Monthly Archives: December 2014

Archivists, Interviews, the Treatment and the Holidays – Thu December 18, 2014

I did better this week on completing the things I intended.  First of all – and in a way that gives me some comfort, given that I have an old laptop – I made a back-up of all my stuff, including still images, b-roll footage, bought footage, and my own written work and research.

I also made some good progress on the Treatment.  However, I’m reaching the point where I am missing having the interviews with the Archivists and with Adrienne Shadd in Toronto.  I’ve been able to use content from the interviews that I did last October in Chatham and Buxton for some of the early portions of the film.  And I hope to be able to continue to make progress with the Treatment using more of that material for the end of the film.  But the whole middle section of the film relies on academic interview material that I don’t yet have.

To that end, I spent some time this week on the phone with one of the archivists in Toronto, discussing the kinds of information I want to know about.  So that process is moving forward, and we are starting to look for dates in late January for me to go to Toronto.  I have also sent an email to reconnect with Adrienne Shadd in Toronto, to try to coordinate to interview her during the same trip.

I have sent my Concept Proposal to Adrienne for her  background information about the film, and also to see if she thinks I am going astray in an inappropriate way in discussing Black history.  Per the suggestion of my supervisors, I have also sent this proposal to the four descendents of Mary Ann Shadd that I interviewed in Chatham and Buxton to solicit their feedback about portrayal of Black history.

Since the next round of interviews won’t happen until around the time the Treatment is due, I will plan to discuss my approach in the Treatment, including visual imagery, and use that to fine-tune my interview questions.  Then I will have the results of the interviews for the next component: the Script.

As I reflect on this project compared to the previous film project I worked on during my undergraduate program, I find that I want to be more rigorous about documenting my sources.  In the undergraduate project this was not required, beyond listing the books used in a bibliography.  But I think that, for the purposes of this project I want to footnote my material, and the Treatment document is the best place to do this.

Too often, films are criticized for being inaccurate.  And while I subscribe to a certain amount of creativity and artistic license, the underlying factual content should be defensible.  Clifton Johnson, one of the lead historical consultants for Steven Spielberg’s film Amistad conceded that the film reached a larger audience in a few months than he had reached during the forty years of his academic career. But he bemoaned the fact that he feared he would “spend the rest of [his] life correcting the errors” of the film.[i]

This will be my last blog until Thursday January 8.  I hope to do a bit more work on the Treatment, but by and large, I will be taking a break so that I will be ready to head back into school work in January.  Happy (and safe) holidays to all.

[i] Iyunolu Folayan Osagie, The Amistad Revolt: Memory, Slavery, and the Politics of Identity in the United States and Sierra Leone, (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2000), 122.


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Bad Planning, but Still Progress – Thu December 11, 2014

When I look back at what I said, last week, that I’d do this week, it seems to me I should actually pay at least a little bit of attention to my original plans.  I said I’d work on the Treatment and look for a map.  And I actually DID make progress on the Treatment, but I never looked for a map.

Instead I did a bunch of other things.  I had a conversation with one of the archivists from Ontario Archives, and she told me that the archivists don’t have subject-matter portfolios but rather – I think – technical specialties.  Anyway, she asked me to send her some questions that I would like to ask in an on-camera interview, and I did that.  In fact, I sent her quite a few, with various options so that hopefully she can find an archivist (or two) who can do an interview with me.

I also bought my 1960s home video clips of a house being demolished by a bulldozer.  There are three clips and they ended up costing $157.  I had thought they’d be $135 but that price turned out to be in USD, and with our current Canadian Peso, the price goes up.

I also had some delays with the downloading of the clips.  After making the purchase online, I was offered the option to have my downloads in one of three formats: ProRes, H264, and PhotoJPEG.  This meaning nothing to me, I turned to our oh-so knowledgeable Media Production Centre, and Hasi Eldib was able to point me in the right direction.  So I now have 3 massive Prores film clips of a house being knocked down.

I am also quite keen to add a distinctive and poignant quotation to this film, and have been looking at some work by Black authors, but haven’t settled on anything yet.

On a more reflective note, I’ve been looking at  Shelley Ruth Butler’s book Contested Representations: Revisiting Into the Heart of Africa, and am reminded of the perils and potential pitfalls of being a white person putting Black history into the public domain.  One of the reasons that this ROM exhibit drew such criticism is that the curator, Jeanne Cannizzo, didn’t involve the Black community in the creation of the exhibit.  For my film I already have input from, and three on-camera interviews with four members of the Black community.  And I still hope to have an interview with one of Mary Ann Shadd’s great- great- nieces, Adrienne Shadd.  The quotation I plan to include will also, I hope, be by a Black writer.  As well, I have a couple of leads on people who might be my narrator and both are members of the Black community.  But I wonder if this is enough.  I wonder if I should ask, perhaps Dr. Diptee to have a look at my Concept Proposal, or maybe someone from African Studies.

Now that I have all this material on my hard drive, I am thinking that a good task for this coming week will be to make a backup.  Imagine if I lost all this?  And I’ve stuck a sticky-note reminder on my laptop to do this, since checking my blog to see what I’d planned to do, doesn’t seem to be working well.  That said, I will (try to remember to) this week continue my work on the Treatment.  And, hey, maybe I’ll even go find a map.

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Hitting Bumps in the Road, but Still Moving Forward – Thu December 4, 2014

Henry Bibb - c1850 - Bentley Historical Library - Public DomainThis week I seem to have run into lots of obstacles.  I bought the vintage film footage of the house being demolished ($135) but am still waiting to get some help on which version of the video I should download.  As well, my pianist has been busy and hasn’t had time to check out the options I sent to her.  And I’ve heard from the Ontario Archives, but haven’t found out yet who is going to be my on-camera interviewee.  However, this is why I started all these things early.  Sometimes it just takes a while for everything to fall into place.

In the meantime, Bentley Historical Library at U of Michigan got back to me with a confirmation about the source of the image of Henry Bibb, the editor of The Voice of the Fugitive.

As well, I have obtained several more sound effects, including one of children talking and playing, one of birds chattering, and three of wooden building demolition.  I also got two that can be my publishing sounds:  one is the sound of writing on paper, and the other is the sound of pages being turned.

After much searching, I finally settled on an image of the banner of Shadd’s Provincial Freeman newspaper.  I had to choose between a full page of the newspaper that was quite fuzzy, or the banner alone, which is quite clear.

Provincial Freeman - banner - 1854 - University of Virginia

I also did a little more work on the Treatment, but didn’t make as much progress as I’d hoped.  Sadly, there don’t appear to be any photographs in existence of Shadd’s husband, Thomas F. Cary, nor are there any of her children, Sarah Elizabeth Cary and Linton Shadd Cary.

So this week I will hopefully make more progress on the Treatment, and will also have a look for a map of the northeast U.S. and central Canada that I can use.  I am thinking of creating a map animation showing Shadd’s movements around the area.

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