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Old June 26th, 2006, 03:47 AM   #1
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Hard Hitting Documentary

Hi all.
We're about to start work on a doc here in the UK about the plight of the Red Squirrel. For many years the native red has been under threat from the imported grey, and is now on the edge of extinction.

We are experienced film-makers, and are competant with camera, light and sound etc, but are looking for idea's. It will contain interviews with some of the UKs top naturalists and conservationists.

The film needs to be extremely hard hitting, shocking, and controversial to grab attention and create awareness to the problem.

Here's my question:
What are the key ingredients for a top-quality,hard-hitting documentary that grabs people by the throat and holds their attention for 60 minutes?
Regards, Dave

Born to fish-forced to work!
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Old June 26th, 2006, 04:36 AM   #2
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Relevance.

Why should anyone care about the Red Squirrel?

Love.

Watch March of the Penguins and you will see the Emperor Penguin as a loveable and talented creature. What's so great about the Red Squirrel? Know the answer to that question before you start shooting or the audience won't get that answer from your movie.
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Old June 26th, 2006, 04:51 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcus Marchesseault
Why should anyone care about the Red Squirrel?
People in the documentary's demographic (the UK) care greatly about the red squirrel. Some b@st@rd introduced the North American grey squirrel into the UK and, since then, the red has been on the decline (though there are some strong holds remaining, notably the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England (wot is near where I grew up).

Hard-hitting? I know - the reds joining forces and go after the greys. Lots of blood and carnage - a rewrite of the loss that the other red-coated creatures suffered against a North American foe 230 years ago.
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Old June 26th, 2006, 07:30 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John F Miller
People in the documentary's demographic (the UK) care greatly about the red squirrel. Some b@st@rd introduced the North American grey squirrel into the UK and, since then, the red has been on the decline (though there are some strong holds remaining, notably the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England (wot is near where I grew up).

Hard-hitting? I know - the reds joining forces and go after the greys. Lots of blood and carnage - a rewrite of the loss that the other red-coated creatures suffered against a North American foe 230 years ago.
The thing is, the documentary should lead people who DON'T care about the Red Squirrel to give it some thought, otherwise it's just preaching to the choir. Hence communicating a good answer to the question "Why should we give a damn about the pesky little things?" is absolutely vital to the success of the film.

I really like your idea of the parallel betweens the "greys" from the Colonies against the Redcoats of Britain as a hook for the film!
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Old June 26th, 2006, 11:18 AM   #5
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Do red squirrel's eat through trash cans like my brown ones?
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Old June 26th, 2006, 12:08 PM   #6
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I think the answer is Bob, don't use brown trash-cans
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Old July 11th, 2006, 01:50 PM   #7
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Action! - Try to explain or better yet show WHY this is happening. Are the squirrels fighting and killing each other? If you can get the audience to see and understand the exact reason this is happening, you may have more success.
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Old July 16th, 2006, 10:07 AM   #8
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I agree that making people care is what is important. Hard-hitting is best left to news, to be honest.

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Old July 23rd, 2006, 04:10 PM   #9
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Lots of good suggestions here already. Also you should consider the benefits to society, or the negative impact if the Red squirrel is removed (especially if the Grey squirrel does the opposite). How does the red squirrel affect the echo system?

Squirrels here plant trees by burying the seeds and then forgeting to dig them back up again, (I'm always pulling up oak saplings from the flower beds). If the squirrels prefer a different tree, then what would the impact be in future?

Failure to act. Give examples of other extinctions, their impacts and how we failed to do something about that, but can make up for it here.
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Old July 23rd, 2006, 04:26 PM   #10
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Thanks
Lots of good ideas worthy of further thought.
Cheers
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Old July 28th, 2006, 04:51 AM   #11
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Documentary

This is a good thread as it goes to the heart of what makes a compelling documentary.

There's also the intrigue factor you could leverage -if you think of Supersize Me it keeps you guessing as to whether the human body really can keep going as your liver turns to pate... Hehe.

You could tell the story from the future -have the narration from an old bloke in a 2050 winter heatwave...cut back to today when he is a young boy..."Back when I was young the reds where already in danger", etc.

Does he tell a sorry tale that has the red squirrel die off at the end? -watch this space!


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Old July 28th, 2006, 08:13 AM   #12
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That's a great idea Nick, going back to the future. Like it a lot!
Many thanks, Dave
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Old July 28th, 2006, 08:35 AM   #13
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You want to talk about hard hitting squirrel drama? I've heard about Black squirrels in Russia that ganged up and killed and ate a dog. Other than that, squirrels are cute, but hard to get excited over... unless you're a dog. Good luck with your project though.
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Old August 4th, 2006, 02:04 AM   #14
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Tie the "red" squirrel in with "the Reds"...Liverpool

You'll double or tripple your audience right there and get tons of folks who wouldn't normally watch something about a squirrel :)

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Old August 21st, 2006, 03:42 AM   #15
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Hi Mate,

I've just come off writing/producing/directing/shooting/editing a doc about threats to marine species around the world and to be honest, it's been pretty hard to explain to people in the west why they shouldn't eat farmed shrimp, or people in the east why the demand for Shark Fin Soup is causing untold devastation to our oceans.

You however, have a chance to tell quite an interesting story and you genuinely DO have a built-in demographic. Who doesn't love a squirrel, and feel sorry for one that's being bullied on his home turf. I don't know... Those American Greys coming over here and wooing all their women squirrels with cheap nylon etc...

Anyway, if you're thinking of narrative-led doc as opposed to stat-led (ie make it keeping in mind what you want people to feel, as opposed to what you want to tell people) I would go with...

Colonisation by a hostile and invasive species (if you need examples of ecosystem disruption due to invasive species let me know)

Inter-racial violence

'Ethnic' Squirrel Cleansing

Frankly any one of those is a better hook than 'T3'.

Most people have seen the famous cute meerkat doc from ages ago by now but did you ever see the follow-up from about 2000?

It showed the other side of them and using good narrative voiceover, pretty much anthropomorphed these little mammals into a tough street gang, raiding other gang's burrows and generally being gits.

If not Gangs of New York, what about the Gangs of the New Forest?

BTW Did you see Gordon Ramsay a few weeks ago sending the critic fella off to kill and eat grey squirrels to help keep the numbers down? Might be worth trying to nick some footage or at least getting a tape and meeting up with the guys that kill them and sell them for grub.

Cheers,

Ben
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