Film: SU Presidential Campaign Promotional Materials
by Beauchamp Art
In support of my campaign for SU president, through discussions with my team: Alex Hort-Francis and Jeanette Bolten-Martin, I produced a short video to promote the issues at the heart of the my manifesto, why I was running, and why I would make the best candidate. For this, I set up two cameras by a chair surrounded by minor props, and sat in my red jumper used as a recurring visual theme throughout the promotional materials, and delivered a monologue. The footage was captured in one short session, and I began editing it by the end of the day.
Stills from my SU Presidential video.
The script followed a compressed rewording of the full manifesto (which was written up by Alex after series of meetings, and discussions), which was written onto an A3 sketchbook and placed below the camera. After multiple takes I deferred from the script, and tried to speech more naturalistically, so the text does not exactly correlate to the video.
As I wanted the video to give a sense of professionalism, I made some minor modifications in post production alongside the main cutting together of the footage. Firstly, I made the lighting consistent between the 4 sequences, as although after a number of takes, I finally manage to go through the manifesto and voting information in full, I found that an earlier version of some sections of the video worked better than in the one continuous recording. This meant that there were essentially 4 full videos that needed to be cut together to produce one continuous final film, alongside the shorter clips.
The video was edited to give the impression of one continuous take, to give it a sense of amateurism, and the authenticity that the predominantly young, student population could identify with, adhering to Creeber’s observation “online amateur videos offer an antidote to digital representation, returning the image to earlier forms of ‘the real’ and possibly taking this even further than any existing media forms” [Creeber, 2013: 124]. So as not to appear too produced or voyeuristically, the set up was designed to be fairly plain, and would essentially endorse the ‘talking heads’ approach often associated with early television.
This format has since been widely repopulated by its appropriation by video-bloggers, utilising the strengths of the small screen and the internet’s capability for producing an intensely intimate screen [Creeber, 2013: 121], and a subsequent sense of trustworthiness, that may also be familiar to those who frequently watch newscasters talking directly to camera, to the audience. Adopting the approach favoured by viral video producers to make the emphasis on the landscape of the human face, rather than presenting any widescreen spectacle [Creeber, 2013: 121].
The front on camera posited the figure in the centre, with the various props arranged around it. I place the key notes for the manifesto below the camera, as this would allow me to maintain fairly consistent eye contact with the camera, only occasionally breaking viewer to refer to the notes. The shot was roughly divided into vertical thirds: from the edge of the frame to the left side of the bookcase, from their to the far edge of the green chair (to contrast and compliment the red jumper), with the wall and small table taking up the final third. For the majority of the time I looked straight at the viewer, spoke direct to the camera, establishing a powerful eyeline match between me and mu audience, thereby constructing an intense sense of ‘equality and intimacy’. [Ellis, 1982: 131]
A second camera was all employed to look across the figure, to show it in profile, also dividing the frame into thirds vertically: from the edge of the shot to the end of the doorframe, from there to the edge of the bookcase, then o the edge of the frame; with the head position so that the bottom of the face was in line with the horizontal centre and the second vertical third. There was also a clear depth-of-field, with the tea apparatus foregrounded in the bottom left of the screen, the figure in the middle plane and the wall furthest behind.
Along side this, there were also a number of shorter clips away from the main body of the film, cutting to various aspects of the set up, focusing on particular objects that would enriched the composition. Therefore, dotted throughout the frame were a number of props positioned to infer an ideology of playful respectability. On the bookshelf behind where I was sitting I reposition some of the books for effect. I manoeuvred a range of art-related book into the bottom section of the book case, including ones on Impressionism, street art and animation, to discretely appeal to a range of courses. In addition to turning Huxley’s Brave New World and Wells’ War of the Worlds towards the camera, as well as placing Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (which features NUA’s Chancellor, John Hurt, on the cover) on the small desk beside where I was sitting.
This selection of apocalyptic fiction offers a subtle commentary on how party political broadcasts frequently play up the poetic potential of their environment. Whether that involves being seen consistently with a pint and a cigar (as with UKIP, playing up the ‘man in the pub’ aesthetic crossed with an appropriation of Winston Churchill’s smoking habit), or constantly wearing Party colours (a tactic I adopted, partly as a satire; which I particularly noticed after meeting members of the Labour party during the week of production, all clad in red; ties, jumpers, or socks; and having met Green party members, who do constantly have at least one green item attached to their person at all times). This tactic was used as part of my wider campaign, though the irony with which I approach this may have been lost in the process.
Also positioned in view was a copy of Irvine Welsh’s Crime, with its capitalised cover just about legible in the corner of view. Along with a pipe, umbrella, teapot, red mug, red apple and biscuits, designed to suggest a ‘gentlemanly’ aesthetic, which is also hinted at in the lounging chair and the bookcase on the whole, that blatantly implies a desire to appear intellectual. Again, this was intended as a mockery, but may seem otherwise.
Furthermore, there was also a dinosaur fighting a Lego knight mounted on a horse, which was panned to when I said “I have worked with, and sometimes against the university” to suggest a necessary antagonism, and that I would ‘champion the underdog’ (or under-horse). Though alongside the small fantasy miniatures and other bits, this may have just seemed like a mildly obscure selection of odds-and-ends (something which may, in itself, appeal to certain aspects of the student community who care for collections of general kibble in cabinets). There was also a ukulele positioned discretely to one side, which came into view at the end of the video, to suggest a wider range of interests and appealing to musically inclined students.
The musical accompaniment was my BBC Slippy remix, that combines David Lowe’s 10 O’Clock BBC News Theme and Underworld’s Born Slippy. This was used both for its lively rhythm sand sense of energy that it conveyed, and as another use of pop culture reference; playing on the seriousness of the News format as a counterpoint to the piece of ‘90s club music popularised by Danny Boyle’s 1996 adaptation of Trainspotting. Both of which are musically uplifting, but their connotations suggest the opposite, and is used in a similar fashion to the other props.
Nevertheless, it must be noted that this is intended to be a satire, not simply an endorsement of the propaganda potential of the “intimate screen” that appeals “directly to its intended viewer through the language and aesthetic dynamics of online content.” Since this format fosters “a profound sense of sincerity, affinity and authenticity,” offering the viewer the belief “that what they are watching is a simple ‘window on the world’,” it is therefore a format that requires scrutiny, in this case through parody, pastiche and homage, given that “the aesthetics of ‘truth’ and ‘authenticity’ are to be least trusted” [Creeber, 2013: 141] as providing a format that allows a seemingly ‘real’ narrative to be presented could be seen as the most efficient way to deceive an audience.
However, for the purposes of the SU campaign, I did not wish to present an inauthentic dialogue, as my manifesto points were each selected because of the need for progress in the university for the betterment of the studentship, so the format made for an interesting persuasive tool to suggest to the audience of student voters that I was the best choice for them. Proposing that by choosing me they would get better university experience, in other words: “purchase ‘the product’ and obtain the lifestyle” [Creeber, 2013: 141].
Evidently, this logic was evidently flawed as the campaign was successful, as the popularity of the different candidates likely plays more of a role. Moreover, as the election took place just after the first and second year unit submissions, so they were mostly absent, therefore the majority of the voters were third year students, already with personal affiliations. As my video played on notions of implied authenticity, then this could have also created suspicion of my candidacy, rather than of the format; the irony of the piece becoming self-defeating. ‘Never trust anyone who says they are telling you the truth’, similarly, it is possibly worth questioning anyone who thinks anything can be said nicely, as an opponent suggested, as some subjects require cynicism.
Whereas my video proposed a eyes of well though out points in a self-aware format, one of the other candidate’s videos simple featured them intercut with vaguely positive footage with a general proposal that their nomination would provide a ‘general sense of wellbeing’. In other words, their promotion was a purely abstract ideology of positivity without a though out plan or any clear manifesto points, which appealed more to the third-her students as the actual individual points were irrelevant to them, as they would be graduating before the new SU President took up their role.
SU Video 2
After discussing with the campaign team, a number of edits were made.
The cut to the copies of Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four were removed, as it was a concern that they may imply a sense of pessimism and that my election would thereby result in an apocalyptic scenario comparable to one of these novels. Though they were kept in the background as general clutter, that would hopefully infer an awareness of authoritarianism without being seen to be endorsing it.
At the end of the video, when the camera cuts down to show the underside of the chair and ukelele in the foreground, rather than returning to the music used at the opening, I instead recorded playing a brief series of fairly inoffensive sounding chords to conclude the sequence. This again was reflecting an ironic dichotomy that both embraced the ‘vlog’ aesthetic of quickly paced video blogs on Youtube, frequently populated by musical interjections, but also could be seen as a satire, making reference to Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe, which occasionally features short sequence involving a young character talking through a weekly relevant issue, appropriating the video-blog style and the indulgent punctuation of the highly-popular (though arguably facile) sequences with major ostinatos; ‘happy chords’, culminating in a highly-self aware, frankly post-modern parody of the format, showing it as ‘bubblegum for the eyes’, semi-actively consuming media content that requires no digestion, no contemplation.
This video offers the viewer the opportunity to ‘graze’ (a principal suggested by Glen Creeber in Small Screen Aesthetics) on the various memetic indicated deposited within the frame, the cultural references an the appropriation of the party-political broadcast aesthetic being the most prominent examples. Thus encouraging viewers to engage more actively with the video, rather than to passively ‘glance’ as a viewer may do with television content, or being hypnotically entranced in cinematic ‘gaze’. This does not stop at this singular video, but the aesthetic of which continues in the other promotional media that was produced, thereby adapting the standard video broadcast format communal associated with TV to a more interactive, multimedia environment, where the audience constantly ingests small amounts of connected information, moving from ‘byte’ to the next; both on and offline (Creeber, 2013: 123-124).
For example, in the various promotional materials and graphics produced by Alex Hort-Francis for the campaign, we discussed the used of a unified aesthetic throughout the designs. As the basis for this, the particular red jumper worn in the video was also used in the photograph taken by Jeanette Bolton-Martin profile picture on the Facebook campaign page. The particular red tone used in the flyers and posters was taken from the photograph, so the hue was totally consistent throughout. It was also wore whilst campaigning for the first half of the election week whilst canvasing and putting up posters, followed by a nearly identically colour jumper.
This meant that the minor colour adjustments within the video would hopefully provide a subtle continuity to this aesthetic, as most of the colours were muted slightly, with the red of the jumper brighten and increased in saturation (to give it a strong sense of lively optimism, the warm hue of a blossoming flower rather than the darkened tones of running blood.
Despite loosing the election, I still think of this video was successful, as it enabled individuals to easily engage with the issues and points I was presenting, without demanding too much time or for them to read an excessive amount of text. This also managed to reach more people than I could have spoken to directly, offering them a sense of face-to-face communication that may otherwise not be possible without the fairly low-cost means of distributing the video online. By focusing primarily on the human dynamic, the political appeal was made to feel more personal, thereby initiating the process of connecting to others over long distance, which Stelarc describes as “collapsing spatial separation, […] generating intimacy without proximity” [Clarke, 2005: 200].
However, I was weary of the likelihood of failure (by 7 votes) due to previous popular awareness of the candidate who did win, and how individuals may be easily swayed by trivial endorsements based on erroneous irrelevant associations with certain parties, over a considered engagement with the contents of the manifesto. A principal I have dubbed the ‘Hawaiian Shirt Principle’ (which is similar to the ‘personality over policies’/‘style over substance’ principal, where people vote for candidates based on which they would most like to go to the pub and share a pint) due to overhearing a comment from one individual saying that they were going to vote for one candidate (the winner) because they wore ‘nice Hawaiian shirts’, and had given no further consideration to the policies, (or rather lack thereof), offered by that candidate. Nevertheless, there is a somewhat ironic illusion to this metaphor in the video, as it features a ukelele, and instrument fame for its association with Hawaii.
GIF made from key textual frames from the promotional film, combined with primary banner image.
GIF listing the key points of the manifesto
GIF featuring voting information, the website address, and the primary promotional text.
Following the loss of the election, I made a sardonic variation of the SU Promotional video. Which was modified fairly straightforwardly by making a number of minor, but crucial alterations. Most prominently, the music previously used was substituted for a version of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, arranged by me for digital string instrument synthesisers.
The colours were also altered to a more sombre, desaturated dark green hue, and as the video progresses, it slowly zooms more and more into my face. This was mostly intended as a self-pitying, self-satire, poking further fun at the seriousness of the format. The video cuts back to Brave New World at the end rather than using the conclusion from the main video.
Primary Promotional Materials: Alex Francis
Photography: Jeanette Karen
Manifesto in Brief:
Campaign for a Student Common Room
Improve Student Familiarity with the SU
- an SU Timetable App
- Bring back noticeboards!
- Liberation officers
- Online voting
Support National Campaigns Against Tuition Fees and Education Cuts
Cheap Women’s Sanitary Products
Gender Neutral Toilets
- Clarke, Julie. (2005) Stelarc: The Monograph: A Sensorial Act of Replication. Smith, Marquard. Ed. Hardback. MIT Press. Cambridge, MA. USA.
- Creeber, Glen. (2013) Small Screen Aesthetics: From TV to the Internet. Paperback Edition. Palgrave Macmillan. British Film Institute. London, UK.
- Ellis. (1982) Ellis, John. (1982) Visible fictions: Cinema, Television, Video. Routledge. London. UK Cited in Creeber, Glen. (2013) Small Screen Aesthetics: From TV to the Internet. Paperback Edition. Palgrave Macmillan. British Film Institute. London, UK: 133