Greg Coyle: HND Short Documentary

Greg Coyle’s short documentary “Dechmont”

I was going to make my documentary about the accessibility of Veganism in 2020. The doc would have included interviews from people working within the vegan food and grocery industry as well as hopefully some activists but none of the activists got back to me and all the grocers cancelled because of lockdown restrictions and rightfully so. This sent me into an intrapersonal tailspin and I almost dropped out of college. I was of the opinion that I wasn’t good enough to be here and since I was robbed of the chance to make my short film for HNC by COVID 19 I had decided that if this doc thing didn’t go well then I’d drop out because I wasn’t meant to be here.

As quite an extreme response to this I decided to go with the idea of doing a UFO abduction documentary, I didn’t know of any famous cases in Scotland but I went and asked to talk to people online about interviewing them and filming re-enactments of their stories in an exaggerated True Crime show style, a genre I have a lot of affection for, even though I know it’s trash. The research I did looking for these people led me to the story of the Dechmont Woods Incident which I felt was famous enough and good enough for me to just make the whole short documentary about the incident and Robert Taylor experienced. I found a Paranormal Investigator who wrote a book on the incident and was willing to be interviewed, but it had to be over Skype. I did that interview, and although he was nuttier than a squirrel’s favourite pie, perfect for a documentary I didn’t feel the interview was good enough to be used in the doc since we couldn’t cut to him, he did however agree to do a voice over. A week later he pulled out and I was distraught again, I felt nothing could go right.

Given the context of where you are reading this, you know it’s for the college, you know I did my Recces and my Risk Assessments, I would much rather talk about what it was like to have to film and produce content in this current environment. It was hard. Going through a rough time inside of myself at the time and dealing with an extreme bout of self loathing and an obsessive compulsive relapse which were all brought on by lockdown, too much time alone and too much time stuck in a particularly hectic household made being confidently creative difficult as well as having to remember to stick to PPE and lockdown restrictions which I took very seriously.

I felt I needed this documentary to be made before lockdown said we couldn’t be out filming and I wanted it finished before the original deadline to prove that the deadline being extended didn’t save me from a late hand in. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. Filming wasn’t hard, once we were out there it was great! (there being a Carluke that we used as a dummy Dechmont and we being Kieran, Jasmine two classmates who are better than me and I couldn’t have done this without them and Todd, a fellow classmate who was playing Robert Taylor and was terrific) I remembered how fun filming could be which I had definitely forgotten.

Stylistically I wanted the re-enactments to look more like a horror film than anything else however I did take a ton of influence from the very first episode of the X-Files with the lights in the woods sort of thing. Especially when the light shines on his face. I wanted to use POV and shaky cam at parts because I wanted this to be fun and I didn’t think anyone else’s doc would have a good excuse to experiment with different techniques like mine. I’m pretty pleased with how it looks, I hate how it sounds. The voice over was done by another classmate, Dylan who also helped me with those great sliding close ups over the documents, he did a good job with the VO and got what I was trying to do, make people laugh, although I love a True Crime doc everyone knows it’s a TV rustler’s burger of a genre

So I wanted to lean heavily on the tropes with dramatic stings and a patronising over the top narrator. That being said, if I could go back the narration would be something I would certainly change, it is also a regret of mine that I couldn’t get interviews, not for lack of trying. It goes without saying, but I’m obsessed with Twin Peaks so I did really want to use the word “Incident” and instead swap it out for the word “mystery” as I felt that was a lot more on the side that, this is a story and we won’t ever really know what happened to Rob and I also love a mystery in the woods.

It’s not the best but I’m happy with it and I think I proved to myself that I can make something fun and hopefully funny, this doc kept me in this course and I wasn’t even graded on it.

Greg Coyle, HND Film & Television

Greg’s reflection on making Dechmont clearly illustrates many of the serious hurdles our students have faced in regard to producing content over this unprecedented period, battling practical considerations and having to navigate their own emotional rollercoaster at the same time.

As a creative response to the documentary brief when his original plan went down, the idea to film an UFO Abduction documentary with an acted narrative was an inspired choice and one which enabled him to use his scriptwriting talents and continue to make work despite restrictions.

In this sense Dechmont is an important film for him this year and one which enabled him to keep going with his studies through a very difficult time.

Michael Grant, Film & Television Lecturer

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