Thursday, 5 December 2013

A powerful voice: Kate Granger

This film shows a conversation between Dr. Kate Granger and Antonia Rolls (and me sometimes). Kate is a young doctor living with terminal cancer and the film was part of the A Graceful Death project. Kate had launched a number of campaigns to improve treatment of seriously ill patients and her books and campaigns have had a profound effect. She talks here about her approach to her condition, the need for a more open dialogue about end of life matters, and about about taking yourself too seriously.

I’m more than usually happy with this film. It feels like the most fully resolved one I’ve made to date. I’ve spent many hours editing a long interview into just under fourteen minutes that I felt had the essence of Kate and her message in it. I shared it with Kate before [publishing and I was absolutely delighted when she said that she felt I’d captured her essence. I know that there are very good arguments that no work of art can ever really be said to have captured someone’s personality, but to the extent that it could do I felt instinctively that this was getting there, and the fact that Kate felt so as well meant a great deal to me.

Please do watch and enjoy – Kate really is a remarkable person, full of very black humour, intelligence, love and laughter.

Analysis - thoughts on technical and other points for learning purposes
For a good deal of time in this interview Kate isn’t looking directly towards the camera, but off to camera right towards Antonia. I have only one camera, and have learned that it isn’t good to disturb the flow of conversation by constantly moving it, so needed to find one spot that would work well enough in terms of sounds and visuals and stay there. It wasn’t practical to be behind the interviewer, but if I’d had an additional camera I might have found some way to place it so you got slightly different angles from time to time. I was quite worried about this initially, but edited quite carefully to work round it. The opening and closing credits have a lot of eye contact. In addition I edited so that there is more eye contact as the film goes on and discussion gets more intimate, hoping for a subliminal sense of increasing contact and intimacy. Overall I think this has worked well.

In an ideal world I might also have had a few more cutaways just for slight variety – though keeping the focus on Kate is important for what is intended to be a close and intimate portrait so I wouldn’t have wanted to overdo this. However I will try to find ways to increase the variety of shots as I make more films. I like the fact that you only see her, and have no intention of doing those nodding dog shots where you see the interviewer looking as if they’re listening very intently: they always feel forced to me. 

In terms of editing I think I’ve made significant progress on sound – removing background noise, cutting in music tracks and separating sounds and video. Kate’s voice is quiet, and I’ve left it that way, just occasionally boosting particularly subdued patches so they would be audible. I’ve titled the film ‘A powerful voice’ and I like the fact that Kate does have a powerful voice in terms of influence, but is softly-spoken and not at all strident or aggressive.

I think my title sections are better than I’ve managed before but still perhaps a little amateur, and want to work more on this in the next few films. I also think there is more for me to do in terms of fine-tuning some of the transitions.

PS: I really don't like the way YouTube deliberately doesn't show the actual opening titles of videos in their icons. They always seem to catch an awkward expression. Must investigate Vimeo and other hosting options.


  1. Well there certainly are a few differences between the Flickr clip and the full video (even though former looks like a whole piece with a natural beginning and end around the aspiration to normalise the experience of death)

    This longer video is more conversational and it’s not until about the sixth minute that the third voice comes in and this changed my perception of the piece as a conversation to more one of an interview but then it does return to the more intimate conversation. Then at one point I thought there was going to be a third phase – the portrait – but the conversation continued.

    Powerful because of its sustained gaze and singular voice.

  2. This might be of interest to you Eileen: If only for a Second:

  3. Thank you Pete. I thought this was not so intense but that's probably because I'm comparing it to The Gift, which is half the length but feels longer, I think. I am so glad you found it interesting.

    The link is very thought-provoking. At first I thought it was g0ing to be a fairly straight re-run of Rankin's project but the mirror and expressions add something. The thing that gives me pause is the emphasis on the hair and make-up as a way to make people feel better, and also why all the reveals showed women when it is clear that men with cancer were also part of the project. On the one hand it is human nature to want to look good and I know that often attention to appearance is an early sign of recovery from mental illness, but on the other you have to wonder whether this work reinforces stereotypes rather than challenging in any way. I did like the whimsical nature of the makeovers and it was heartwarming to see how happy people looked. So I think it was a wonderful thing to do but have a few nagging worries about it. Thank you so much for sharing this and for taking time to comment here.

  4. A very professional film Eileen which is enhanced by its conversational nature. It's amazing how a quiet voice can be powerful - but then what Kate has to say is so interesting and her dark eyes drew me in to listen closely.Your editing works very well.
    Regarding "If only for a send" - it's an interesting concept yet I would have preferred it if the people were able to choose for themselves and keep their eyes open.