TV Documentaries - Styles and Influences

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  • 1. TV Documentaries: styles and influences
    • Direct Cinema
    • Style of documentary produced in 1960s.
    • Came about as result of widespread availability of cheap, portable lightweight audio-visual equipment
    • Aimed at objectivity: no narrator, simply fly-on-the-wall filming of events and people, leaving it up to the audience to draw conclusions.
    • Approach is in direct contrast to the tradition of the ‘Authored Documentary’, which is clearly the opinion of an individual.
    • Rules of Direct cinema:
    • Documentaries were not to include interviews
    • There were to be no rehearsals prior to filming
    • No staged events or commentary
    • No film lights
    • No dissolve edits to be used
  • 2.
    • Examples: D A Pennebaker ‘Don’t Look Back’ (1968)
    • Albert and David Myles ‘Gimme Shelter’ (1970)
    • Direct cinema lead to observational (‘Fly on the wall’) documentary style which has remained a popular genre. Has had a massive influence on contemporary TV: Reality TV, docu-soaps, video diaries
  • 3. Cinema verite
    • Style of European film-making in the early 1960s using documentary techniques such as hand-held camera to convey life in as realistic a way as possible.
    • Similar to direct cinema but CV believed that the film makers opinions should be expressed – art as propaganda. CV also used interviews whereas DC didn’t.
    • Linked to ‘Social Realist’ tradition in fiction film
  • 4. Institutional Documentaries
    • Use direct cinema techniques to give a fly-on-the-wall insight to the day-to-day workings of hospitals, airports.
    • Popular genre which is often informative, humorous and sometimes critical in the way in which these places of work are represented. Have given way to the popular docusoap genre in recent years.
  • 5. Docusoaps
    • Take ordinary, common experience and look at it through the eyes of the public. Are called docu-soaps because they are similar to soap operas in terms of:
    • Fast editing
    • Multi-strand narratives
    • Part of a series and often end on a cliffhanger ‘next week on…..’
  • 6. Docusoaps
    • Are very popular: ‘The Cruise’ averaged 11 million viewers, ‘Driving School’ peaked at 12.45 million viewers. Common characteristics are:
    • Emphasis on entertainment rather than instruction
    • Based around personalities who often ‘play up’ to the camera, and talk directly to camera. They often become celebrities themselves eg Jeremy Spake in ‘Airport’
  • 7.
    • Prominent, guiding voice-over often by an established actor
    • Focus on everyday lives and problems rather than underlying social issues
    • Selective editing: some scenes are known to have been ‘set-up’
  • 8. Public Affairs Documentaries
    • Probably the most traditional of documentary formats – ‘Panorama’, ‘Dispatches’
    • Usually shown by Public Service Broadcasting channels, eg BBC, Channel 4, and normally investigate/explore current affairs issues.
    • Can often be polemical – drawing attention to a perceived wrong - and can have significant impact, for example ‘World In Action’ investigation leading to release of The Birmingham Six.
  • 9. Video Diaries
    • Again, descended from Direct Cinema – seen by audiences as reliable and truthful as the subject is filming themselves.
    • An off-shoot of this are the documentaries which use surveillance technology as entertainment (infotainment), with audiences enjoying their voyeuristic nature eg ‘Police, Camera, Action’, ‘Cops With Cameras’
  • 10. Drama Documentaries
    • These are documentaries exploring a social issue or drawing attention to a miscarriage of justice but they are scripted and acted dramas. EG ‘Hillsborough’, ‘Roots’ (1977). Filmed equivalents would be a biog-pic such as ‘Ghandi’
  • 11. Theatrical Documentaries
    • Film documentaries released in the cinema.
    • Is a tradition of cinematic documentaries about pop stars, sport, etc (eg ‘When We Were kings’, ‘In Bed With Madonna’)
    • New trend for provocative film documentaries, fronted by a charismatic narrator who appears on screen eg Michael Moore ‘Farenheit 9/11’, ‘Bowling for Columbine’ or Morgan Spurlock ‘Super Size Me’.
    • These are a return to the concept of the ‘Authored Documentary’, where the piece is clearly scripted and presented as the viewpoint of a particular individual.
  • 12. Mockumentaries
    • Use the documentary format for comic effect, either:
    • Parodying the genre
    • Parodying an area of life
    • Parodying both
  • 13. Examples
  • 14.