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A2 Media - Documentary Mode - Research, Planning and Analysis
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A2 Media - Documentary Mode - Research, Planning and Analysis


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A2 Media - Documentary Mode - Research, Planning and Analysis

A2 Media - Documentary Mode - Research, Planning and Analysis

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  • 1. Gregory McLaney – A2 Media Studies: Unit G324
  • 2. Documentary Mode Developed by American documentary theorist, Bill Nichols the ‘Documentary Modes’ are split in to six different types of documentary:1. Poetic Mode2. Expository Mode3. Observational Mode4. Participatory Mode5. Reflexive Mode6. Performative Mode When considering modes of documentaries, all documentaries can overlap into different modes. And, it is not expected to link documentaries directly to one mode, they are simply there to determine styles and significant aspects of documentaries. Documentary Modes - Gregory McLaney - A2 Media Studies: Unit G324
  • 3. The Poetic Mode – subjective,artistic expression The ‘Poetic Mode’ of documentary making, holds a subjective interpretation of its topic. Plus, the poetic mode illustrates little rhetoric content and is perceived as more ‘avant-grande’ (works that are experimental or innovative). ‘Their disruption of the coherence of time and space—a coherence favored by the fiction films of the day—can also be seen as an element of the modernist counter-model of cinematic narrative. The ‘real world’—Nichols calls it the “historical world”—was broken up into fragments and aesthetically reconstituted using film form.’ – Source: documentary/ Examples of poetic mode documentaries are: Leni Riefenstahls ‘Olympia’ (1938) and Robert Flahertys ‘Man of Aran’ (1934). Documentary Modes - Gregory McLaney - A2 Media Studies: Unit G324
  • 4. Expository Mode (voice of god) The ‘Expository Mode’ of documentary making speaks to the spectator directly. The voice is of an authoritative perspective commentating the voice-over; this puts forward a strong point of view. Additionally, the voice-over may be of an omniscient (voice-of- god) like position. These commentaries are often objective. ‘Images are often not paramount; they exist to advance the argument. The rhetoric insistently presses upon us to read the images in a certain fashion. Historical documentaries in this mode deliver an unproblematic and ‘objective’ account and interpretation of past events.’ – Source: types-of-documentary/ Examples of the expository mode documentaries are: Davis Guggenheim’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth ‘(2006), John Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’ (1972) and many nature documentaries. Documentary Modes - Gregory McLaney - A2 Media Studies: Unit G324
  • 5. Observational Mode - window onthe world The ‘Observational Mode’ of documentary is not subjective like the poetic mode and is not rhetorical like the expository mode. But, it is however, simply an observatory means of documentary making, fly-on-the-wall like. It allows the spectator to view in a purely observational manor with no opinions being given, leaving the audience to make their own opinions. ‘Observational documentaries attempt to simply and spontaneously observe lived life with a minimum of intervention. Filmmakers who worked in this sub-genre often saw the poetic mode as too abstract and the expository mode as too didactic.’ – Source: ‘Observational (objective) mode is best exemplified by the Cinema Verite or Direct Cinema movement which emerged in the late 1950s/early 1960s - it attempted to capture (as accurately as possibly) objective reality with filmmaker as neutral observer. See Fly on the Wall.’ ‘Codes/conventions - The filmmaker remains hidden behind the camera, ignored by the surrounding environment he/she neither changes nor influences the actions/events being captured.’ ‘Since nothing is staged for the camera, the camera rushes about to keep up with the action resulting in rough, shaky, often amateur-looking footage.’ – Source Examples of the observational documentary mode consist of: Frederick Wiseman’s, ‘Hospital’ (1970) – fly on the wall, American hospital, Richard Pennebackers ‘Dont Look Back’ (1967) - records Bob Dylans 1965 tour of Britain and recently ‘Big Brother’ (The British TV Show) Documentary Modes - Gregory McLaney - A2 Media Studies: Unit G324
  • 6. Participatory Mode The ‘Participatory Mode’ of documentary filmmaking believes it is evident that the act of filmmaking will influence and alter the events that are being captured. The filmmaker in these films adds to the artificiality by participating in the documentary. ‘Not only is the filmmaker part of the film, we also get a sense of how situations in the film are affected or altered by her presence. Nichols: “The filmmaker steps out from behind the cloak of voice-over commentary, steps away from poetic meditation, steps down from a fly-on-the-wall perch, and becomes a social actor (almost) like any other. (Almost like any other because the filmmaker retains the camera, and with it, a certain degree of potential power and control over events.)”’ – Source: Examples of the participatory mode of documentary filmmaking consist of: Vertov’s ‘The Man with a Movie Camera’ (1929), Rouch and Morin’s ‘Chronicle of a Summer’ (1960) and Morgan Spurlock’s ‘Super Size Me’ (2004). Documentary Modes - Gregory McLaney - A2 Media Studies: Unit G324
  • 7. Reflexive Mode - awareness of theprocess The ‘Relfexive Mode’ of documentary filmmaking provokes attention to its own artificiality. It develops questions around how authentic the information given is. It almost develops a self-conscious image within its mode. ‘The documentary mode ‘is highly skeptical of ‘realism.’ It may use Brechtian alienation strategies to jar us, in order to ‘defamiliarize’ what we are seeing and how we are seeing it.’ – Source: types-of-documentary/ Examples of the reflexive mode of documentary filmmaking are: Jim McBride & L.M. Kit ‘Carson’s David Holzman’s Diary’ (1968), David & Judith MacDougall’s ‘Wedding Camels’ (1980) and Albert Maysles and David Maysles’ ‘Gimme Shelter’ (1970) Documentary Modes - Gregory McLaney - A2 Media Studies: Unit G324
  • 8. Performative Mode - filmmaker asparticipant The ‘Performative Mode’ of documentaries can be confused with the participatory mode. The true distinction between the two is the participatory mode develops truths that are self-evident. But, on the other hand the performative mode portrays the filmmaker to the story but constructs subjective truths that are important to the filmmaker directly. ‘Performative documentaries stress subjective experience and emotional response to the world. They are strongly personal, unconventional, perhaps poetic and/or experimental, and might include hypothetical enactments of events designed to make us experience what it might be like for us to possess a certain specific perspective on the world that is not our own.’ – Source: documentary/ Examples of performative mode documentary filmmaking are: Alain Resnais’ ‘Night And Fog’ (1955), Peter Forgacs’ ‘Free Fall’ (1988) and Danube Exodus (1999) Documentary Modes - Gregory McLaney - A2 Media Studies: Unit G324
  • 9. Conclusion To conclude, upon researching extensively into documentary modes, I think whilst creating our documentary it will directly relate strongly to the ‘Expository Mode’, whilst also linking with other modes such as ‘Participatory Mode’. Considering this, the expository mode will be the strongest link which will be clearly illustrated when watching the documentary in relation to Bill Nichols’ theory of documentary mode. Through this mode we can create an authoritative figure which will be omniscient (god like) and the spectator will trust the facts and information due to the authoritative and informed nature. Overall, the research into the documentary modes has strengthened an understanding of documentaries and their different styles and through this I will improve production. Documentary Modes - Gregory McLaney - A2 Media Studies: Unit G324