Documentary Types and TipsA Presentation byMedia Trainer Mudassar Lone
Classification A documentary is a creative work of non-fiction, including: Documentary film Radio documentary Documentary photography
Documentary film Documentary film is a broad category of visual expression that is based on the attempt, in one fashion or another, to "document" reality. Although "documentary film" originally referred to movies shot on film stock, it has subsequently expanded to include video and digital productions that can be either direct-to-video or made for a television series. Documentary, as it applies here, works to identify a "filmmaking practice, a cinematic tradition, and mode of audience reception" that is continually evolving and is without clear boundaries.
Radio documentary A radio documentary or feature is a radio documentary program devoted to covering a particular topic in some depth, usually with a mixture of commentary and sound pictures. Some radio features, especially those including specially composed music or other pieces of audio art, resemble radio drama in many ways, though non-fictional in subject matter, while others consist principally of more straightforward, journalistic-type reporting – but at much greater length than found in an ordinary news report.
Documentary photography Documentary photography usually refers to a type of professional photojournalism, but it may also be an amateur or student pursuit. The photographer attempts to produce truthful, objective, and usually candid photography of a particular subject, most often pictures of people. The pictures usually depict a certain perspective of the photographer. Usually such photographs are meant for publication, but are sometimes only for exhibition in an art gallery or other public forum. Sometimes an organization or company will commission documentary photography of its activities, but the pictures will only be for its private archives.
Major Components of Documentaries Events must be un staged, independent of cinema, non-fiction staged to film-- Conventionally non-fiction; real world activities-- Assumes an objective record of real events by filmmakers; camera influences film event; techniques of camera and choices made in filming, like film in the camera and lens choice. These are subjective choices.All films have selection and editing. There is objectivity, but all events are seen from some perspective. How do these selections manipulate and shape the event? Objective events are viewed through some perspective."Manipulation" of events = "propaganda"
Types of Documentary1. Poetic documentaries,2. Expository documentaries3. Observational documentaries /Direct Cinema4. Participatory documentaries5. Reflexive documentaries6. Per formative documentaries
Poetic documentaries Which first appeared in the 1920’s, were a sort of reaction against both the content and the rapidly crystallizing grammar of the early fiction film. The poetic mode moved away from continuity editing and instead organized images of the material world by means of associations and patterns, both in terms of time and space.
Expository documentaries Speak directly to the viewer, often in the form of an authoritative commentary employing voiceover or titles, proposing a strong argument and point of view. These films are rhetorical, and try to persuade the viewer. The (voice-of-God) commentary often sounds ‘objective’ and omniscient. Images are often not paramount; they exist to advance the argument.
Observational documentaries Attempt to simply and spontaneously observe lived life with a minimum of intervention. Filmmakers who worked in this sub-genre often saw the poetic mode as too abstract and the expository mode as too didactic. The first observational docs date back to the 1960’s; the technological developments which made them possible include mobile light weight cameras and portable sound recording equipment for synchronized sound.
Participatory documentaries Believe that it is impossible for the act of filmmaking to not influence or alter the events being filmed. What these films do is emulate the approach of the anthropologist: participant-observation. Not only is the filmmaker part of the film, we also get a sense of how situations in the film are affected or altered by her presence.
Reflexive documentaries Don’t see themselves as a transparent window on the world; instead they draw attention to their own constructed ness, and the fact that they are representations. How does the world get represented by documentary films? This question is central to this sub-genre of films. They prompt us to “question the authenticity of documentary in general.”
Performative documentaries Stress subjective experience and emotional response to the world. They are strongly personal, unconventional, perhaps poetic and/or experimental, and might include hypothetical enactments of events designed to make us experience what it might be like for us to possess a certain specific perspective on the world that is not our own, e.g. that of black, gay men in Marlon Riggs’s Tongues Untied (1989) or Jenny Livingston’s Paris Is Burning (1991). This sub-genre might also lend itself to certain groups (e.g. women, ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians, etc) to ‘speak about themselves.’
Make Your Own Documentary Film 10 Easy Steps from Conceptualization to Completion
10 Easy Steps from Conceptualization toCompletion1. Find yourself a worthwhile story: Learn what makes or breaks a documentary film. Think about what kinds of documentary films you like. Learn the various genres and filmmaking styles. For example, Michael Moores filmmaking style is very different than Ken Burns filmmaking style.
10 Easy Steps from Conceptualization toCompletion2. Become familiar with technical equipment Use equipment like DV cameras, final cut pro editing systems, cheap mics, flood lights. Experiment with lighting setups, audio recording, splicing clips together. Read filmmaking forums like IndieTalk to get sound technical advice from experienced filmmakers.
10 Easy Steps from Conceptualization toCompletion3. Choose a subject that you find fascinating and is accessible to you. Choosing a subject that is compelling & timely will result in a strong and relevant film. It is often better to focus on a local personality or local event so that you will have access to loads of resources for your film. Besides, its much simpler & cheaper to shoot at home than abroad.
10 Easy Steps from Conceptualization toCompletion4. Become an expert on your chosen subject through research. Research your subject as thoroughly as possible. Gain knowledge through the internet, books, and word of mouth. Attend events pertaining to your chosen subject.
10 Easy Steps from Conceptualization toCompletion5. Create a structure/outline for your film through visualization Close your eyes and imagine how you would like the final product to look. Think about how you want to structure your film. What do you want to start with? How are you going to build your film? Write down your ideas. Story outline ___ List of Interview Questions ___ List of B-Roll footage you need to get ___ List of Equipment ___ List of Shooting Locations ___ List of Forms: Talent, Location, Photographer ___ Shooting ScheduleNote This will give you a blueprint for shooting. But remember that in documentary filmmaking, unlike fictional filmmaking, the footage informs the final structure of the film. Your initial written outline exists to serve as a guideline for shooting.
10 Easy Steps from Conceptualization toCompletion6. Analyze your wants/needs for making the film. Make a wish list of any people, locations, items, equipment you WISH you could have for your film. Cross-reference this list with any people, locations, items and equipment that you do have access to. Ask people. Check with local art centers, film departments at universities and colleges. Talk to the local film office. If you are looking for footage, check with stock libraries for material that is in the public domain and free to use.
10 Easy Steps from Conceptualization toCompletion7. Find finances for your film Use Google or check with your local film office to find out what existing documentary funding programs are available to you. For example, the International Documentary Association has a great list of grants you can apply for. Hold fundraising events. Other options are to apply for credit cards or cashline.
10 Easy Steps from Conceptualization toCompletion8. Shoot! Dont talk about doing it - get out there and shoot your film. Home video Archival video Photos Other supporting documents and Media Signed releases for these items Signed releases for your participants This is the step that differentiates the aspiring filmmakers from the actual filmmakers.
10 Easy Steps from Conceptualization toCompletion9. Post-production Cut your film Create your film website Create the trailers Start your press kit Fast forward through all of your footage, and take printable screenshots of key scenes. This way you simplify the editing process by creating a visual map of your footage. Once this is done you should watch ALL of your footage and create an action log listing timestamps. This will help you to save time in the editing room.
10 Easy Steps from Conceptualization toCompletion10. Show your film Upload it to the internet, Four-wall it in a theatre, Send the cut to networks to see if they are interested, Hit the festival circuit. You can apply to multiple film festivals at once through the website Without a box. If all else fails, invite people to your place to screen. Burn multiple DVDs and get the film into the hands of family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, anyone you know who is in the film industry.
Tips Have FUN showing your film at festivals. Be relaxed on this journey into filmmaking. This is supposed to be creative fun. When it becomes anything other than that, it’s time to evaluate your life goals. With this in mind, let the kinks along the road roll off and keep moving. Show your film at festivals and enjoy yourself. This attitude will in turn help sell your film. Talk to viewers and be positive, even if they aren’t. Keep in mind that it really doesn’t matter what they say about the film, it’s already been made. It’s not going to change. *Smile* So with that in mind, take it easy.