Accepted Paper:

Fail we may, sail we must: filmmaking for fieldwork as personal discovery.  
Andy Lawrence (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

Ethnographic fieldwork involves uncomfortable, unfamiliar and confusing situations that require a filmmaker to employ creative pragmatism. How might the ideas that extend from cinematic research praxis contribute to knowledge about one's self and others through the documentary imagination?

Paper long abstract:

This paper describes techniques in my filmmaking that led to ethnographic and personal discoveries about the productivity of failure. Failure inspires aversion in social environments driven by the continual production of material success and ideas of exponential growth. Haraway has argued that possibilities afforded by other formulations of success may lead humans to a less damaging relationship with their environment (Haraway, 2016). To assess the potential of failure we must also consider risk, which acts as a pivot point in human action, mediating between emotion, strategic thinking and awareness of impact. Such pivots interest filmmaking anthropologists because they offer an empirical lens onto the unfolding of human experience as it is being formed, rather than how it is narrated. Central to my practice is a cinematic method that I call the 'triangle of action' (Lawrence, 2020), useful for the exploration of human experience in real-time fieldwork environments that are difficult to comprehend. Here, the crafting of empirical art acts as a proxy in the field for understanding that later develops during editing. Paul Henley (2004, 2020) has written about documentary filmmaking as 'ethnographic discovery'. I will consider the transformative potential of my own relationship with failure during the making of One Long Journey (Lawrence, 2016) - a film about the successes hidden within an apparent failure. To conclude, I look at transformative potentials held within a network of experience between filmmaker, protagonist and audience and ask what this contributes to the production of anthropological knowledge.

Panel P26d
Empirical art: Filmmaking for fieldwork in practice
  Session 1