Modes of Documentary: Conventions

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Typical conventions of Reflexive, Poetic, Observational, Expository Participatory

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Modes of Documentary: Conventions

  1. 1. Modes of Documentary Typical Conventions
  2. 2. Expository Conventions <ul><li>Voiceover, addresses the audience directly. </li></ul><ul><li>The voiceover may either be a ‘voice of God’ commentator (heard but not seen); or ‘voice of authority’ (seen and heard – usually an expert in the relevant field). </li></ul><ul><li>Images are used to illustrate (or sometimes counterpoint) the voiceover. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Expository Conventions... <ul><li>Editing is used for continuity, to link together images that support the argument put forward in the voiceover. </li></ul><ul><li>A variety of footage, interviews, stills, archive material is assembled to support the argument. </li></ul><ul><li>Attempts to persuade the audience of a particular point of view, often by appealing to logic and the idea of a common-sense response. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Observational Conventions <ul><li>Location shooting – using hand-held cameras. </li></ul><ul><li>Long takes dominate. </li></ul><ul><li>Synchronous (direct) sound recording. </li></ul><ul><li>No voiceover (in its purest form). </li></ul><ul><li>No interviews. </li></ul><ul><li>Documentary-maker’s presence is hidden. </li></ul><ul><li>Subjects pretend that they are not being filmed. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Reflexive Conventions <ul><li>Borrows techniques from fiction film for an emotional, subjective response. </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasises the expressive nature of film; anti-realist techniques e.g. re-enactments, expressive lighting, dramatic music. </li></ul><ul><li>Voiceover (when present) is likely to be questioning and uncertain – rather than authoritative. </li></ul><ul><li>Reliance on suggestion and implied meaning rather than fact. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Performative Conventions <ul><li>Documentary-maker (and crew) interact with the subject. </li></ul><ul><li>Documentary-maker comments on the process of making the documentary. </li></ul><ul><li>The documentary is often shaped into the narrative of an investigation or search, possibly without a satisfactory conclusion. </li></ul><ul><li>The audience is addressed in an emotional and direct way. </li></ul><ul><li>Subject matter often concerns identity (gender, sexuality) – rather than ‘factual’ topics. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Participatory or Interactive Conventions <ul><li>Documentary-maker (and crew) interacts with the subject. </li></ul><ul><li>Interviews dominate but tend to be informal – literally ‘on the run’ questioning. </li></ul><ul><li>Use of archive material – stills, news footage, newspaper headlines, letters etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Location shooting; hand-held camera. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Participatory or Interactive Conventions... <ul><li>Long takes dominate. </li></ul><ul><li>Synchronous (direct) sound recording. </li></ul><ul><li>Voiceover, usually by the documentary-maker. </li></ul><ul><li>Documentary-maker is visible to the audience – intervenes and participates in the action. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Poetic Conventions <ul><li>Documentary-maker gives subjective view </li></ul><ul><li>Not in typical narrative structure </li></ul><ul><li>Particular mood/tone is created – enhanced by music </li></ul><ul><li>Some light rhetoric but not always </li></ul><ul><li>Events are under-developed and situations can be left unsolved </li></ul><ul><li>Unrelated shots edited together - linked by a mood/music </li></ul><ul><li>Perceived as Avant-garde (innovative, experimental, pushes boundaries) </li></ul>
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