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The Theory of
Documentaries
The aim of a documentary is to report on a
subject using evidence to back up an
argument. This can be done by using real
f...
Corner’s definition
‘what distinguishes a documentary is the
portrayal of sound and images of actuality’
John Corner 1995
Real facts cannot be made up, however
reconstructions rely on facts as everything
can be documented.
documentaries do not ...
John Grierson was defining documentary genres in the
1930’s. he made a documentary called ‘coal face’ and
‘housing problem...
Genre
Genre is important for television stations as
they would not broadcast productions which
were controversial. the tel...
Reconstructions
reconstructions are going to always be in
documentaries as it is impossible for
everything to be caught on...
‘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 see...
development in creative technologies means that the term
documentary now covers a large range of production
methods. some ...
‘documentaries present facts about a subject
using real persons or places then creatively
interpret or comment on these re...
current affairs
Current affair programmes are a midway
between documentaries and news
programmes.
they offer a more in-dep...
Sir Trevor McDonald’s programmes have
been accused of sensationalising the facts.
critics have said that the programmes ar...
features of a documentary John Corner
• observation- this allows the audience to almost become an eyewitness to
an event t...
‘it is critical that film makers be rid of the
fantasy that can be unproblematic
representation of reality and that the tr...
‘all documentaries need evidence as when
there is evidence you cannot lie’
John Corner.
the Documentary ‘cathy come home’ by ken
loach highlights the importance for
documentaries after it was aired the law was
...
A fully narrated documentary usually uses a
direct mode of address, it will use a voiceover
to convey a message and explai...
A mixed documentary is a combination of
interviews, observation, and narration.it is
more news report in style.
They have ...
a self reflective documentary will try to alter a
viewer's opinion about something. a self
reflective documentary will usu...
Docudrama / Docusoap
Reenacts events that have happened
there is a fictional narrative to accompany the
loose facts.
these...
‘the need for televisions to broadcast things
that are bright and sparkly to please
audiences instead of broadcasting fact...
• Documentaries use traditional narratives,
they have a defined beginning, middle, and
end.
• they also have sound effects...
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The theory of documentaries

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The theory of documentaries

  1. 1. The Theory of Documentaries
  2. 2. The aim of a documentary is to report on a subject using evidence to back up an argument. This can be done by using real footage of an event or a reconstruction of an event. narration is nearly always used in a documentary, its use is to anchor meaning. sometimes the audience relies upon an unseen narrator this style is called voice of god. sometimes a documentary can be problematic as it could come across as being
  3. 3. Corner’s definition ‘what distinguishes a documentary is the portrayal of sound and images of actuality’ John Corner 1995
  4. 4. Real facts cannot be made up, however reconstructions rely on facts as everything can be documented. documentaries do not have to analyze each fact a documentary can deal with political, historical, religious and cultural issues. they can also document current affairs and social problems.
  5. 5. John Grierson was defining documentary genres in the 1930’s. he 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. he was the first person to coin the phrase ‘Documentary’ and his definition was ‘the creativity of actuality’.
  6. 6. Genre Genre is important for television stations as they would not broadcast productions which were controversial. the television schedule was just as important as it allowed advertisers to pay more for a programme which lots of people would watch.
  7. 7. Reconstructions reconstructions are going to always be in documentaries as it is impossible for everything to be caught on tape.if a documentary focuses on a group of people who are aware the camera is there the reliability could be questioned as they could act differently for the camera, this means the documentary becomes non-reality.
  8. 8. ‘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 (filmmaker)
  9. 9. development in creative technologies means that the term documentary now covers a large range of production methods. some analysts have argued that the term should be replaced with the term ‘non-fictional programming’ however there is a list of conventions a documentary must have: • sound • music • narration • visual clips - either reconstruction or real footage the use of clips allows facts to be presented in a creative yet believable manner. • facts - these are used to create socially critical arguments which invite the audience to draw conclusions.
  10. 10. ‘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
  11. 11. current affairs Current affair programmes are a midway between documentaries and news programmes. they offer a more in-depth look about current news topics they are usually on around 15 minutes rather than around 30 or 60 minutes for a documentary current affair programmes are being accused
  12. 12. Sir Trevor McDonald’s programmes have been accused of sensationalising the facts. critics have said that the programmes are becoming more and more focused on gaining viewers rather than focusing on the facts.
  13. 13. features of a documentary John Corner • observation- this allows the audience to almost become an eyewitness 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 upon interviews. viewers usually cannot see the interviewer and the person being interviewed never normally looks at the camera. the interviews allow contrast to be made and help the documentary to become unbiased. • 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 entertainment value and adds to the dramatisation. • exposition- line of argument, this adds purpose. the description and commentary are a key element. different style documentaries will focus on
  14. 14. ‘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’
  15. 15. ‘all documentaries need evidence as when there is evidence you cannot lie’ John Corner.
  16. 16. the Documentary ‘cathy come home’ by ken loach highlights the importance for documentaries after it was aired the law was changed regarding its topic homeless people. although documentaries cannot be bias they can try to give people a sense of right or wrong
  17. 17. A fully narrated documentary usually uses a direct mode of address, it will use a voiceover to convey a message and explain any visuals. this sort of narration is referred to as ‘ voice of god’
  18. 18. A mixed documentary is a combination of interviews, observation, and narration.it is more news report in style. They have been criticised to only show present objective reality. this means they only show the audience what they want them to see.
  19. 19. a self reflective documentary will try to alter a viewer's opinion about something. a self reflective documentary will usually have a presenter and a good example is louis theroux .
  20. 20. Docudrama / Docusoap Reenacts events that have happened there is a fictional narrative to accompany the loose facts. these sort of documentaries claim to represent the truth but in fact are usually misleading and dangerous.
  21. 21. ‘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 the audience’ Steve Barnett's theory - Disneyfication.
  22. 22. • Documentaries use traditional narratives, they have a defined beginning, middle, and end. • they also have sound effects, character conflicts and music. • conflict is important, it can be presented in a number of ways. conflict is shown in action and can often be used as evidence.

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