For this A2 coursework we were given the task to create the opening five minutes for a
short documentary based on a chosen topic, in which we decided ourselves. We were
also asked to create a radio trail and a double page-spread magazine article. These
ancillary tasks would be used alongside our documentary to help promote and make
our target audience aware of what to expect.
We chose to base our documentary on social networking and the concerns around
it, for example cyber bullying.
In order for all of our finished products to look of high-quality we needed to carry out a
lot of research and planning. This was in order to make ourselves familiar with the
conventions of real media products, therefore making it more likely that our products
would look professional.
In this stage of research and planning we looked at examples of documentaries, radio
trails and magazine articles so we could draw inspiration for our own.
To start our research for our documentary we first looked at the typical codes and
conventions of this genre, these were:
• Actuality – We used real people and locations in order for our documentary to be as
realistic as possible for the audience to be able to relate and understand the topic of
cyber bullying. Also using actuality made it easier for the viewers to trust what they
• Voiceover – We felt a voiceover was important to include as we knew that this was
our main way to directly address the audience. We also used the voiceover as a way
to portray and explain the information, facts and figures in an engaging way.
• Voxpops – These are short interviews with members of the public which we did not
use in our documentary.
• Interviews – We had interviews with students as well as experts in this particular
field, in this case it was teachers at a sixth form. We used a variety of people in order
to provide different viewpoints on the topic.
• Archival footage – We used footage from news shows that were discussing the
problems of social networking, for example cases of suicide etc. We found this clips
on YouTube and decided to use them as it would be a hard-hitting, effective
introduction to the documentary.
• Reconstructions – Some documentaries include reconstructions to help demonstrate
events that had happened previously. We did not feature one of these as it we did
not feel it was needed.
We also decided to apply Bill Nichols documentary modes to ours. The potential modes
•Poetic – This mode discusses the lyrical, rhythmic and emotional aspects of the
•Expository – This mode often uses a verbal commentary through a voice over that
allows the film maker to speak directly to the audience.
•Observational – Attempts to just observe subjects without any interference of a
voiceover or on-screen actor.
•Participatory – Normally features interviews etc that allow the filmmaker to be seen
within the text.
•Reflexive – Sometimes draws attention to the fact that it is a documentary and
sometimes features people reflecting on the discoveries found.
•Performative – Illustrates a personal, emotional experience which may be connected
to other bigger issues.
Our documentary, I feel, included elements from multiple modes. The expository mode
was present as we had a voiceover talking to the audience. As the people in some of
the background footage were not aware that they were being filmed our documentary
was also somewhat observational.
When discussing the narrative structure of the documentary, it is not too obvious as this
is only the opening to the whole documentary therefore is only introducing the topic to
the audience. The narrative during this part of the documentary is somewhat rhetorical as
the audience are only provided with information and facts about social networking and
start to look at the potential harms of cyber bullying.
The inspiration for this form of introduction to the was from watching documentaries like
‘Supersize Me’ etc. in which the film-maker and on-screen presenter or voiceover
introduced the subject of their documentary by stating a few facts and figures relating to
As our documentary featured a lot of background footage the camerawork and
cinematography was important when producing our documentary. For the background
footage we knew it was essential that all of these shots related to the topic around social
networking as well as technology. Due to this we had a lot of close ups of various objects
and people such as; computer screens, keyboards and smartphones as well as people
actually using them.
Our documentary included students from a sixth form and so we felt that is was necessary
to include establishing shots from within the college so the audience could get familiar
with the environment in which it was filmed. An example of this would be of the slow
panning shot in library.
We also used medium close ups for our interviews as it allows the audience to see the
interviewee amongst an environment that portrays a bit more about their occupation. For
example, the expert interviews with the head of IT took place in an office, giving him a
more professional impact on the audience.
The expert interviews also contained a form of graphics as the interviewees were
captioned with their names and occupations which was done to make the audience aware
of who they were.
The mise-en-scene in the interviews were also of high importance as it was important
that the backgrounds were not too distracting but also representative of the people in
the frame. The interviews with the students took place in a canteen in sixth form to
give a more laidback, relaxed feeling as they were also dressed casually whereas the
expert interviews took place in an office again giving a more professional touch whilst
they were dressed up fairly smart and corporately.
The props that are present within our documentary all relate to the topic around social
networking and technology. In the expert interviews there is either a laptop or
computer visible on the screen. We felt this was a good idea to have as it made the
points raised by the interviewees more feasible as it illustrates and gives the
impression that they have knowledge in regards to the topic. On the other hand, the
posters present in the background in the student interviews are on cyber bullying
which obviously relate to our documentary and what the interviewee is talking about.
To ease the viewing experience we ensured there was background music
played throughout. The music was created on GarageBand and was fairly upbeat
and modern. The music could be heard throughout the majority of the short film
consistently without being too distracting, however I feel that maybe it was
repetitive to some extent and so to improve this next time I would maybe have a
variety of music that could be listened to.
We used natural lighting during the filming process of our documentary as
everything was filmed during the daytime and also there was a lack of equipment
A final convention that fulfils a normal convention of a documentary is the
existence of a voiceover, which was informative as it guided the audience
through the start of the documentary. We chose the voiceover we felt that it would
allow us to directly address the spectators in the same way we would be able to if
we used an onscreen presenter.
The research and planning stage of creating and producing our documentary was
so significant as it was the main way that influenced our decisions to help make
the documentary, as well as the ancillary tasks, look professional.
To help make it look more skilful there are some conventions that we could have
included to ensure this. For example we could have used animations, like in
‘Supersize Me’, to help explain some of the more technical terminology relating to
our subject in a way that was both interesting and visually pleasing to the eye.
We could have also put in a voxpop which would give the audience a chance to
hear members of the public voice their opinions in which they may agree or
Also one thing I would try to include if I had the chance to do it again, would be to
include some interesting transitions, which again could include animations, just
to make the viewing experience of our documentary somewhat more exciting and
Just like the documentary when it came to making our double-page spread we
chose to research and analyse some actual articles before planning and
constructing our own.
The purpose of the double page spread was to raise awareness of our
documentary for the readers and target audience let them know when and where
they could watch it.
The three examples we analysed were from Radio Times and the images were
found on Google.
We decided that we liked the layout of the Radio Times articles and so we chose
to use these for inspiration for our own. We also took note of the conventions
regularly used and included these in our own to ensure the professionalism of our
double page spread.
The first convention we chose to use was the main header and to have it stand
out. We wanted it to draw the readers attention to the article and hopefully gain
their interest and persuade the to watch the final documentary. We chose to have
the main header as the title of our documentary which straight away makes the
reader aware of what the article is about and also making it memorable by being
the largest bit of text on the page.
The main image dominates the article as it takes up most of the double page
spread. The image relates to the documentary as well as the additional images
because these were taken from the actual film through a screenshot of a freeze
To caption the pictures we used quotes from the documentary followed by the
name of the person who said the statement and are in the picture. We used the
quotes as it explained who is in the picture whilst giving an insight to what the
viewer can expect to watch if they decide to watch the final product.
In the main body text it start with a drop caps which again is a normal
convention that is seen in the majority of magazine article regardless of the
actual genre or topic it is talking about. The text was also separated into
columns in order to make the article not seem overwhelming but instead easier
to read and comprehend.
Another generic convention that we included in our magazine article was the
page number as well as the name of the magazine in the bottom corner of the
To challenge the standard conventions we made the choice to not feature a
stand first in our article. This was because we felt that we didn’t necessarily
need one and even though it may be controversial I feel that the double page
spread still looks presentable with out one.
Subheadings are also not in our magazine article as they weren’t relevant to the
article as it didn’t really need to be separated in this way.
Taking everything into consideration I believe the magazine article used the
majority of the typical conventions and only challenged a few.
The main purpose of our radio trail was to promote the documentary as well as
letting the audience know information of where and when they can watch the
We again researched and analyse other radio trails that were expertly done and
played on the actual radio. We used some of the conventions we noticed in our
own radio trail.
One thing we noticed was the length of the radio trails. The ones we looked at
ranged from either 30 seconds to 1 minute long and so we knew we wanted to
aim for a similar length.
We also used extracts from the actual documentary as a way to illustrate what
the audience could expect to hear if they were persuaded to watch the final
The background music was upbeat and linked again to the documentary.
However upon reviewing the final product it was clear the music was fair too loud
in comparison to the documentary extracts as they were harder to hear over the
Another typical convention we used was having an additional voiceover as this
was a feature we found on all radio trails. We knew it was important to include
one as this was our chance to address the listener directly. We used this to our
advantage by making sure our voiceover sounded friendly, positive and inviting
which would hopefully make people want to watch our documentary.
The actual information needed to be provided during our radio trail as if people
wanted to watch the documentary they would need to know the details of when it
was showing and on what channel. We used our voiceover again to help provide
the information at the end of the radio trail as it would be the last thing the listener
would hear and hopefully remember.
All in all, I think the radio trail used the conventions of a radio trail and didn’t
actually challenge any of them.