Documentary, New Zealand, 2008. 4’17 mins.
Team: Charles Sheppa, Iris Verbeek
About the Film
Ronald Eliott, the focus of our movie’s interview, was discovered in an article feature conducted by the Otago Weekly Times written almost two years ago. The 200-word article did not really shed light on his lifestyle as much as it did plead to the community of a potentially dangerous man, living in a residential neighborhood and acquiring children’s toys. Intrigued by the somewhat incomplete description and the unusual behavior alluded to in the article, as well as an abruptly ended police investigation into the matter, we decided to look into it for a potential story.
Ronald agreed to the interview through our producer’s contact with his mother, upset by the article’s portrayal of her son as a demented and possibly violent sexual deviant. Despite her repeated insistence that her son wasn’t dangerous, the lack of credible information about Ronald’s history, as well as the legal constraints on the festival, required a security firm accompany the filming crew to the shoot. However, it was later determined that this was unnecessary and somewhat detrimental to the filming process. During the two shoots we were asked to leave the room on several occasions by Ronald, when moments of his self-led tour of this strange robotic companion, seemed to bubble over with arousal. Additional B-roll shots were also taken from re-creations of his home environment in a studio, as the filming crew felt they should only return for more shots if it was deemed absolutely necessary. Despite these minor hiccups, the filming and editing process went smoothly and the project was completed on time and on budget for the festival.
Behind the Scenes
Our Team Members:
A 21 year old student from the Netherlands currently enrolled at Otago University where she is studying a BA, majoring in Design and German.
Charles is a 22 year old student from USA currently enrolled at Otago as a Design major.
The concept for Half Becca came from the BBC documentary “Guys and Dolls” an hour-long special exploring the lives of three men and their relationships with their extremely life-like love dolls. We wanted to find a way to believably take this idea one step further and recreate the kind of scary and unnerving tone of the interviews in a short clip.
The Becca Mannequin
Becca is composed of a mannequin torso, a furby with it’s feet removed, other assorted pieces of electronic hardware which serve no purpose and a beer bong funnel with a rubber glove stuffed in it . We wanted to leave it up to the viewer’s imagination what all of the little wires and glowing lights might do. By revealing very little about the doll, other than that it had many “personal functions”, we hoped to make the viewer wonder, but not really want to know, just what this talking torso might also do.
We storyboarded our project to give ourselves a sense of the kinds of shots that we wanted going into filming. A loose set of shots allowed for improvised dialog and flexibility to get extra shots. Additionally we found it gave us a sense of the film’s pacing which we felt was very important for the unveiling of the doll.
We filmed on two shoots. Charles between the two filming times used two different personalities for the main character. The second character, the depressed and creepy character presented in the film, we decided, was more believable than the other: an excited but creepy character we did not use. We worked through close to two hours of footage repeating the fake interview questions to get the dialog down to where it was working.
We considered the lighting to be very important for the interview to come across as not only a believable documentary, which would be professionally lit, but to give the creepy look to the room and character. To mix these two we used two small yellow bulb lamps as direct lighting across Charles’ face that gave long shadows and a yellowish tint to the skin tone, while still making sure everything was visible. We also tried to have as much plaid in the scene as possible, because we though this would be funny and visually interesting.
We used an external microphone for the audio in the interview. Because the filming location was right next to a road this allowed us to have slightly more control over what got picked up. Also since we weren’t moving our filming location we could take the time to properly adjust the microphone so that the audio was the same no matter where we put the camera. We were sure to get cars recorded in the introductory clip of the setting and house so that people understood where the background car audio was coming from.
The editing process went very smoothly. To help organize the heaps of footage from the interviews we separated the shots into clips and then rated them. We used a three number tag system that rated them on a one to five scale of the quality of the shot, the believability and how funny or relevant the material was. This helped us narrow down the interview and get rid of as much footage as possible while still effectively telling the story.
This movie was fun to make all around, although slightly disturbing at parts. Overall we were satisfied with the film and think it will fit in great with the rest of the festival.
Furby Nude image courtesy of Flickr user Violent Visions of Setting Sail