In is all raw footage and is specifically structured

In documentary film making there are many different
approaches to how narrative is shown and portrayed. I will be focusing on two
different examples of documentary, one being observational and one participatory.

When Bill Nichols discovered the different modes of
documentary the world of film and television changed dramatically. Nichols came
up with the modes after much research and decided that documentary filmmaking
could be separated into a style depending on specific reasons such as the cinematography,
point of view and how the documentary is perceived to the audience. Documentary
has been developing ever since early stages of cinema, in 1926 a documentary discoverer
John Grierson explained documentary as being “a creative treatment of actuality”
and furthermore suggested that documentary is “as much making art as it is
about presenting facts”, expanding on this I can suggest that Grierson is
explaining that the difference between documentary and film is that documentary
provides a number of facts or issues based in a more experimental way rather
than just a film. Over the years Nichols theories on documentary have evolved
and these six modes of documentary now form in modern day documentaries.
Nichols has produced many books including “Introduction to Documentary” where
he explains in detail the many sub-genres of documentary to form the six styles
or modes.

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Observational documentaries also quite often known as
fly-on-the-wall documentaries are the most common to feature anywhere and is
mostly seen on the television or in film form. Educating Essex is a prime
example of being an observational documentary. The reason being is that we see
everything on screen without seeing the narrator feature on the documentary. The
cinematography is done very clever so that we feel as if we are actually in the
documentary which is another point that makes it observational. Nothing in
Educating Essex is staged and is all natural so the filming we see is all raw
footage and is specifically structured so that everything on screen just flows
and what we see is real, although we don’t see the narrator in these type of
documentaries we still hear audio of the narrator throughout so we get an idea
of what’s going on in different scenes. Bill Nichols found the forms of documentary
which changed everyone’s approach and opened up a wide variety of different
modes in documentary filmmaking. The observational mode in this documentary is
easy to find as us as an audience are constantly looking over the documentary
in the fly on the wall idea which already tells the audience that the
documentary is definitely focusing on the thing being filmed which in this case
is the children or youths in the Essex based institution. The producer will use
different shots to create a narrative whilst also having a narrator although we
never see them which tells us the mode of documentary in this case is
observational. In terms of the observational mode we can relate to director
Frederick Wiseman. He was considered to be the best at observational cinema and
was known very well for his phononinal studies of institutions and big social
issues. Wiseman structured his films very carefully, editing and arranging
scenes so they speak for themselves. During the filming process Wiseman would
record sound and handle the microphone himself so that his audience could get a
better idea of the atmosphere and anticipation.

In terms of narrative finding a structure of storyline in a
documentary can be difficult. It’s always best to do research on the six modes
of documentary. Normally in a documentary, the filmmaker will never normally
say what the documentary is about as they are based on realism which in terms
of the narrative is a downfall. Narratives are easy to find just by watching
the introduction to a documentary, for example documentaries such as “Planet
Earth” we always see shots of animals with dialogue playing in the background
so we automatically know the narrative because the narrator or dialogue will
always suggest the story or topic to the audience

Participatory documentary filmmaking has become something of
a trend in recent studies and now more filmmakers are using the participatory
mode for their documentaries. Participatory mode can be done by the director or
filmmaker themselves and what the mode means is to be actively focusing on the
issue the filmmaker wants to raise or provide information on. Filmmakers such
as Louis Theroux really achieve the mode well.  Bill Nichols once described filmmaking in this
specific mode as the process where “the encounter between the filmmaker and
subject is recorded and the filmmaker actively engages with the situation they
are documenting”. A documentary which uses this theory is Most Haunted. The participatory
mode is easy to spot from the rest as it should include people constantly
filming and talking which this particular documentary does well. The narrative
in this mode is also an easy thing to look for as in most cases the filmmaker
or people in the documentary normally tell the audience what’s going on and
give information so the audience knows what the documentary is about. Most
Haunted use various shots in their episodes but are always actively seeking a
specific subject or topic which is common in participatory mode. When exploring
participatory mode Louis Theroux’s name is quite often common, this is because
he is a perfect example of using this mode. His documentaries are all usually
focused on a certain topic which he is finding out things about. And that’s
what participatory mode is about its reinforcing a narrative that can be seen
through an individual or team that finds out about the issue and acts upon it
in different ways to find a solution or find out more about the topic which is
what goes on in the documentary I have chosen as an example. The way this mode
approaches narrative is quite simple, as in most cases the actual main person
documenting or narrating will tell the audience what the documentary is about
so we already have an idea of how it’s going to be narrated to the audience.

Documentary has had an increased impact on our screens in
the past years and now many more people use these different modes to introduce
narrative to documentary style filmmaking and this is done in many different
ways which I have covered in this essay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

http://www.lift-off-festivals.com/bill-nichols-6-modes-documentary/

https://www.videomaker.com/article/c06/18423-six-primary-styles-of-documentary-production