Valuable lessons learnt from Oulu, Finland.

Just returned from the Film Arc Master Class and the Nordisk Panorama Shorts and Documentary festival. Was lucky enough to be invited up by one of the four partners, Anne Laurila to feed into the workshops. Whilst there, I gained a better understanding of my own working methods and saw two documentaries which you simply can't afford to miss. The learning goes like this….

Unlike features or series, where you control the beginning, middle and end in order to create the character journey of your choosing, I was reminded of just how different documentaries are when it comes to mapping out their structure. The weekend saw me running Handling Ideas through eighteen very diverse projects covering features, documentaries and computer games. Linear fictional narratives are complicated in their own right, however controlling the outcome of the story doesn't feel at odds with the 'right' of the audience to decide how to feel, for themselves. If anything, the writer and director bend over backwards to control and manipulate the thoughts and emotions of the audience in order to lead them to a particular point. Clearly I'm not suggesting that there will always be one guaranteed outcome from watching a feature, but aiming towards the expression of a subjective viewpoint can rule supreme.

When I ran my session with the documentary makers, I tried mapping the transformation of the audience, as if one was planning a propaganda campaign where clarity of outcome trumped all needs. Having had 48 hours to mull the session over, I approached one of the documentary directors at last nights reception, to explain my shortcomings and suggest a change to my approach. Mapping should focus on the gateways that the director wants to corral the audience through. Rather than defining outcomes, one should define situations where particular influences will be present. Anticipating rather than defining outcomes would then allow oneself to create an order for these gateways, something that most likely will happen throughout filming and post.

Perhaps this is obvious and I'm simply playing catch-up. However, by running sessions where you jump between formats and genres, it's useful to reflect on how to adapt to the different needs and get it off my chest.

And here are the films you must see. As their FB page puts it "The Punk Syndrome is a film about the Finnish punk-rock band Pertti Kurikan nimipäivät (Pertti Kurikka’s Name Day), formed by four mentally disabled guys. It follows the band’s journey from their rehearsal room to festival stages and into the limelights. The film shows the love and hate between them. The arguments. The crying. The laughter. It shows what punk used to be about: misfits screaming their lungs out about real problems. Is this the last punk band in the World? And they are here to make a fuss." For me it truly showed what it is to be human. From their song lyrics to the rational for not attending a pedicurist, they were deplete of excuses, relying more on honesty, a virtue which too often evades those of us that consider ourselves 'normal'.

Harbour of Hope tells a different story, tracing survivors of the holocaust as they find a new life just across the water from me, in Malmö. It would be churlish to attempt to sum it up here. Watch the trailer and if you can, find the film, find both films. 

Oh and my final lesson in Oulu, always take your towel to the bar. You never know whether there might be a sauna.
Paul Tyler