on anything either of you guys might do in this area; it'd be great to compare notes and be of whatever help I can.

PS- Sorry for the long ramble :)
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#5 Nick Mulder

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 04:57 AM

off the cuff here

What I was personally thinking of doing was approaching it sideways, perhaps through an aid organization, Unicef etc... - and travel working with them, but with camera and sooner or later end up in the mix of some war related situation. Not looking for it particularly, just understanding that there is so much of it about causing poverty. I was thinking that this way, I wouldn't be throwing myself into a mad situation I had no experience of. Well, I still probably would be doing just that, but at least there wouldn't be bullets flying past me around each corner from word go... To really get to the guts of a story I imagine that takes a fair amount of time and trust building with whatever community you are integrated within, language differences being an obvious barrier.

I think 16mm would be the way to go but considering the real possibilities of theft and damage that a cheaper system than an Aaton maybe the go as a B cam (or A cam depending on the social climate) - Something that wouldn't make you think twice about doing certain things or traveling to places you didn't know about and if you'll excuse my usual wind-up regarding a certain brand I'll just go ahead an mention the trusty ol' Bolex (or similar cheap cam).

It would be excellent if some sort of mobile film lab could be set up - I know I'm getting ok'ish results with my B&W stock in a Lomo tank but wonder if there was a way a color system could be achieved in a similar fashion... At least get the stock into some sort of developed stage so they could be posted home without fear of X-ray.

Like anything, it depends on how much $$$ you throw at it - I personally would be happy with a wind-up turret Bolex with 4 primes (10mm, 26mm, 75mm and the 150mm in my pocket), a lomo tank, some powdered chems and my supply of 15 year old 7276 Plus-X spooled onto a zillion daylight loads.

That being said, I have no idea what I'd be getting myself into and maybe I'm a fool (bring on the criticism!) - so I'm not sure what exactly is going to come of this but its nice to hear from at least one other with similar ideas.
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#6 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 05:22 AM

You could check with the Rory Peck Trust.

http://www.rorypecktrust.org/

They offer safety training for people wanting to work in war zones and lobby on behalf of people who cover wars.

My first sound recordist, together with his brother filmed the evacuation of the American Embassy at the end of the Vietnam war, where they flew helicopters from the roof top and then then dumped them over the side of the aircraft carrier.

News film rushes would be couriered out to the lab. Sometimes the biggest risk was giving them to a competing news organization to be delivered - the rushes mightn't arrive at the far end of the flight.
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#7 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 05:43 AM

Hi,

I can only second the recommendation to seek out a hazardous environments course - they tend to be a compressed version of what noncombatant military people get, and include all kinds of surprising factoids, such as "See this rifle? It goes straight through that wall, so don't bother hiding there."

Very alarming.

Phil
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#8 Jason Reimer

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 01:41 PM

Hi,

I can only second the recommendation to seek out a hazardous environments course - they tend to be a compressed version of what noncombatant military people get, and include all kinds of surprising factoids, such as "See this rifle? It goes straight through that wall, so don't bother hiding there."

Very alarming.

Phil


Yeah, I would agree, Phil. Through the connections I have, it would probably be feasible to tag along with some units here stateside for a while and get some time with them and some sort of crash-course in combat safety. Another thing I think would be a good idea to do is try to take some sort of combat lifesaver course, because you never know when you might need some sort of medic skills to save yourself or someone around you.

I like your "sideways" idea, though, Nick. Yet another angle to look at all of this from. The idea of a mobile lab in the field is intriguing too. I'll have to investigate...
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#9 Jason Reimer

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 06:14 PM

I forgot to mention a few recent films you guys might want to check out. There was an HBO documentary called Baghdad ER that was pretty well done, 60i video look aside; also check out Gunner Palace. Iraq in Fragments has been doing the festival circuit and I think is up for an Academy award for best documentary, so we'll have to wait either for a wider release or the DVD. I'm not totally sure, but I believe I heard that Gunner Palace was filmed on an XL-2, with a crew of two. Iraq in Fragments was filmed solo with the DVX-100; he did his own sound and it was all handheld, no braces of any kind. I'm told that the photography is supposed to be amazing, as is the sound. Apparently he took a lot of care to get lots and lots of different sources of sound while he was in the field, so that he was able to layer it nicely during editing. The good thing about using cameras like that is that it is possible to get good or at least decent sound and have a streamlined crew and equipment package.

I would think there would have to be a way to still go the S16 route and have good sync sound. You'd probably want to get a small digital recorder with a some sort of an EQ on it, and then figure out a way to mount the mic on the camera when you're moving around, that you can quickly dismount when you want to get it closer for interviews. I'm not really super familiar with either sound equipment or 16mm cameras, so I'll defer to whoever is.

Like you guys mentioned, though, on a project like this you'd want to get some pretty good backing financially (for cameras, film stock, lenses, body armor, training, etc), as well as some help editing it. For Iraq in Fragments, James Longley shot over 300 hours worth of footage, but he had 2 other people editing it with him.

Anyway, keep the ideas rolling, guys.

PS- Brian, thanks for the link to the Rory Peck trust. I never would have known that such a great thing exists.
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#10 K Borowski

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 06:19 PM

PS- Sorry for the long ramble :)


Don't apologize. I appreciate your well-thought-out response as opposed to the typical curt, sarcastic responses exemplified herein.

I think that besides the technical aspects of conducting good interviews, structuring and editing documentaries, etc, the most important thing to think about would be the ethics of making documentaries. Gaining and honoring the trust of your "subjects" (to use a rather impersonal word), while at the same time honoring the truth of what you've observed, can be really tough, but it's also something that any serious documentary filmmaker has to confront. One thing to keep in mind, which I'm sure most are aware of but still bears repeating, is that there is no such thing as a completely objective perspective in documentary making. Everyone has a perspective and a point of view, and everyone is coming from somewhere. This is not necessarily a bad thing; the key is being aware of your point of view and your presuppositions, your worldview and the framework through which you engage things around you, finding your unspoken assumptions, and be aware of how they might color your work. Being honest with yourself about these is huge, and will help you better see exactly how you are relating to your subjects, and the truth of the situations you find yourself in. There are as many schools of thought on these issues as there are people writing about them, but regardless of where you might fall in that spectrum of ideas, always strive to get as close to the truth as you can get, however close that might be. I know it's kind of a no-brainer idea, but at least for myself, I find it never hurts to have the reminder. So for me, the war is much more personal, and I would need to be aware of that while making such a film, but if I'm honest with people about it, it could also be instructive and interesting to see the war through the eyes of someone for whom it is more personal. The same could be said for someone who has had a much more detached view of the Iraq war, or any other war, for that matter. (Africa is full of people who have been affected by wars, and there's a lot that those of us in the west could stand to learn about them, so that we can help alleviate their suffering. Maybe kick around the idea of combat journalism in some of the other areas around the world that are experiencing conflict, such as Darfur.)


Good points all. While I agree there is no such thing as total objectivity, documentaries like "Fahrenheit 911!" would be good examples of the opposite of objectivity. I find putting one's own spin on the way things are by taking hundreds of hours of tape and taking 90 minutes worth of snippets taken out of context to be unethical. Not that I could ever do this, but I'd love to show the war in Iraq from the viewpoint of terrorists just as well as the U.S. While terrorists certainly are misguided people, I doubt that the kind of zeal and violence these people are capable of exerting would be possible if they didn't really truly believe what they were fighting for. I want to be objective to the point that I can work without having to satisfy certain agenda. I am not going to go in with a title picked out and snippets of what I want already laid out in my mind. That is messing with the truth, or at least the highest possible degree of truth possible in film. I'd love to document the plight of those African peoples subjected to civil war, but I think a project going from the beginning to the present day of United States armed conflict is already very broad. I think this is a film that can educate and opinionate a viewing audience that is now in excess of 300 million people, so that's a "good start", wouldn't you agree ;-) If I ever get anywhere with this concept, I'd certainly want to continue with other conflicts. I just am appalled by what TV news crews do (and moreso by what they do not) show. It is sterilized footage of the least poignant parts of what is happening over there. Why can't they show what the newspapers are telling about? And why can't they do it objectively, not just by disseminating military press releases? I want this to be about cinema verite, and talking with real people in Iraq, who can show what the reality of the situation is from their viewpoints. In other words, I'm striving for objectivity through interview variety, if that makes sense. I believe that by showing enough varied viewpoints, it enables the average viewer to make an informed decision based on his own interpretation of what he has seen. Why doesn't American media do this anymore? It's like all they ask are questions like the classic: "So how did loosing the big game in front of millions of home fans feel tonight?" I want to attempt to answer questions that don't have easy answers, or any right answers at all, as tends to be the case with things like war.

It's funny that this came up, though; just yesterday I was kicking around ideas for what sort of camera one might want to take on a project like this. DVX, HVX, Aaton A-minima? I was browsing around the Abel Cinetech website checking out their 16mm cameras, and there was something about a guy who was going to be embedded with some Marine Force Recon units, shooting with an HVX. Needless to say, I was jealous. Seriously, keep me posted on anything either of you guys might do in this area; it'd be great to compare notes and be of whatever help I can.


Well, I am a diehard film user, but I don't want to lug aroud antiquated, malfunction-prone equipment, or equipment that will endanger people to a greater degree than were the project to just use video. However, if I can get enough money to shoot with 16mm, and get equipment that offers flexibility that is near enough to that video affords, I wouldn't think twice to shoot it on film. I dont' think I'd be willing to wish my life lugging around a VHS-C camcorder. I want to have a final product that is as close to reality as possible, not fuzzy pixelated 24p tape. I think probably the hardest part of this would be synchronous sound. I don't want to shoot a lot of it (or any if it's possible to devise an effective synch solution) with MOS cameras.

I guess the hardest part though is finding the right people, crew, interpreters, guides, subjects. I'm admittedly not a big "people person", so I need to find someone really good at reading people and networking. I don't want another repeat of the disaster of a project I joined for the Hurricane Katrina disaster last year.

Regards,

~Karl
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#11 Jason Reimer

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 06:37 PM

Don't apologize. I appreciate your well-thought-out response as opposed to the typical curt, sarcastic responses exemplified herein.
Good points all. While I agree there is no such thing as total objectivity, documentaries like "Fahrenheit 911!" would be good examples of the opposite of objectivity. I find putting one's own spin on the way things are by taking hundreds of hours of tape and taking 90 minutes worth of snippets taken out of context to be unethical. Not that I could ever do this, but I'd love to show the war in Iraq from the viewpoint of terrorists just as well as the U.S. While terrorists certainly are misguided people, I doubt that the kind of zeal and violence these people are capable of exerting would be possible if they didn't really truly believe what they were fighting for. I want to be objective to the point that I can work without having to satisfy certain agenda. I am not going to go in with a title picked out and snippets of what I want already laid out in my mind. That is messing with the truth, or at least the highest possible degree of truth possible in film. I'd love to document the plight of those African peoples subjected to civil war, but I think a project going from the beginning to the present day of United States armed conflict is already very broad. I think this is a film that can educate and opinionate a viewing audience that is now in excess of 300 million people, so that's a "good start", wouldn't you agree ;-) If I ever get anywhere with this concept, I'd certainly want to continue with other conflicts. I just am appalled by what TV news crews do (and moreso by what they do not) show. It is sterilized footage of the least poignant parts of what is happening over there. Why can't they show what the newspapers are telling about? And why can't they do it objectively, not just by disseminating military press releases? I want this to be about cinema verite, and talking with real people in Iraq, who can show what the reality of the situation is from their viewpoints. In other words, I'm striving for objectivity through interview variety, if that makes sense. I believe that by showing enough varied viewpoints, it enables the average viewer to make an informed decision based on his own interpretation of what he has seen. Why doesn't American media do this anymore? It's like all they ask are questions like the classic: "So how did loosing the big game in front of millions of home fans feel tonight?" I want to attempt to answer questions that don't have easy answers, or any right answers at all, as tends to be the case with things like war.
Well, I am a diehard film user, but I don't want to lug aroud antiquated, malfunction-prone equipment, or equipment that will endanger people to a greater degree than were the project to just use video. However, if I can get enough money to shoot with 16mm, and get equipment that offers flexibility that is near enough to that video affords, I wouldn't think twice to shoot it on film. I dont' think I'd be willing to wish my life lugging around a VHS-C camcorder. I want to have a final product that is as close to reality as possible, not fuzzy pixelated 24p tape. I think probably the hardest part of this would be synchronous sound. I don't want to shoot a lot of it (or any if it's possible to devise an effective synch solution) with MOS cameras.

I guess the hardest part though is finding the right people, crew, interpreters, guides, subjects. I'm admittedly not a big "people person", so I need to find someone really good at reading people and networking. I don't want another repeat of the disaster of a project I joined for the Hurricane Katrina disaster last year.

Regards,

~Karl


Thanks, Karl. The civil discussions here somehow always end up being the ones I learn the most from. Funny how that works. I'd have to agree on the objectivity or lack thereof of some recent documentaries. To me one of the tests of how ethical you've been in your treatment of your subjects is, would you invite them to a screening, and be able to look them in the eye when it's finished?

But yeah, the networking part of it once you're in-country is pretty tough. Once again, it comes back to earning people's trust, whoever they may be. Learning the language wouldn't hurt either :) If I can fit it into my schedule, I'd really like to take some Arabic classes before doing something like this. In my experience, when you at least demonstrate a willingness to learn the other person's culture first, it goes such a long way towards gaining that trust. A long way.
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#12 Matthew Buick

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 07:37 PM

Karl Borowski, my advice if you want thew thrill of war is to go to one of those bullchases in Spain, I'm going in one with a Super 8 Camera in a few years time.

I don't think I've ever seen any genuine war footage beside crappy videos of crappy Iraq, it would be interesting to see some REAL footage, especially of WWII.
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#13 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 07:58 PM

I remember seeing this a few years ago, too: "The Perilous Fight: World War II in Color" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0915733/

It'd be cool to find footage of this high quality done for the current Iraq war.

Edited by Jonathan Bowerbank, 03 February 2007 - 07:59 PM.

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#14 Nick Mulder

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 08:20 PM

Karl Borowski, my advice if you want thew thrill of war is to go to one of those bullchases in Spain, I'm going in one with a Super 8 Camera in a few years time.

I don't think I've ever seen any genuine war footage beside crappy videos of crappy Iraq, it would be interesting to see some REAL footage, especially of WWII.

I don't think Karl is strictly after 'thew thrill of war' although I would admit there is a major element of adrenalin involved but to suggest that the running of the bulls (that you've yet to attend) is anything like war (which I'm guessing you haven't experienced either) - what is it exactly you are trying to communicate here ?

While I appreciate your enthusiasm, I'm just plain tired of your comments - and you appear to have started reveling in being criticized.

Matthew - for now can I simply suggest reading a bit more than typing ...
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#15 don lee

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 08:46 PM

interesting discussion but...
i have been to iraq twice recently for CBS, once during the invasion and again last july for a month. i wanted to bring my 16mm but there is NO WAY to transport film into the area, and more importanlty, out once its exposed.
-Kodak recomended bringing a changing bag to the airport, and TSA laughed at the idea of one their folks putting thier hand in a bag, this might work in the US, but no way overseas..
-The military doenst allow film cameras on thier operations, all still cameras have to be digi so they can delete the images on the spot, this would probally apply to 16mm as wel.
-Airport customs in Jordon took three hours and involved 5 diffewrent x-rays, if the film wasnt manually exposed it would have been flashed for sure.

I am sad to say I was right not to bring it, because it would have been really horrible to get some great stuff down on film and watch it being ruined in Customs. Also, given the danger invloved in filming the military ops, 16mm takes too much attention, you really need use somehting you dont have to think about, which is why I use either a Sony XD cam or a Pd 150.
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#16 K Borowski

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 09:16 PM

interesting discussion but...
i have been to iraq twice recently for CBS, once during the invasion and again last july for a month. i wanted to bring my 16mm but there is NO WAY to transport film into the area, and more importanlty, out once its exposed.
-Kodak recomended bringing a changing bag to the airport, and TSA laughed at the idea of one their folks putting thier hand in a bag, this might work in the US, but no way overseas..
-The military doenst allow film cameras on thier operations, all still cameras have to be digi so they can delete the images on the spot, this would probally apply to 16mm as wel.


Umm, I'm not going to let anyone, be it the military or anyone else, "delete" my shots. If those are their rules, then I'll film them without permission. It's not like I need waivers of military personnel and militants involved in a firefight. If they don't grant me personal access for shooting with film, so be it; that's the most ridiculous rule I've ever heard. I doubt National Geographic or all the other still photographers that still shoot film over there would follow it. I don't know the guy's name, but there was a guy shooting a video documentary of the troops in Iraq that took all the candid stills with a 35mm SLR.

If people don't take film inspection regulations seriously, then transporting film would probably be done through manually ferrying it across the boarder, or mailing it through a reliable route.

Keep in mind this is all still very very preliminary. The permission of the United States Armed forces is item #999 on a checklist of 1000 items ;-)
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#17 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 09:46 PM

I don't know what the situation for filming in Iraq is like...but you might be interested in and it might be beneficial to read up about Josh Wolf, a Bay Area journalist currently incarcerated for filming a protest and not releasing his raw footage to the courts.

http://en.wikipedia....lf_(journalist)
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#18 Daniel Madsen

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 11:03 PM

Karl, I?m sure your aesthetic choices (48fps, 7285, 16mm) will really impress the insurgents from Iran whose president the CIA assassinated and whose infrastructure was devastated by a war we indirectly funded. If it doesn?t, surely it will impress the Saudis whose holy center is home to enormous US military bases and our representatives, 18-24 year old frat boy soldier racists (you can watch US soldiers ramming Iraqi civilian vehicles if you would like?youtube.) I guess if you want to appeal to a domestic audience, I would have to recommend a saving private ryan look. What was the shutter angle again for the D Day scene. Gee? it must have been a good 11.25 deg. You know what?go with a 435ES. Dolly?

I have an idea of why you?re interested in war documentation. It?s grand, glorious and from the biographies I have read, done by a good portion of famous cinematographers . It?s a different time though.


As far as the objectivity of the media? two words?press pools. Journalists need to be accompanied by soldiers at all times.

As a journalist if you would like the opionion of a US soldier (seems reasonable), they?ll tell you by reading the answer off of a laminated card provided to them by their superior officer. You should know that before you waste all your film with those unbiased interview.

Be careful out there.
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#19 K Borowski

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 11:29 PM

I don't know what the situation for filming in Iraq is like...but you might be interested in and it might be beneficial to read up about Josh Wolf, a Bay Area journalist currently incarcerated for filming a protest and not releasing his raw footage to the courts.

http://en.wikipedia....lf_(journalist)


It's one thing refusing to surrender a copy of the footage you shoot, another to allow your footage to be edited in camera, or destroyed for being deemed inappropriate. I wouldn't necessarily have a problem with handing over a dupe of the footage I've shot for review by a military panel, as long as I have some power of negotiation with them and they don't mandate that no actual combat footage be shown.

Danielle, I've already stated in this thread that I don't want to glorify any party; I want to be objective as possible. I don't want to impress anyone either. I want to bring as close a slice of reality as possible back with me, hence 16mm and accelerated frame rates. Saving Private Ryan is, in part, artistic liscence and part simulation of the artifacts of 16mm cameras of the day when their shutters were knocked out of synch by exploding bombs. The colors are stylized as well. I'm going for genuine realism, not the stylized version. I'm not out to glorify war or liken current troops to those fighting in a World War. I'm well aware that things are different now with a volunteer military composed of 18-20somethings. I SHOULD know, as I'm near their age demographic myself.

Thanks for the post though. You raise some interesting points.
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#20 Jason Reimer

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 03:41 AM

I have seen some documentaries coming out of Iraq, with the occassional IED or insurgent attack, so it doesn't seem that they sensor combat just because it's combat. Most of the time they're going to want to make sure that no operational security is breached, so that the other side can't discover vulnerabilities, compromise sensitive identities, etc. So Karl, I wouldn't be discouraged about the possibilities of covering the war over there; you're definitely not going to have an all-access backstage pass with total freedom to do whatever you please with it, but you can get out there and record real events and present them to the world.

A lot of the way embedded journalists are handled over there (once they have their press credential and are actually in place with a unit) varies depending on how the commanding officer wants to deal with it, which again probably is going to depend on the sort of trust you might earn with them, and whether or not your presence with them is going to in some way be a liability. There's a blogger over there who's embedded with U.S. troops all on his own, that you might want to talk to, as far as understanding how things work and what you're allowed to photograph or not. His blog is at http://michaelyon-online.com/; check out some of his dispatches and email him. Also, I forgot to mention a couple of other docs you might want to see; Occupation: Dreamland (which I think has a tad bit of a slant to it, the use of loaded language in the title being one indicator, but on the whole pretty good), and an episode of PBS Frontline called In the Company of Soldiers I believe. Both of those depict soldiers speaking their minds, with a bit more diversity of opinion than one might think. Not too many racist fratboys that I can recall. But you can go the embed route and have some restrictions to deal with, while getting closer to the soldier's side of things than you otherwise would, and it's also feasible to go on your own and look at things more from the Iraqi people's side of things, in which case the only people's permission you need are the people you interview. The documentary Iraq in Fragments was made in this way, with three different stories told from Iraqi perspectives.

I know you don't want to go and film a war because you think it's all glory and heroes, as you have stated, but it is something to think really, really, really hard about. During some of my times getting to be the fly on the wall with American soldiers, here and in Saudi Arabia (by the way, we have very few guys left there) I've definitely had some close calls. But despite the risks involved, it's a legitimate enterprise you're proposing, and worthy of serious thought, whether it's philosophic or aesthetic thinking that you're doing.
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