One Week To Go – Thu April 16, 2015

With one week to go to completion, things are coming together.  The film is done!  But it is still with the Carleton Media Centre. I just have to go and pick it up.  I have bought a hard drive, and a large and a small USB Flashdrive to put the film onto for submission to my supervisors, Drs. Miller and Walsh, as well as Dr. David Dean who will be the third reviewer.

I have made quite good progress on the accompanying Reflection paper as well.  So all is on target to complete everything (including a 3-part paper for another historiography course) by next Thursday.  I’m making better progress now that John (husband) has gone off on his big post-retirement trip to reconnect with all the old buddies scattered around Ontario.  With a quiet house I have time to focus (although it’s very tempting to get out into the sun after the really appalling winter we had.)

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Light at the End of the Tunnel – Thu April 2, 2015

I think the light is at the end of the tunnel – at least for the film.  I was in the edit suites for the whole day yesterday putting some final touches on the film and making a 3-minute trailer.  I realized once I got home that I need to make another edit to the credits, but I was going to have to go in again anyway.  The media guys apparently do a sound levelling assessment, so I will need to go in to listen to that.

I also need to buy myself some portable storage media.  The complete high resolution film requires 30 Gb of storage, and even the compressed “Youtube” version is 4.6 Gb.  As well, if I want to keep the entire project as an editable library, I need a 500 Gb hard drive.  So I have some purchases to make.

Meanwhile, I’ve made a bit more progress on the Reflective Essay and have been writing about James C. Scott’s “hidden transcripts” from the book loaned to me by Dr. Walsh entitled Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts.  I’m planning this weekend to spend some time looking at the book that Dr. Miller suggested, Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History.  My challenge over the next week is going to be getting time to myself to work: John (my partner) retired as of yesterday and his presence around the house is a distraction.  I guess it’s just a lucky thing that he didn’t retire last September.

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Final Work on Film, Plus Reflection – Thu March 26, 2015

This week has been largely devoted to my film but I also spent a bit of time on my Reflective Essay.  I find I have many ideas, and they change from week to week.  But my general thinking is that I want to talk first about the research side of the project – the history, and then to theorize the film-making side of the project.

The film is relatively complete, but I am going to take some time away from it now.  I think I need to have some distance from it, so that I can approach it with new (-ish) eyes.  I will go in again next week to finalize it.  I also want to create a trailer, since that seems to be what the Montreal International Film Festival wants.  Ultimately, I am going to be about 2 weeks ahead of schedule on the film part of the project (relative to my work plan) but I needed to do that since the edit suites close for use on April 10. And this will allow me time to work on my Reflective Essay (and another Take-home Exam.)

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A film in the Borderlands – Thu March 19, 2015

In my historiography class we’ve been talking about the Borderlands approach, and I realize that my whole project operates within that zone and that approach.  It can be seen geographically, in the 19th century migration of African Americans back and forth across the US – Canada border, and the evolution of each nation’s laws respecting extradition and protection, and of separation, control and repression.  But my project also seems to reflect a “virtual borderland” within Canada West.  It is a borderland that lies between the races, as well as within the Black community in Canada West: a borderland between freeborn and newly-free.  Mary Ann Shadd might also have seen a virtual borderland (although she wouldn’t have called it that) between the segregationists and the non-segregationists (such as herself), as well as between men and women; all of these, including race, being human-constructed borderlands.

Today I spent the day in the edit suites – as I have much of this week – and the film is coming along well.  I need to find some more sounds of demolition while I’m at home.  The demolition video that I bought and downloaded is ‘silent film’ so I have to supply all the corresponding sounds and fit them into the timeline so that they match the visual action.  Right now, I’m re-using the same crash sounds too often, and you notice – well I notice – the repetition.  I also want to re-record the poems.  And there are a slew of other problems that need attention.  My plan is to have the film complete – or at least close to complete – by the end of next week so that I can devote time to my paper, as well as my other coursework.

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There’s a film – Thu March 12, 2015

I should never write a blog post after 11pm on a night of drinking, but tonight was also a night of thinking and discussing.  So not so far from what academic study is about, right?

Tonight I had my book club here and we talked about Wayne Johnston’s the Custodian of Paradise.  A tragic, sorrowful, sort-of-romantic story of 20th century Newfoundland.  But halfway through the story, the protagonist feeds her lover, Joey Smallwood, pan-fried trout and potatoes, out on the Bonavista train-line, in her isolated cabin in the dead of winter. (It’s actually not so romantic at that point, as bitter and unfortunate, as is so often the case in life.)  Anyway, tonight, I made the same for dinner, and one of the guys helped me cook, so it turned out okay.

But this is what my film feels like.  Making history into something tangible. Something so real you can taste it.

The film is in that stage.  The stage of feeling it.  Hearing the words.  Listening to the music.  Are the sounds right for the message?  At this point it’s a creative thing and I want to listen more than anything.  Will the audience hear the meaning that I’m sending?  And will they also feel something?  Will it make them think?  It’s like painting on a ‘film’ canvas.  I’m at the point – in public history – of trying to anticipate the feelings of my audience.  And trying to steer that feeling to my understanding of nineteenth-century Canada West.  Trying to make them believe what I believe.

As fluid as this sounds, this is the departure point, where the historical narrative turns into a personal experience.  It’s actually like that…the audience feeling like they are living the historical moment.  A sort of transformative event, when the observer lives the historical moment.

Ummmm…okay.  So that’s it for tonight.  It’s now closer to 1am. More straight-forward stuff in future.  I promise.

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Ready to Record – Thu March 5, 2015

This past week I put the final touches on the Shooting Script, with input from my MA supervisors, Dr. John Walsh and Dr. James Miller.  I also finished lining up the voice actors and narrator, and scheduling or confirming their recording times.

I’ve got a copy of the script printed, and it is set up so that no one will have to turn a page during the recording.  And I’ve high-lighted the passages for each part in different colours so that nothing gets forgotten and all the parts are easy to find.  I think I might be over-thinking this a bit, but I don’t want to miss any part of the recording.  There are lots of people involved in this and I don’t want to make any mistakes because I’m nervous or distracted.  I only get one shot at each recording session.

I’ve devoted a lot of my time this week, though, to getting started on the Reflective Essay.  I’ve been pulling together my thoughts and trying to organize them in a cohesive manner.  As well, I’ve been tracking down sources and doing a bit more reading.  I think that I want to divide my discussion into two parts: first, some of the more challenging aspects of the historical research, and second, a reflection on the making of the film.  I plan to address both of these discussions from my own point of view, but also in the context of the secondary theoretical literature.

This coming weekend I need to get my Consent Forms organized for my narrator and each of my voice actors.  And on Monday, I have my first day in the edit suites and my first recording session.  I’ve made arrangements with Hasi Eldib, in the Media Production Centre, to help me do a test run on the recording equipment, so that I will know what I’m doing when my narrator arrives.  I don’t want to waste his time, since he’s a busy guy and he’s doing this as a favour.

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My Mary Ann Shadd Emerges – Thu February 26, 2015

Yesterday I received the chalk drawing of Mary Ann Shadd.  It’s kind of remarkable, to see this sort of image for the first time.  This person who I’ve been studying and whose letters I’ve been reading suddenly has a face.  Now – it’s true that it’s an artist’s rendition of the face, but it’s based on an earlier photograph as well as pictures of her father and sister.  So it’s kind of a facial reconstruction.  And it DOES feel like a person emerging out of the haze of history.

But it makes me think about the importance of visual imagery.  On the one hand it provides new information – or a new interpretation.  But at the same time, it closes off an avenue of the imagination.  And it also limits the diversity of options that we, as historians, might consider about a person’s appearance.  It could inadvertently close off lines of enquiry.

In the case of Mary Ann Shadd, I think having the picture has more advantages than disadvantages, since it’s based on existing knowledge of what she looked like.  But in my previous film – about Marie Joseph Angélique – there were no images of her in existence.  All we know is that she was Black, female and around 30 years old in the year of the film.  We don’t even know where she was from, or what her ancestry was.  So by manufacturing an image of her, I automatically slant assumptions about her heritage, by giving her a certain complexion and a certain look.

But filmmaking, unlike book authoring, seems to require that the filmmaker create a visual interpretation.  And this interpretation extends beyond faces to every other aspect of the film.

Anyway…this week I finished the final draft of the Shooting Script for review by Drs. Miller and Walsh.  I also inched forward a little on the voice actors.  I now have all my voice actors identified, and have a date (if not a time) scheduled to meet my narrator to record his part.  I’ve also booked my first day in the editing suite, so will start loading everything up on that day – Monday March 9.

I also did one final research task to confirm the view of at least some of academia about the burial of Black history in Canada.  I got hold of Dr. Afua Cooper’s book The Hanging of Angelique, wherein on page 7, she says “Canadian history, insofar as its Black history is concerned, is a drama punctuated with disappearing acts.  The erasure of Black people and their history in the examples of the Priceville Cemetery and Africville is consistent with the general behaviour of the official chroniclers of the country’s past.  Black history is treated as a marginal subject.  In truth, it has been bulldozed and ploughed over, slavery in particular.”  So with this and my own research, I feel justified in echoing this sentiment in the film, especially the burial of Black history before the 1970s.

This coming week I will be confirming the schedule of voice recordings, and organizing copies of my consent forms for these actors to sign.  I also plan to get started working on my Reflexive Essay.  I don’t know how much progress I’ll make, but just getting it started will help me to start running through it in my mind.

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