theory of documentary

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2. The aim of a documentary is to report something real with evidence. Documentaries contain actual footage and/or reconstructions of events and situations to provide evidence or contrast with the interviewee's account. They also include narration to anchor meaning, sometimes relying on the unseen narrator. Documentaries are often defined as problematic. Documentaries have to be real but unfortunately they can't always document with evidence. By reconstructing the event that the interviewee describes it can help the audience to visualise a portrayal of evidence, reconstructions must be based on fact. They don't have to contain analysis and can cover a wide range of genres from political, historical, social, religious and cultural. However they are NOT classed as current affairs. THE AIM OF DOCUMENTARIES 'What distinguishes a documentary is the portrayal of sound and images of actuality' - John Corner 1995. 3. Genres were being defined in the 1930's by John Grierson and his team at the general post office. Grierson's principles of documentary were that cinema's potential for observing life could be exploited in a new art form; that the "original" actor and "original" scene are better guides than their fiction counterparts to interpreting the modern world; and that materials "thus taken from the raw" can be more real than the acted article. He created documentaries such as Coal Face and Housing Problems. THE HISTORY OF DOCUMENTARY 4. He shot real people and real situations in a real environment and believed that is what documentary should be. He wanted to give people a glimpse of other people's lives, which in contrast to our modern day society it had not been something available to the 1930's audience, real life hadn't been exposed before this was an entirely new concept. Old style documentaries had a sense of persuasion. Genre is important, especially for television. Documentary makers would have to carefully consider their genre -would television find is acceptable to air? is it too controversial?- and then plan their scheduling cleverly to fit in with their target audience. British documentaries are renowned for their investigative journalism. The word documentary was coined by documentarian John Grierson and defined as 'the creativity of actuality'. A range of arguments have carried on since about the balance of creativity. This is because problems arise of authenticity, the more creative the documentary is the more it runs away from focus. JOHN GRIERSON 5. However film makers argue reconstruction is inevitable as not everything can be/is captured when it happens. All attempts to record reality is affected as people act differently when they are on camera. 'I think that 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. FILM MAKERS 6. Creative development over the years means the term documentary covers a huge range of production methods. Some analysts argue it should be replaced with the term 'non- fiction programming'. Although people disagree on the styles and term of documentary, they do have a common thread of what a documentary is and should contain. Some of these are: Recorded sound- actual reality/experiences Not just about facts- socially critical arguments, also inviting the audience to draw their own conclusions CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT Peter Mayeux says that 'documentaries present facts about a subject using real events, people, places then creatively interpret all comments on those realities and peoples concerns'. 7. Current Affairs: Midway between documentaries and the news, for example Panorama. Current affairs are more in-depth information about what is happening on the news. They can range from a couple of minutes up to 15 minutes. Features that are 30 minutes or longer is then a documentary. Current affairs are important for exploring weighty issues and social development. However, there is a growing concern that they are edging towards being 'rating driven'. ITV's Trevor McDonald was accused of being sensationalist. He was criticised for distorting the truth and misinterpreting the views of contributors. CURRENT AFFAIRS 8. Documentary maker John Corner, a professor at the University of Liverpool, believed that there are 5 central elements to documentaries: 1. Observation 2. Interview 3. Dramatisation 4. Mise en Scene 5. Exposition FIVE ELEMENTS OF DOCUMENTARY 9. Observation: Most documentaries will include observations. Usually they pretend that the camera is unseen which places the audience as an eye witness. Observations are also used as evidence for interviews. However, they have been criticised for portraying participants as objects instead of subjects. Interview: Documentaries rely on interviews and these are used to support or contrast with the observation. The interviewer can be seen or unseen and pictures are often played to anchor meaning and make the interviews more interesting. Documentary makers have the choice to intercut fragments of interviews with other material or to just let the interview run. OBSERVATION AND INTERVIEWS 10. Dramatisation: This is done through the observational element. It is used to create a sense of conflict and build up the arguments. The audience is placed as an eye witness and they portray people in the events based on fact. Mise En Scene: This is used in documentaries to construct reality. Mise en scene is extremely important and must be relevant to the documentary. It includes things such as; set, props, costume, make-up, lighting and colour. Exposition: This element of the documentary reveals what argument is being explored (topic of the documentary). This is done through description and commentary. Exposition can be obvious, direct or indirect and finally it can be hidden. Documentaries can also leave it up to the audience to make up their own minds. DRAMATISATION, MISE EN SCENE AND EXPOSITION 11. Since the beginning documentaries have struggled with the truth and reality resulting in many counter claims. John Corner says that this is why they need evidence. Documentaries are real though they have elements of fiction, for example scripted voice overs, and they are not good ratings boosters. Because of this documentaries are normally the first programmes to be cut. The most popular documentaries are the ones that look at topics such as sex, violence and law and order. The most watched documentary is US Violence In America. Controversial documentaries are not popular with television as it is difficult to get advertisers to play their adverts in the middle of the documentary since they don't want to be associated with the controversy. The triangulation of documentary, documentary producer and the audience is a complex relationship. Normally documentaries are used to tell the stories of society's victims. They use human beings as evidence and exploit and expose people's lives. TRUTH AND REALITY 'It is critical that the film makers be rid of the fantasy that the documentary can be unproblematic representation of reality and that the 'truth' can be conveniently dispensed and revealed like valium.' -Dennis O'Rourke. 12. Documentary maker Ken Loach's documentary of Cathy Come Home, was so influential that the laws were changed about homeless people. Documentaries aim to work on people's right to know. For example producing documentaries on information that the government aren't saying openly to the public. They expect the audience to notice there is a problem and then right that wrong. They show people that something needs to be done in hope that they will do something. PEOPLES RIGHT TO KNOW 13. Fully narratored: This type of documentary has a direct mode of address and uses a voice over to convey meaning which also makes sense of what's on screen. This is sometimes referred to the 'voice of God' in documentaries. This can be found in documentaries about space and animals. Fly on the wall: These documentaries rely almost entirely on observations. There is no/almost no narration and lets the audience watch the events as eye witnesses, as if they are actually there. These documentaries appear to be the truth though they are heavily edited which instead means that they are only a version of the truth. This is found in documentaries including police camera action or A&E documentaries. TYPES OF DOCUMENTARY 14. Mixed: Mixed documentaries use a combination to advance the argument, combining; interviews, observations and narration. They have a news reporting style to them. They have however been criticised for representing 'objective' reality but they are more edited and balanced and contain the most evidence. Mainly in documentaries about music or film etc. -Bruno Mars - Coming Home Documentary TYPES OF DOCUMENTARY 15. Self Reflective: The subject of this documentary acknowledge the camera and the documentary tends to lose its importance as it becomes more about the host. Critics have said that the are confusing and fall into empty narcissism. Docudrama: These documentaries contain re-enactments of events based on fact with a fictional narrative. Docudramas are very popular with television and some examples are Hillsborough and Death of JFK. Critics say that they can only ever hope to deliver fiction though they claim to represent the truth. They don't film actuality so they are at best misleading and possibly dangerous. Docusoaps: This type of documentary has become really popular over the past 10 years, they follow the daily lives of people. For example, Katie Price, Nurses, The Saturdays, Airline and Peter Andre. They originated in the UK and have helped increase the subjects interest from the public making them more famous. Some consider The Only Way is Essex and Jersey Shore as docusoaps howeve