Posts Tagged ‘Documentary’

Documentary starts here

Posted: March 11, 2013 by Alan Hardcastle in FdA 12_14, Media Production
Tags: ,

This is where the big units start. You are being asked to produce a factual piece with some social aspects to it. However, if you watch examples of films within the genre of “Documentary” you can see that this is actually a fairly open genre of film.

There are specific festivals that cater for documentary and factual, and these cover a wide range of themes and approaches. For now, your main approach should be to define this in your own mind – watch documentaries, read about them, how they are made and figure out how to talk about them.

We can look at Reality TV (Big Brother, I’m a celebrity etc) as a kind of documentary – this is a heavily mediated form where the producers are involved in shaping events and guiding “participants” towards particular behaviour. What makes is factual is that it is unscripted, and the subjects behaviour is their own decision. It can also be argued it is a game show, but that’s a different unit.

We can look at 6 sub divisions of documentary as Poetic, expository, Participatory, observational, reflexive and performative. This is only useful in analysing existing documentaries, and occasionally when developing approaches to it, rather than strict generic guidelines.

Performative Documentaries are ones where we see the presenter / documentary maker involved directly. Louis Theroux is a good example as he often seems to be part of the story he is telling. We as the audience are not just looking at the subject but at a known persons response to the subject. This can lead to very personal approaches, such as “Bowling for Columbine” where Michael Moore brings shooting victims to Wal-Mart to return the shrapnel – a very emotive approach to film making.

Observational would be the total opposite – fly on the wall or wildlife documentaries, for example, mean we are watching what goes on but with no interaction or judgement on the events. This is not to say the end result is truth; we are still watching a mediated product. The effect of cameras being on the subject is hard to ignore.

All documentaries are opinions, but all these sub genres do is classify by how involved the film-make is, and how clear they are about telling the audience what to think.

Class exercise: Define each of these categories. Expand it to include any not listed (or are they part of the sub categories?) arrange them in order of film maker intervention.


The "How" of the matter

Posted: April 23, 2012 by Alan Hardcastle in FdA 11_13
Tags: ,

Now is the time to spell out exactly how you are doing your documentary.

How are you presenting your idea? What are you saying with it? These should be contained within a proposal that you can pitch at a moment notice (eg for Somerset.TV!). This should start with a tag line (What if…?). This used to be 25 words or less, but now see if you can tweet it.

Then, you need to put your money where your mouth is – How will you get it made? What equipment do you need? Who are you filming? What equipment are you using?

So, get your schedule together – print of a Month that covers the deadline, and plan what you need to do by when to complete the filming, the edit and teh written work.

Now, Be Realistic…!

Knowing your Subject

Posted: March 18, 2012 by Alan Hardcastle in FdA 11_13
Tags: , ,

Identifying the issue you are dealing with is only scratching the surface.

All artifacts are mediated in some way – they are always a product of someones opinion or point of view. No matter how unbiased we see them, there is always an element of bias; whether concious or unconscious, whether effected by budget, culture, society or class.

If we know this, we can take it into account – both as media students and creators.

Research your subject – you will need to know everything you can about it, understand the issue inside out. Read every news report, every study, every comment. Be prepared to seek out those opinions that directly oppose yours. Find surveys. Make surveys. Do everything you can to find out about the subject and what people know about it.

Then, start talking to people. How do your family, your friends understand the issue? You don’t need to talk to experts – you have become the expert. What you need is the uneducated opinion: what does someone, who hasn’t been paying attention to it, think? This will become your starting point. There is no point making your film for the experts: 1. there aren’t that many of them, and 2. They will probably hate you for trying.

No, you need to make it for those people who have never thought about it – and suddenly realize, with surprise, that it is an interesting thing (because you have found a way in for them). You are also making it for those people who are aware – the people who have kind of thought about the subject, but haven’t had time to read around. But you have done the reading around for them, found the good stuff, and are making it interesting.


Documenting a Journey

Posted: March 14, 2012 by Alan Hardcastle in FdA 11_13
Tags: ,

So, the new unit has started. We are putting the goal posts out and beginning a new journey.

It feels slightly different this time. You are no longer expected to learn new technical skills, but to apply these to communicating and idea to an audience. As such, we are focused on the message rather than the medium – and that always feels easier.

If you have a clear idea what you want to say it is easier to actually say it. All you previous assignment work has been focusing on just saying something – so now we are thinking more clearly about what we are doing. so, the blog comes into it’s own.

Some people still use the blog as a diary – which is fine, to a point. However, I need to mark how you are guiding your own learning – marking the unmarkable, observing the unobservable. If you just describe, you are not aware of what and how you have learned – therefore, I don’t see it because you have not recognized it and displayed it. To me, that is exactly what I am marking; if you haven’t recognized it as important, you have missed the point! You need to be reflecting on what you have done.

Please read this example of Reflective writing by Jenny Moon. We will explore it in more detail in the future, but it is important to read and reflect. I highly recommend her book, which is in the LRC.

Why is this important? You are about to commit to a public space your innermost thoughts. You are leading a discussion about the issue, so you need to consider it as thoroughly as possible – or necessary. This is where the audience research comes in.

You need to consider you audience in this production – so do it right form the start. Find this opinions. Hunt for those comments in forums, on news stories. Find both halves of the argument. That way, you will know more about the issue, know your audience and probably develop a whole load of ideas for the documentary that you would not have thought of before!

Even if you do not feature in your own film, this will still bear all the marks of showing your journey through this subject. Get reflecting!