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NAME: Samuel Osagie COURSE: Non-Broadcast Video Production TUTOR: Daniel Vidal ASSIGNMENT TITLE: Production Research DATE: 18-3-2009

DOCUMENTARY VIDEO PRODUCTION:

Documenting British Classic Sitcoms

John Grierson defined the term “documentary” in a review of Robert Flaherty’s film Moana (1925), as ‘the creative treatment of actuality’ (Ellis, J., C., 2000). The history of documentary as a genre of film (and video) can be trace back to the origin of film in the 1890s. A documentary video is a video that attempts to document reality. There are also other subgenres in documentary such as mockumentary, docufiction, docu-gameshow (Big Brother, Bare Necessities), docudrama, etc.

NAME: Samuel Osagie COURSE: Non-Broadcast Video Production TUTOR: Daniel Vidal ASSIGNMENT TITLE: Production Research DATE: 18-3-2009

(http://wkar.org/servicesforhire/images/efp-milliken.jpg)

Documentary video production uses the principle of cinematic montage to construct visual argument. The scenes in a documentary video are carefully chosen and arranged, unlike other film genre, they are not scripted as other film genres are scripted; and the people who appear in the documentary films are usually not actors, as documentary is an art of visually document reality. Most documentary videos usually come with a voice-over of a narrator describing what is happening in the footage and tailoring the subject matter. There are also documentary

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NAME: Samuel Osagie COURSE: Non-Broadcast Video Production TUTOR: Daniel Vidal ASSIGNMENT TITLE: Production Research DATE: 18-3-2009 videos which are made without voice-over of a narrator; the footage is allowed to speak to the

audience instead of a narrator. Documentary videos have codes and conventions such as:

The use of real archival footage

Interviews with the subjects or with particular experts

Footage of eyewitnesses

Video and photographic archives

An authoritative narrators

All these codes and conventions are skilfully synchronized visually and aurally to make the audience identify with the content. In documentary video production, the aforementioned codes and conventions of documentary videos can also be craftily constructed to make an unreal event or situation visually and aurally look real to the perception of audiences, leaving the audiences with the question of the credibility and reality. “Documentaries are not inherently more truthful than other films. Yet it does not follow that documentaries, to be truthful, must repudiate the aspiration of revealing reality” (Grant, K., B., 1998). Documentary videos rely heavily on the ability of the filmmaker to convey the impression of authenticity to the viewers.

NAME: Samuel Osagie COURSE: Non-Broadcast Video Production TUTOR: Daniel Vidal ASSIGNMENT TITLE: Production Research DATE: 18-3-2009

“Desert Bayou” director Alex LeMay. Photo courtesy of Taproot Productions

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NAME: Samuel Osagie COURSE: Non-Broadcast Video Production TUTOR: Daniel Vidal ASSIGNMENT TITLE: Production Research DATE: 18-3-2009

NAME: Samuel Osagie COURSE: Non-Broadcast Video Production TUTOR: Daniel Vidal ASSIGNMENT TITLE: Production Research DATE: 18-3-2009

The documentary production crew shooting “Desert Bayou”. Photo courtesy of Taproot Productions

The aim of this research study is to explore the best documentary mode and production technique/method to adopt for documenting a subject on British classic sitcoms; with view to effectively engage UK audiences on British classic sitcoms in a way that will help rejuvenate the nostalgia of British classic sitcoms in the UK.

Documentary films or videos have been classified into six modes as proposed by Bill Nichols (Nichols, B., 2001):

  • 1. Poetic Documentary: this type of documentaries first appeared in the 1920s, these 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. This type of documentary is fragmentary, impressionistic, and lyrical. Films about dancers, painters, and other nonverbal artists are often presented in the poetic mode. According to Nichols, the ‘real world’ is broken up into fragments and aesthetically reconstituted using film form. For example, Sans Soleil (Chris Marker, 1982) and Rain (Joris Ivens, 1928).

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NAME: Samuel Osagie COURSE: Non-Broadcast Video Production TUTOR: Daniel Vidal ASSIGNMENT TITLE: Production Research DATE: 18-3-2009

  • 2. Expository Documentary: is a nonfiction film that covers a subject by using verbal commentary to authoritatively and argumentatively drive a particular logic to an audience. Expository documentaries speak directly to the audience, 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. Common characteristics of expository documentaries are that they are diarized with interviews and voice-overs. This mode of documentary utilizes the classic ‘voice of God’ commentary. We still see it today with news reports, TV documentaries on History Channel, etc. The use of rhetoric insistently often presses upon the audeince to read the images in the documentary in the perspective the filmmaker wants. A good example of this, are historical documentaries, in which ‘objective’ account and interpretation of past events are delivered, e.g. Smoking Dogs (1999) for Channel 4 (history documentary on the Liverpool riots of 1981); many science and nature documentaries.

  • 3. Observational Documentary: this is the type of documentary where the filmmaker engages in observing and documenting a subject’s daily life and circumstances without any from the camera. Observational documentaries attempt to simply and spontaneously observe a subject’s life with a minimum of intervention. The first observational documentary dates back to the 1960s; and this mode of documentary film do not use voice-over commentary, post-synchronized dialogue and music, or re- enactments. Their aim is to create immediacy, intimacy, and revelation of individual human character in ordinary life situations. E.g. welcome to my world (Channel 4) by Lara Akeju.

  • 4. Participatory Documentary: this is a documentary film in which emphasis is on the interaction between the filmmaker and the subject. According to Nichols: “The filmmaker steps out from behind the cloak of voice-over commentary, steps away from poetic meditation, steps down from a fly-on-the-wall perch, and becomes a social actor (almost) like any other. (Almost like any other because the filmmaker retains the camera, and with it, a certain degree of potential power and control over events.)” (Nichols, B., 2001).

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NAME: Samuel Osagie COURSE: Non-Broadcast Video Production TUTOR: Daniel Vidal ASSIGNMENT TITLE: Production Research DATE: 18-3-2009

NAME: Samuel Osagie COURSE: Non-Broadcast Video Production TUTOR: Daniel Vidal ASSIGNMENT TITLE: Production Research DATE: 18-3-2009

Alan Dater and Lisa Merton, filming Taking Root in Tumutumu Hills, Kenya (http://takingrootfilm.com/production-team.htm)

  • 5. Reflexive Documentary: is the documentary film in which the selection and arrangement of images and sounds to craftily synchronized to convey or imply the filmmaker’s point of view about a subject. The filmmaker is part of the film and he is seen as the main character of his own film. Documentary films such as Man with a Movie Camera (Vertov, 1929); Sherman's March (McElwee, 1986) and Biggie and Tupac (Broomfield, 2002).

“A master of the reflexive approach, halfway through Life and Death Broomfield does a remarkable thing: he not only secretly records a conversation with Aileen but he deliberately makes a point of letting her know that filming has stopped (even

though it has not). His reason for doing this is that he wants Aileen to admit that the first killing was an act of self-defense and that she is lying to her legal team. Finally, she admits to the deception. The ethical stakes in this scene are huge. We are left to assume that Broomfield passes the footage onto no one: Eileen's legal team is not informed of the admission and Eileen goes to the execution chamber forever unaware that the conversation was secretly filmed. In some ways, this deception is the” complete inverse of the normal use of the reflexive technique

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NAME: Samuel Osagie COURSE: Non-Broadcast Video Production TUTOR: Daniel Vidal ASSIGNMENT TITLE: Production Research DATE: 18-3-2009 Rabiger discusses: rather than manipulating the participant's nervousness whilst they know they are being filmed, naturalism is elicited by letting the participant believe they are not being filmed” (Mark Richardson).

They prompt viewers to “question the authenticity of documentary in general.” It is the most self-conscious of all the modes, and is highly sceptical of ‘realism’.

  • 6. Performative Documentary: performative documentaries lay emphasis on subjective experience and emotional response to the world, shown to evoke audience reaction. They are very personal, unconventional, perhaps poetic and/or experimental, and might include hypothetical enactments of events designed to make viewers experience what it might be like for them to possess a certain specific perspective on the world that is not our own, e.g. gay men in Tongues Untied (Marlon Riggs, 1989) and Paris Is Burning (Jenny Livingston, 1991). The performative documentary is void of empiricism, realism, and narrative. It engages the viewers with an aesthetic that de- emphasizes reference to an empirical reality. It creates subjectivity in the spectator that connects an abstract aesthetic to an ontology rooted in the abstract. (http://www.horschamp.qc.ca/new_offscreen/ phil_hoffman.html#_edn5, accessed 13/3/2009)

NAME: Samuel Osagie COURSE: Non-Broadcast Video Production TUTOR: Daniel Vidal ASSIGNMENT TITLE: Production Research DATE: 18-3-2009

Hoffman with (Czech) Aunt Hanna

(In the documentary, Passing through/torn formations by Philip Hoffman, 1988)

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NAME: Samuel Osagie COURSE: Non-Broadcast Video Production TUTOR: Daniel Vidal ASSIGNMENT TITLE: Production Research DATE: 18-3-2009 Looking critically into the six modes of documentary proposed by Bill Nichols, the best mode of

documentary to adopt in documenting the prodigy of British classic sitcoms will be expository documentary. Expository documentary is best because it aesthetically employs the use of visual diary (original footage), voice-over and interview to engage the viewers and convey the subject to them. Some very good examples of expository documentaries in British that immensely engaged their viewers and evoke audience responses are:

Comedy Connections: A Bit of Fry and Laurie- (Episode 7) (BBC One Documentary,

2006)

Monty Python-The Secret Life of Brian (by Two Four Broadcast for Channel 4, 2007)

Planet Earth: Ice World- Episode Six (BBC Documentary, 2006)

Secrets of The Quran-part 1 (History Channel)

Did Jesus Die On The Cross-Part 1 (BBC Four Documentary, 2006)

IIT (BBC Documentary, 2008)

Going Dutch-The Netherlands’ Slave Trade (Youtube)

The Secret of El Dorado (BBC Documentary, 2002)

Who Killed British Sitcom? (Channel 4 Documentary, 2006)

Power of Nightmare (by Adam Curtis for BBC, 2004)

From Princess to Queen: Elizabeth II - Childhood to Statehood (BBC Documentary,

1996)

The next important thing to explore is the production techniques of producing expository documentary videos.

Comedy Connections: A Bit of Fry and Laurie- (BBC One Documentary, 2006)

This is an expository documentary about some of the best of British comedy shows. This particular series of the documentary was about a comedy sketch show called “A Bit of Fry and Laurie”, which was produced by BBC ONE in 2005, having Roger Ordish and John Plowman as producers, and directed by Nick Symons and Bob Speirs.

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NAME: Samuel Osagie COURSE: Non-Broadcast Video Production TUTOR: Daniel Vidal ASSIGNMENT TITLE: Production Research DATE: 18-3-2009

NAME: Samuel Osagie COURSE: Non-Broadcast Video Production TUTOR: Daniel Vidal ASSIGNMENT TITLE: Production Research DATE: 18-3-2009

The interesting thing about the documentary is the way they use archival video from the comedy sketch show to buttress what the actors were saying during the interviewer. An editing style which amplifiers message of the medium, and help the audience grasp what the speaker is saying.

The Secret of El Dorado (BBC Documentary, 2002)

This is a documentary about how scientists and researchers discovered a lost civilization in the Amazon Basin of South America. The maker of this documentary employs narration in tandem with the visuals, as the narrator and interviewers explain the subject; it is reinforced by the visuals. What you are told becomes what you see. This is the type of style I will be adopting in my documentary production, because it seamlessly bring the message to the audience easily as the audio and visual is married together.

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NAME: Samuel Osagie COURSE: Non-Broadcast Video Production TUTOR: Daniel Vidal ASSIGNMENT TITLE: Production Research DATE: 18-3-2009

From Princess to Queen: Elizabeth II - Childhood to Statehood (BBC Documentary, 1996)

From Princess to Queen (BBC Documentary, 1996) is a history documentary by BBC, on the life of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain. Old photographs, newsreel footage, passages from "Lilibet's" own diary, and interviews with royal biographers, document of her childhood, of her family life, and her accession to the throne were used in the documentary. In the documentary, they frequently used Close-up shots for the interviewees, with Extreme Close-Ups for the still photos, in order to make the audience identify quickly with the Queen’s biography.

References

  • 1. Comedy Connections: A Bit of Fry and Laurie- (Episode 7) (BBC One Documentary, 2006)

  • 2. Did Jesus Die On The Cross-Part 1 (BBC Four Documentary, 2006)

  • 3. Ellis, J., C. (2000).John Grierson: Life, Contributions, Influence. Southern Illinois University Press.

  • 4. From Princess to Queen: Elizabeth II - Childhood to Statehood (BBC Documentary, 1996)

  • 5. Going Dutch-The Netherlands’ Slave Trade (Youtube)

  • 6. Grant, K., B. (1998). Documenting the Documentary: Close Readings of Documentary Film and Video. 3rd Edition. Wayne State University Press.

  • 7. Hoffman, P. (1988) “Passing Through/Torn Formations” directed by Philip Hoffman

  • 8. Nichols, B. (2001). Introduction to Documentary. Indiana University Press.

  • 9. Polemical Posturing versus Feigned Naivety in Documentary by Mark Richardson (http://www.thefilmjournal.com/issue9/polemic.html, accessed 11/3/2009)

10.http://documentaries.about.com/od/terminology/Glossary.htm, accessed 11/3/2009 11. http://www.horschamp.qc.ca/new_offscreen/ phil_hoffman.html#_edn5, accessed

13/3/2009

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NAME: Samuel Osagie COURSE: Non-Broadcast Video Production TUTOR: Daniel Vidal ASSIGNMENT TITLE: Production Research DATE: 18-3-2009