The last 14 days

by stronged

So the game plan didn’t really work out. Unfortunately it got to Wednesday and Adrian had not seen my conclusion and the project section was still very rough. I therefore applied for a week extension to buy me some time to polish off those last two sections, compile and format the exegesis so that it looks aesthetically pleasing.

This is how the last 14 days panned out:

I went out to the Bend of Islands on the Sunday to get the last consent form signed and pick up some shots of Tserin to include in the third documentary Becoming the Bend. Didn’t take too long. Steve had generously loaned his car to me so I could get out and back in a short period of time. So I ended up dropping the car back to him in Footscray before heading into the Honours lab for some more writing. Turned out to be an epic day, waking at 6:30 and getting back from the lab by 10:30-11pm.

A couple of weeks before submission Neal Haslem ran us (the Honours 2013 cohort) through the InDesign template Miek Dunbar has constructed for a short cut design solution in order to make our exegesis/thesis look like they have been designed to a professional standard. I found the design not to my liking, and already had an idea of what would work for my exegesis layout. I was inspired by Adrian Lawson’s exegesis from the 2012 Honours cohort, that was set out with two columns of text. I liked this idea as it related to my list-making (my research methodology) and how Korsakow operates by contrasting/comparing one category of things with another. I decided to use Dunbar’s design as a starting point by utilising his font and paragraph styles. I created a separate master spread sheet in order to reposition the columns into a new margin and set a new uniform design aesthetic for the entire document. There would be thumbnail images listed down one side of the main body of text, and a list of things that are loosely related to the Bend of Islands or the project down the other side. Thankfully I had the help of Biccy and a family friend to help me set a system up that would make the process flow efficiently.

After successfully obtaining an extension, I spent my time over the 24th and 25th of October reshuffling my project discussion around. The section required a thorough re-working so I printed the section off, cut it into paragraph long strips, and shuffled it around into some loosely coherent structure. I colour-coded it into the major themes I needed to cover in each documentary (Interface, natural soundscape, interview soundtrack, clip content, clip duration, and the keywords used) and structured it into a loose essay format with a general introduction to the entire project Placing the Bend before discussing each documentary individually. I soon discovered where the holes were lying and scanning the entire collection found what colour/themes was lacking and what was in abundance. Stepping away from the computer on occasion is tremendously helpful to gain perspective about the flow of the piece and what it consists of.

Evernote Snapshot 20131031 105002

As you can also see in the above image, “to-do lists” were incredibly important during the last few weeks of exegetical work. Without my lists I would have been lost. It is a good way to communicate to yourself what needs to be done as well as to maintain sanity. The less reoccurring information going around in your head about what you need to do the better. Allows more energy and space to troubleshoot what is needing to be done in the present.

One of the major things I have learned throughout this intense year of study is to allow time to clock off and relax. Without doing so you’ll surely burn yourself out. I work obsessively, for I always have this feeling of being inadequate among my peers and believing I can do better (perfectionism – it’s a killer). Being among other high-achievers in Honours this year has made this feature of my personality especially obvious and in need of address. Balance is the key. Spending time with family and friends, catching up on chores around the house, reading the newspaper, taking a walk or going for a jog, are all useful distractions from study. These activities do not interfere with your study unless they begin to eat up all of your time. Then you are clearly procrastinating. In moderation they are incredibly helpful. They allow your brain to change gears for a bit, relax so that ideas can flow more freely. So I found I needed time away from study the closer the deadline became. In order to be a truly productive and efficient human being one must have enough sleep, food and exercise.

Some points that needed addressing in my conclusion:

Evernote Snapshot 20131031 105003

Bibliography check (read through to ensure all references/citations would be listed in the Bibliography):

Evernote Snapshot 20131031 105004

I was holding off from giving Adrian my conclusion until I could print the whole formatted exegesis off as a draft. I thought it would have saved him some time but it turned out that this lapse in judgement rushed the night before printing and the print morning as I had only given him a copy the afternoon before. A big ask to achieve a full reading before 11am, when I hoped to have had it at the printers. There were some hurried text messages in the morning, me trying to work out whether I was right to take it to the printers by 11am, whilst Adrian expressing that he was not happy with its quality and therefore would not sign off on my submission. I had no choice but to wait.

When Adrian turned up I quickly added his changes to the exegesis before speeding off to the printers. My bibliography was wrong, the images not flush with the margin, the appendices needed to be cut, and one paragraph was ambiguous. Plus, the conclusion needed a full work over. I didn’t get a chance to change the ambiguous paragraph, but everything else I was able to rush through.

Once I’d handed my USB over to the printers I found myself heading back to the lab in a haze. I felt a flutter of relief, but was mainly quite flat. I think I had flatlined from all of the adrenaline that had coursed through my system leading up to the deadline. I felt a similar sensation when I finally submitted the three copies of the exegesis to Adrian last Friday. I felt empty. Numb. Like the journey is still not over. And it isn’t still – until I get the marks back I guess.

The following day, the 31st of October, I indulged in an hour sleep in before heading back into the lab to tackle my documentaries/K-films. With the new footage of Tserin and the confirmation in spelling Rodrigo’s surname in the credits (a JPEG super of the credits that pops up at the head of Assembling the Bend and Round the Bend, and throughout Becoming the Bend), some work needed to happen to mainly Becoming the Bend (the third iteration).

The monthly Korsakow Group meeting had occurred on the 28th of October, allowing me the opportunity to show each doco to the group to see whether I needed to make some corrections. Overall, the feedback was positive. Although, Adrian suggested changing the lives of the clips in Becoming the Bend so that the far shots of things would die out, leaving the near shots of the natural landscape to directly correspond with the near shots of the interviewees. This made sense, but unfortunately required an overhaul of the K-films design. I needed to change the far clips with the near human clips to act as the connector between all clips. I then needed to increase the lives of each near clip, weight the far clips to show up first, before petering out to exhibit just the near clips. During this development I noticed that some of the sequenced clips (the clips with variable durations, sometimes offering a montage of several vids in the one clip) were still synced with audio. So I needed to remove the individual audio from each of the sequenced clips as well. The entire process took much longer than I intended.

This change of connector made sense though. Having the near human clips as the central connector reflected the phenomenological research investigation I was conducting much more than the far clips. Becoming the Bend is much more about the human connection with place than Assembling the Bend or Round the Bend areThe interviewees are featured sonically as well as visually throughout the K-film, drawing upon the similarities and contrasts between each “part” of the Bend of Islands as a place.

Evernote Snapshot 20131031 105005

Thankfully the printers produced mine and fellow Honours compatriot Jess‘ exegeses by 12pm on Friday so we could have the afternoon free to touch up our K-films. It was interesting to see each others K-films in the Korsakow Group meet, as we have approached documentary filmmaking in such vastly different ways. Her K-film is a collection of auto-ethnographic works, detailing particular aspects of her life by visually recording it and narrating it in voice over in a series of 30secs-1min clips. The doco has a great tone to it, as it reflects Jess’ sense of humour and curiosity. Placing the Bend, on the other hand, is observational in a different way. It is much more “artistic” in the composition of each shot and the nonlinear structure of the interview soundtrack.

Anyway, there were some last minute dramas before submitting the exegeses to Adrian as the OS X 10.9 Mavericks operating system had unsandboxed Flash player, so Safari and Chrome would not play the exported Korsakow Index files. It would only play the audio without the video clips. It took Adrian some troubleshooting to find a solution for Safari by:

Going into the web browser settings/preferences>into the security tab>manage website settings>adobe flash player>local documents>run in unsafe mode>trust.

I had to whip up a last minute erratum to explain how to step through this process to watch the documentaries locally, or view them online with this link:

After submission I tidied up the remaining copies of my exegesis so that I can give them to key contributors to the project. Then Steve, Jess and I decided to debrief over a couple of lagers in the sunshine.

I have one final assessment to hand in before completely finishing Honours in Media and Communication at RMIT University. This is a reflective essay, answering some questions about the Honours experience and what I have gained from it. I almost feel like it is cruel and unusual punishment to have an assessment after submitting my exegesis. You would hope to have completely finished the program of study upon submitting your major research project. But alas, one assessment still hangs over your head. Sigh. Perhaps it will be a therapeutic exercise, a cathartic way to debrief on how intense this year of study has been.