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Cinematic Documentary:

Politics and Practice

BA Hons. Film Production


Level 5

Taught by:
David Alamouti
Piers Untersander
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What will I study?


The unit aims to encourage students to view and produce documentary forms that differ from
the formulated and formatted documentaries seen on television, towards something more
akin to the cinematic documentaries that are much bigger in their scope - meaning either in
the themes, approaches, style and visual language.
The unit will also offer an historical overview of the evolution of the documentary and the
critical and political questions it raises. The impact of new technologies will be considered
alongside key theorists and filmmakers in the field.

How will I study?


Through a dynamic fusion of practical workshops, lectures, seminars and group exercises
students will be encouraged to analyse the documentary form as well as practically work
towards the realisation of a documentary project.

What are my week by week sessions?


Week 1:
Lecture:
Introduction to unit; What is a documentary- what is a cinematic documentary? The
philosophical, ethical and historical underpinnings of the form and medium.
Seminar
Finding and researching ideas Seminar
Out of class:
3 ideas developed in production groups, researched ready to present in week 2.
Readings:
Developing Story Ideas (Pg. 97) in Directing the Documentary by Michael Rabiger

Exploring the World (pg. 1) in This Much is True: 14 Directors on Documentary


Filmmaking by James Quinn
How can we define Documentary Film? (chapter 1) in Introduction to Documentary (2nd
Edition) by Nichols, Bill

Week 2:
Lecture:
Modes and types of documentary Seminar: The Expository & The Observational
Seminars:
Presenting ideas and initial research + Feedback
Strategies for idea development
Out of class:In 60 seconds or less- give us a sense of a location or character using only
filmic language and diegetic sound (no interview, VO or music).
Readings:
Research (Pg. 115) in Directing the Documentary by Michael Rabiger
Access (pg. 75) in This Much is True: 14 Directors on Documentary Filmmaking by James
Quinn
Telling The Truth (pg. 22) in This Much is True: 14 Directors on Documentary
Filmmaking by James Quinn
Why are ethical issues central to Documentary Film? (chapter 1) in Introduction to
Documentary (2nd Edition) by Nichols, Bill

Week 3:
Modes and types of documentary Seminar: The Reflexive & The Poetic

Seminars:
Watch exercises and feedback
Interviewing skills Practical
Out of class:
120 seconds or less- Choose a character or location and using filmic language, interviews,
diegetic and non-diegetic sound and music- try to convey a truth about a person or a
location.

Readings:
Interviews (pg. 96) in This Much is True: 14 Directors on Documentary Filmmaking by
James Quinn
Point of View and Storytelling (Pg. 261) in Directing the Documentary by Michael Rabiger

Week 4:
Modes and types of documentary: The Participatory and The Performative

Seminars: Watch exercises and feedback


Documentary Screen Language and Storytelling

Out of class:
Meet subject and film some footage of for a trailer + prepare a mock pitch.
Readings:
Thinking in Pictures (pg. 162) in This Much is True: 14 Directors on Documentary
Filmmaking by James Quinn

Week 5:
Lecture:
The Documentary Industry; Proposals and Pitching

Out of class:
Present trailer + feedback
Prepare for pitch in week 7- mock pitch
Readings:
Developing and Pitching a short documentary (Pg. 127) in Directing the
Documentary by Michael Rabiger

Week 6:
Enhancement Week

Week 7:
Pitch with special Guest.
Out of class:
Hand in of Assessment 1

Week 8:
Tutorials with each Production Group to arranged with tutor.
Out of class:
Shooting!
_________________________________________________________________________

Week 9:
Tutorials with each Production Group to be arranged with tutor.
Out of class:
Shooting!

Week 10:
The documentary Edit
Out of class:
Editing
Readings:
Creating the First Assembly (Pg. 211) in Directing the Documentary by Michael
Rabiger

Week 11:
Edit Session and first assembly viewings

Out of class:
Prepare Rough cut for week 12
________________________________________________________________________

Week 12:
Editing session & Rough cut viewing
Out of class:
Keep editing

Week 13:
Hand in Films
_________________________________________________________________________

Week 14:
Final Screening

________________________________________________________________________
Week 15:
Assessment and Feedback week

How will I be assessed?


Assessment 1: Individual Pre-Production Portfolio
Worth: 40% of your final unit grade
Length/Duration: 2,000 words + supporting documentation
The pre-production portfolio-which must be presented in the form of a documentary

proposal- will enable students to demonstrate the research that will underpin their
documentary film and their own individual contribution to the making of that film.
The proposal will include:
- A synopsis (shared amongst the group)
- A longer treatment including a more detailed section on on what the documentary will
hopefully explore (shared amongst the group)
- An idea on the approach to the documentary form and style (shared amongst the group)
- Research into the creative, practical and technical requirements of your role in preparation
for your shoot (individual)
- Planning the technical and practical aspects of the shoot and edit (individual)
- What you hope to achieve with your film in your specific role (individual)
Supporting documentation must include:
-

Ethics form completed


Equipment list
An initial agreement form completed
A trailer or supporting material (embedded in the document)

Assessment 2: The Film (Group)


Worth: 60% of your final unit grade
Length/Duration: 10-15 minutes in length
The final documentary will be assessed for its conception and factual inputs, its technical
realisation, its creative realisation and its overall effectiveness. All students are required to
actively participate in the planning, preparation and delivery of group assessed work.

How can I do well?


Here are some suggestions:
- Make sure you attend. Most students do badly because they stop turning up to the
sessions. With a course as practical as this, you will not be able to find the information on
the web, therefore if you miss a session you have already fallen behind and if you don't
make it up, it will affect your success on this unit.
- Watch a lot of documentaries- both short and long form ones.
- Plan and research your idea carefully and be prepared to find new ones in case things

change. Documentary making is about being adaptable to real life!

What are the supporting materials?


Websites:
http://www.cinema5d.com
http://nofilmschool.com
http://filmmakermagazine.com

Books and journals:


Documentary Film : A Very Short Introduction by Aufderheide, Patricia
- http://site.ebrary.com/lib/solent/detail.action?docID=10215774
Introduction to Documentary (2nd Edition) by Nichols,
Bill- http://site.ebrary.com/lib/solent/reader.action?docID=10437993&ppg=22
This Much is True: 14 Directors on Documentary Filmmaking by James
Quinn- https://www.dawsonera.com/abstract/9781472503862

Directing the Documentary by Michael Rabiger


- https://www.dawsonera.com/readonline/9781315867502
Bernard, S. 2007. Documentary Storytelling. Focal Press.
Bruzzi, S. 2000. New Documentary: A Critical Introduction. Routledge.
Grierson, J. 1979. Grierson on Documentary. Faber & Faber.
Nichols, B. 2010. Introduction to Documentary. Indiana University Press.
Rabiger, M. 2009. Directing the Documentary. Focal Press.
Winston, B. 2000. Lies, Damn Lies and Documentaries. 2000.

What if I need help?

Contact your seminar tutor as the first point of contact


and make sure you do this early enough so that some help
can be arranged. Do not leave it until the night before
hand in to contact them as this is too late.

10

Southampton Solent University


Assessment Brief
Assessment Details
Unit Title:
Unit Code:
Unit Leader:
Level:
Assessment Title:
Assessment Number:
Assessment Type:
Restrictions on Time/Length :
Individual/Group:
Assessment Weighting:
Issue Date:
Hand In Date:
Planned Feedback Date:
Mode of Submission:
Number of copies to be submitted:

Cinematic Documentary: Politics and Practice


MFT 526
David Alamouti
One

Anonymous Marking

This assessment will :


(a) be exempt from anonymous marking as it falls
within an exempt category under the
Universitys Anonymous Marking Policy.

The Portfolio

One
A Preproduction Portfolio
2,000 words + supporting documentation

Individual
40%
September 2016
Thursday 10th Nov 2016
Week beginning 30th Dec 2016
turn it in
1

Assessment Task
AE1

weighting:
assessment type:
length/duration:

40%
Individual Pre-Production Portfolio
2000 + supporting documentation

Assessment criteria
The assessment will be marked on:
Due to the nature of the documentary production, a larger emphasis is placed on
the pre-production stage. The portfolio enables students to demonstrate the
research that will underpin the production, their critical approach to the
documentary form drawing from existing documentaries and studies.

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LEARNING OUTCOMES
On completion of the unit, students will be able to:
Knowledge and Understanding:
K1
Demonstrate an awareness of key principles, practices and politics of documentary
filmmaking
Practical and Professional Skills
P2
Understand the process of research and the creation of proposals as well as the
briefing of contributors and the conduct of interviews central to documentary production.
Transferable and Key Skills
T1
Demonstrate a significant understanding of group work and a commitment to building
professional working relationships with regard to completing the project assigned.
Extenuating Circumstances
The Universitys Extenuating Circumstances procedures are in place if there are genuine
circumstances that may have affected your academic performance. Remember however
you need to be fit to study, this means that you can either submit your assessed work or
declare extenuating circumstances, but you cannot do both.
A summary of guidance notes for students is given below:
http://blade2-5.solent.ac.uk/DocMan8/rns?RNSExact=ASQS/PPG/1234570925
Academic Misconduct
Any submissions must be your own work and, where facts or ideas have been used from
other sources, these sources must be appropriately referenced. The Universitys Academic
Handbook, includes the definitions of all practices that will be deemed to constitute
academic misconduct. You should check this link before submitting your work.
Procedures relating to student academic misconduct are given below:
http://blade2-5.solent.ac.uk/DocMan8/rns?RNSExact=ASQS/PPG/1234570157
Ethics Policy
The work being carried out by the student must be in compliance with the Ethics Policy.
Where there is an ethical issue, as specified within the Ethics Policy, then the student will
need an ethics release or an ethical approval prior to the start of the project.
The Ethics Policy is contained within Section 2S of the Academic Handbook:
http://blade2-5.solent.ac.uk/DocMan8/rns?RNSExact=PPG/ASQS/AH/1234569791
Anonymous Marking
A copy of the Universitys Policy on Anonymous Marking, process details and student
guidance on submission sheet completion can be found on the following links, which are
also uploaded on the Student Portal. The guidance fact sheet will be available at Faculty
Reception Points.
Policy: http://blade2-5.solent.ac.uk/DocMan8/rns?RNSExact=ASQS/PPG/1234574213
Process: http://blade2-5.solent.ac.uk/DocMan8/rns?RNSExact=ASQS/PPG/1234574215
Fact Sheet: http://blade2-5.solent.ac.uk/DocMan8/rns?RNSExact=ASQS/PPG/1234574214

12

Grade marking
The University uses a letter grade scale for the marking of assessments. Unless you have
been specifically informed otherwise your marked assignment will be awarded a letter
grade. More detailed information on grade marking and the grade scale can be found on
myCourse. The guidance fact sheet is available at the Faculty Reception Points.
Policy: http://blade2-5.solent.ac.uk/DocMan8/rns?RNSExact=PPG/ASQS/AH/1234569864
Fact sheet: http://blade2-5.solent.ac.uk/DocMan8/rns?RNSExact=ASQS/PPG/1234576014

Southampton Solent University


Assessment Brief
Assessment Details
Unit Title:
Unit Code:
Unit Leader:
Level:
Assessment Title:
Assessment Number:
Assessment Type:
Restrictions on Time/Length :
Individual/Group:
Assessment Weighting:
Issue Date:
Hand In Date:
Planned Feedback Date:
Mode of Submission:
Number of copies to be submitted:

Cinematic Documentary: Politics and Practice


MFT 526
David Alamouti
One

Anonymous Marking

This assessment will :


(a) be exempt from anonymous marking as it falls
within an exempt category under the
Universitys Anonymous Marking Policy.

Film

Two
A film
10-15 minutes in length

Group
60%
September 2014
Thursday 5th Jan 2017
Week beginning 25th Jan 2017
Turn it in
1

Assessment Task
Assessment 2:
Group Project
Worth: 60% of your final unit grade
Length/Duration: 10-15 minutes

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Assessment criteria
The assessment will be marked on:
The group project- a short documentary film- will be assessed for its conception and
factual inputs, its technical realisation, its creative realisation and its overall
effectiveness as a piece of creative documentary.

LEARNING OUTCOMES
On completion of the unit, students will be able to:
Cognitive Skills:
C1
Understand the importance of composition and timing within the shot and the
principles underlying the relationship of shot to shot transitions and the structure of
sequences in the documentary.
C2
Develop the means to communicate narrative and message within factual forms.
Practical and Professional Skills
P1
Acquire a working knowledge of video camera operation together with synchronous
sound recording techniques for documentary production.
P2
Understand the process of research and the creation of proposals as well as the
briefing of contributors and the conduct of interviews central to documentary production.
Transferable and Key Skills
T1
Demonstrate a significant understanding of group work and a commitment to building
professional working relationships with regard to completing the project assigned.
Extenuating Circumstances
The Universitys Extenuating Circumstances procedures are in place if there are genuine
circumstances that may have affected your academic performance. Remember however
you need to be fit to study, this means that you can either submit your assessed work or
declare extenuating circumstances, but you cannot do both.
A summary of guidance notes for students is given below:
http://blade2-5.solent.ac.uk/DocMan8/rns?RNSExact=ASQS/PPG/1234570925
Academic Misconduct
Any submissions must be your own work and, where facts or ideas have been used from
other sources, these sources must be appropriately referenced. The Universitys Academic
Handbook, includes the definitions of all practices that will be deemed to constitute
academic misconduct. You should check this link before submitting your work.
Procedures relating to student academic misconduct are given below:
http://blade2-5.solent.ac.uk/DocMan8/rns?RNSExact=ASQS/PPG/1234570157

14

Ethics Policy
The work being carried out by the student must be in compliance with the Ethics Policy.
Where there is an ethical issue, as specified within the Ethics Policy, then the student will
need an ethics release or an ethical approval prior to the start of the project.
The Ethics Policy is contained within Section 2S of the Academic Handbook:
http://blade2-5.solent.ac.uk/DocMan8/rns?RNSExact=PPG/ASQS/AH/1234569791
Anonymous Marking
A copy of the Universitys Policy on Anonymous Marking, process details and student
guidance on submission sheet completion can be found on the following links, which are
also uploaded on the Student Portal. The guidance fact sheet will be available at Faculty
Reception Points.
Policy: http://blade2-5.solent.ac.uk/DocMan8/rns?RNSExact=ASQS/PPG/1234574213
Process: http://blade2-5.solent.ac.uk/DocMan8/rns?RNSExact=ASQS/PPG/1234574215
Fact Sheet: http://blade2-5.solent.ac.uk/DocMan8/rns?RNSExact=ASQS/PPG/1234574214
Grade marking
The University uses a letter grade scale for the marking of assessments. Unless you have
been specifically informed otherwise your marked assignment will be awarded a letter
grade. More detailed information on grade marking and the grade scale can be found on
myCourse. The guidance fact sheet is available at the Faculty Reception Points.
Policy: http://blade2-5.solent.ac.uk/DocMan8/rns?RNSExact=PPG/ASQS/AH/1234569864
Fact sheet: http://blade2-5.solent.ac.uk/DocMan8/rns?RNSExact=ASQS/PPG/1234576014

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