Friday, August 19, 2011

Is that Appropriate?

I have been considering the question, "What is appropriate?" allot lately. I have faced this question as my family has been the subject of a lifestyle documentary for ThinkTV and in relating to things that I post on social media.

The question arises in the television arena when I realize that the very same picture can create multiple impressions in the viewer's mind. The evening the camera crew spent several hours filming the front of my home at sunset comes to mind. The camera never moved, only adjustments were changed, and through the camera my home was light a cheerful in a setting sun or quite and dark. The light and breezy image more closely resembled reality that evening. The darker more of the Walton's feeling came through. Would it be appropriate to use the darker image if it fit the producer's story telling needs?

Another shot is of my wife and daughter sitting in the yard studying school work. It is not outside of possible that they might do this but never late in the evening on a pleasant summer day. Is it appropriate to stage a shot like that of something that might happen. It will make good TV I have little doubt.

There are other examples similar to these from our time spent filming. I am completely comfortable with the spontaneous footage, but the staged footage leaves me wondering where the line is between communicating the truth about our life and creating a fantasy that will entertain the audience?

In the social media world the question is, "Is this image something that the general public should see?" or "Is this statement drawing attention to things in agriculture that the general public doesn't need to be reminded of?"

The birth of a pig, to me, is an enormous part of my life but as an image it shows slime and blood. In the purest form it shows that some pigs are born dead (stillborn) or even mummified (partially decomposed).  Dealing with this is what I do. Is it appropriate to show that aspect of my life to the general public?

Is it appropriate to write about the death of animals on the farm? Do I want to remind people that animals sometimes die and have to be disposed of on a farm? Is it better not to point out this obvious fact to the unthinking and let them live in their ignorance? Ignorance is bliss you know.

With the TV questions I guess I sort of shrugged and let it go. I know so little of the editing process and the needs of that profession to do a good job that I probably am not in a position to judge well where the lines should be drawn. The crew is professional and I will defer to their judgement and experience. Perhaps, the end product will suggest I chose poorly.

With the social media questions I am starting to adopt the 4th grade rule. If it something that a 4th grader would learn if they spent a weekend with me then it probably should be shared. I admit somethings must be shared with tact and thought, but the consumer should have access to the information. If I would not be comfortable showing or explaining something to a visiting 4th grader maybe I shouldn't be posting the item at all.

What are your thoughts?

Thanks for thinking with me.

1 comment:

  1. I’ve followed with interest your recent blog posts. Your thoughts on the media, specifically our TV program reminds me of the unique position I’m in as I sift through approximately 12 hours of footage to build an engaging 30-minute program.

    Right now we are deep in the editing process. What makes it in the program and what doesn’t? Judgments are made every minute. A primary goal is to create a program that viewers will be interested in watching. But of course that has to be tempered by other considerations. One significant consideration is that we are producing this as a segment of the Our Ohio television series. This statewide PBS series has run for six years and over that time we have established certain parameters in regard to content.

    When we shot the segment of your daughter Kim feeding the sows one morning, she had to remove a couple dead piglets – runts I presumed. We chose not to film this as it was not something that we typically show in this particular series.

    Is this taking the easy way out? The truth is, we often choose to focus on the family and the way they live, interact and care for one another in order to make this thing called a family farm, work. Admittedly, this family focus is probably more palatable to a general television audience. Personally I believe this is a valuable and engaging perspective, but I agree that it is far from a comprehensive view of farm life.

    A famous pair of documentary film makers from Dayton has won international acclaim along with an Academy Award. They are purists and would likely recoil at the thought of including any re-enactments (staged scenes) in their programs. That purity comes with a cost however, as they completely immerse themselves in their projects, virtually moving in with their subjects in order to record every last thing as it happens. This spontaneity and realism has resulted in spectacular results. But instead of our 12 hours of recorded material, such an effort would require hundreds of hours of footage -- along with a degree of skill and patience I don’t possess.

    So time and economics mean that we use re-enactments as tools to help tell the story. Through these re-enactments we try to capture the spirit, if not the exact letter of your life on the farm. As an interesting sidelight – there is no voice-over narration in this program we’re making. Every spoken word is from you and your family.