The best parts about having a live project that sets out to understand the reasons why people eat what they eat in their homes is that after each experience you feel more informed about a particular culture than you did before as well as leaving with a filled stomach with freshly cooked home food.
You also get a sense of a personal connection with the people you meet. These people volunteering to be a part of the Taste of London experience are not celebrities or chefs, they are normal people living within London. Their stories are genuine, relatable and accompanied by a food dish so you are really able to connect with their story.
Arriving at Lydia’s house in the late afternoon to conduct the cooking experience did worry me as I had lighting issues in the first documentary (‘Two Friends Share a Meal’) where I lost natural lighting and did not want to have a repeat of the same situation. Fortunately for me her kitchen was very well lit with a large florescent light bulb that acted as a substitute once the natural light started to fade away. It was not as good as using natural light but it did illuminate the room enough for the film to capture the cooking experience clearly.
I did incur some lighting issues again when conducting her interview as like in Isabelle’s apartment, the light bulb was very dull. This issue was simply resolved by opening the kitchen door to allow the florescent light into the living room, which then gave enough lighting to conduct the interview.
Day Footage: Bright natural background light
Night Footage: Artificial yellow background light
Evening Footage: Florescent light as acting substitution for natural light
Although I did connect with Lydia’s story in her cooking experience, conducting this documentary experience compared to the first food documentary. I found very difficult, but as it was the second official documentary experience I considered it a learning curve, one which I would evaluate to improve the videos to come after.
The most difficult and sometimes most frustrating part of conducting and putting together this documentary experience is that you have to work within the given scenario that you are placed in and you have to be extremely understanding not to mention patient and being a student conducting a documentary for a project means you also have to work on your volunteers time schedule.
Unlike the previous documentary experience with Isabelle and Carole, conducting Lydia’s food experience was not as straight forward a procedure.
A mixture of nerves and laughter (unlike Isabelle and Carole who started off nervous but as time progressed found their confidence) came from Lydia who clearly found it difficult to relax and started concentrating too much on the story and cooking experience she was trying to share.
This proved a problem for me as in certain parts of the documentary. We had to do numerous takes to get through certain sections of her cooking experience.
Trying to conduct a documentary with someone of Lydia’s nature, where she is such an animated and humorous person is an experience that cannot be dull or boring as it is very full of life and at times I also found myself being drawn into a few jokes and giggles here and there and really getting into the documentary when she was not being filmed as opposed to seeing her very composed when the camera was filming. I would have preferred to see this bubbly personality whilst I was filming, although I am sure this was due to the nerves she was experiencing at the time.
The duration of the shoot should have been 2-3 hours of filming but ended up becoming almost 4-5 hours and although the documentary was supposed to be a fun experience, I found myself at times getting agitated that things were not going to plan, but my understanding kept me patient.
Towards the end of the filming she did admit that being in front of the camera and being put on the spot made her extremely nervous.
My frustration did not just end there. In between filming, the microphone would accidentally turn off or I would find myself being in a position where I shot great footage but the sound was not checked before shooting yet again. My tripod also broke on this shoot so by the time we had reached the interviewing session of the filming for the experience my mobility had been reduced to just one position to be permanently left on record till the end of the one to one interview.
Although from the reading it may seem like I was not pleased with the overall outcome of the cooking experience, I did enjoy learning about her dishes and listening to her story as well as being around her animated personality. If there was more time and I was fortunate enough to have a film crew, I would have been more tolerant to her nerves off being in front of the camera which made her shy but as time was not on my side to film all the documentary experience I could not afford to reschedule another day to redo the filming, therefore I had to get it right the first time.
This experience was another learning curve for me to make sure that as much as the documentary is meant to be a fun experience, it is also crucial that the documentary is properly conducted so that the story and the cooking experiences are told properly.