Theory of documentaries
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Theory of documentaries

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Theory of documentaries Theory of documentaries Presentation Transcript

  • Theory of Documentaries
  • • A documentaries aim is to report something with evidence. Actual footage of an event or a reconstruction can be used to provide evidence or narration can be used to anchor meaning. Sometimes the audience rely on an unseen narrator to convey key factors of an event that were not caught on tape. Sometimes documentaries can be problematic as they may come across as controversial or one sided.
  • • 'What distinguishes a documentary is the portrayal of sound and images of actuality' John Corner 1995
  • • Real facts cannot be made up, although reconstructions rely on facts because not everything can be documented. Documentaries don't have to have an analysis of each fact. Documentaries can deal with political, historical, cultural and religious issues. They can also document current affairs and social problems.
  • • Documentary genres were being defined in the 1930s by John Grierson and his team at the post office. Grierson made a documentary called 'Coal Face' and 'Housing Problems'. His ideas were to document real people, in real situations in their own environment. Old style documentaries tended to have a stronger sense of persuasion. John Grierson first coined the term 'documentary' in 1926. His definition of it was "the creativity of actuality". Arguments have carried on in how creative the treatment of actuality should be. The more creative a documentary becomes the further it may stray from the main focus of the documentary.
  • • Genre is important for television stations as they won't broadcast things that are controversial. The TV schedule was just as important and the advertisers would be less likely to advertise in a controversial programme. British documentaries are known for their investigative journalism.
  • • Reconstructions in documentaries are inevitable as it is impossible for every event to have been caught on tape. If a documentary focuses on a group of people who are aware of the cameras the documentary may not be entirely truthful as the subjects may behave differently in hopes of a claim to fame. The cameras may effect peoples behaviour so the documentary becomes non-reality.
  • • "I think the truth is what you actually come away with at the end of seeing a film. I mean it's your truth that you're seeing. Everybody who makes a film is putting their own truth on screen" Diane Tammes (Film maker)
  • • Creative development over the years means the term documentary now covers a huge range of production methods. Some analysts argue that it should be replaced with the term non-fictional programming. Although people disagree on the styles of documentary and the term there is a common thread that a documentary has to have certain things; • Sound • Music • Narrations • Clips - whether these are reconstructions or real footage the clips allow for facts to be presented in a creative a believable manner. • Facts - these are used to create socially critical arguments which invite the audience to draw conclusions.
  • • "Documentaries present facts about a subject using real persons or places then creatively interpret or comment on these realities and peoples concerns about them" Peter Mayeux
  • • Current affair programmes are midway between documentaries and the news. They offer a more in depth probing about the news. A current affair programme is usually around 15 minutes long where as anything over 30 minutes is classed as a documentary. Documentaries usually talk about social development and weighty issues so tend to be longer to explore the different views. However some documentaries and current affair programmes are causing concern as some believe they are becoming rating driven. People are accusing current affair programmes of distorting and misrepresenting the views of the contributors.
  • • ITVs Trevor McDonald's programmes have been accused of sensationalism. Critics have said the programmes are becoming focused on gaining viewers instead of focusing on the facts.
  • • Features of a documentary. - John Corner (Leeds University) • Observation - This allows the audience to almost become an eye witness to an event that is unfolding in the documentary, it allows viewers to feel as if they are participating in the event. The observations also allow evidence to be presented in the documentary that can be used to back up a point. • Interview - Documentaries rely on interviews. Viewers usually cannot see the interviewer and the person being interviewed never normally looks at the camera. The interviews allow contrasts to be made and help the interview become unbiased. When someone is being interviewed sometimes they can dub pictures over the audio as a point is being made. (The image or clip is relevant to what the person is saying.) • Dramatisation - This is through an observational element, usually through reconstructions or footage. The dramatisation can build a sense of conflict. • Mise en scene - This is used when producers are reconstructing reality. The mise en scene allows for an entertainment value and add to the dramatisation. • Exposition - Line of argument, this adds purpose. The description and commentary are a key element. Different style documentaries will focus on different expositions.
  • • "It is critical that film makers be rid of the fantasy that can be unproblematic representation of reality and that the truth can be conveniently dispensed and received like Valium"
  • • Documentaries have struggled with the concept of truth vs reality. John Corner says "all documentaries need evidence as when there is evidence you cannot lie". Documentaries are real based on real events even though they have some evidence of fiction for an aesthetic appeal. Documentaries are not good for channel ratings, they're usually the first programmes to be cut from a tv listing if the channel is having problems. The most popular documentaries are usually about; sex, violence or law and order. The most popular documentary in America was called 'Violence in America'. Controversial documentaries are not popular with television stations, adverts will not sell if something is seen as controversial. There is a complex relationship between documentary maker and the audience. Documentaries tend to be about societies victims and the documentaries use human beings in providing evidence, this exploits and exposes peoples lives.
  • • Ken Loach made a documentary called 'Cathy come home'. After the documentary aired the law on homeless people was changed, proving that documentaries can be influential. Documentaries give people the 'right to know' on many different events that governments or the news may have stayed quiet about. Many documentaries try and encourage people to 'right the wrong' they feel that when a viewer has seen something tragic that viewers should try and help the cause.
  • Fully Narrated Documentary • A fully narrated documentary usually uses a direct mode of address, will use a voice over to convey a message and explain any visuals. This is typically referred as 'the voice of God' in many cases as the voice over will provide facts that most viewers will believe to be true.
  • Mixed Documentary • A mixed documentary is a combination of interviews, observation and narration. It is more news report in style. They have been criticized to only show present objective reality. This means they only show the audience what they want them to see as they have selected the clips they show, which can make them more balanced as they can select and collect evidence.
  • Self Reflective • The subject of the documentary acknowledges the camera. Sometimes the documentary can become more about the presenter which can become confusing and will become about the presenters ego and self publicity, this will then make the documentary lose focus on what it was originally about.
  • Docudrama • A reinactment of events that have happened. There is a fictional narrative to go with it and is in popular documentary format to create empathy. Critics says docudramas claim to represent the truth but only ever hope to deliver fiction. Docudramas are often misleading and sometimes dangerous.
  • Docusoap • These have become very popular over the last 10 years. They follow a group of people or one person, they originated in the UK and are usually about mundane environments. Docusoaps don't try to explore facts they tend to eavesdrop and have a low production cost.
  • • "The need for televisions to broadcast things that are bright and sparkly to please audiences instead of broadcasting facts and challenging ideas/exposing the truth. This is dumbing down the TV to please an audience". Steve Barnetts theory - Disneyfication.
  • • Documentaries use traditional narratives. They have beginning/middles/ends. They also have sound effects, character conflicts and music. The beginning is important it can open with a central question which introduces the documentaries theme, or in a dramatic way by showing some real/reconstructed footage or conflicting narrative.The middle of the documentary should examine the issues and should cause conflict by challenging ideas. It can also offer different ideas to keep the narrative going which can be backed up with conflicting evidence. The end of the documentary must make sure the point of the documentary is fully apparent, the conflicts must then be resolved. • Conflict is important it can be presented in a number of ways; different people, different circumstances, different ambitions. Conflict is shown in action and can often be used as evidence. Music and sounds effects are important as it adds drama.