What strategies to Film, TV or Radio documentary-makers use to convey to viewers or listeners the ‘truthfulness’ of their work? What might be the problem with these strategies?
Oxford Dictionary’s definition of documentaries is as follows “A film or television or radio programme that provides a factual report in a particular subject.” Documentaries are made to help inform and educate its audience, usually revealing new information on the chosen subject. Documentary-makers present factual information, which, is mainly focused on economic, social, cultural or historical subject matters. There is a sense of reality included within documentaries created through the location and the subject being captured through a picture or film, this is a way in which the documentary-makers can put across the realism and truthfulness of the subject, as there is visible evidence of the stated fact. The main focus in this thesis will be discussing the diverse range of strategies employed by television documentary-makers and how these are executed to convey to the audience the ‘truthfulness’ of their work and also what might be the possible problems that are present in some of these strategies employed by the documentary-maker.
Between the 1920s and 1980s we witness dramatic changes and developments to the evolution of Television documentaries. World War ll was crucial to the progression of radio documentary, as it distinguished the works of the CBS writer Norman Corwin and the reporting of Edward R. Murrow, then in 1946, Murrow created the CBS documentary unit, this was a way in which documentary journalism was linked with an idea where broadcasters could exchange a public news service for the station licenses.
Documentaries began to increase in both quality and quantity during the early 1960s. Mary Ann Watson articulates how the link of technology within social dynamics gave a profuse momentum to the television documentary movement in ‘The expanding vista: American Television in the Kennedy years’. 1961-62, TV documentary production was on a peak, the 3 networks, which aired documentaries at this time, were airing more than 250 hours of programming. This showed there was a large market for documentaries, which was seen to be rapidly expanding, in coalition to the development of appropriate technologies. In the 1983 PBS premiered a much-admired investigative series produced by David Fanning called FrontLine, this helped documentaries broaden their public horizon. Since the middle of the 80s, cable television started to create an extensive obligation towards non-controversial documentaries, where from then on in 1984 The Arts and Entertainment Network began forming, as well as The Discovery Channel later on in 1985.
The way to creating a successful and engaging documentary is being able to tell a story with enough evidence and arguments under your belt. A documentary is made using different types of strategies to enable that its truthfulness is presented accurately to its respective audience; this can be done in an array of ways. It is important for the documentary-maker to decide what context his documentary is going to be, drama-documentary or ‘fly on the wall’ documentary; this is an important factor in post production, as it will chose the documentaries final outlook. The presenter of a documentary is most often someone who comes across as well educated i.e. eloquent and well groomed – if presented on camera; this is a stereotypical judgement, as the audience automatically respect people who come across as educated and instinctively assume that they are likely to be telling the truth as they know what they are talking about; immediately this creates a trusting bond between the audience and the presenter, for example Werner Herzog, a director (director of 34 documentaries, 15 being TV documentaries), writer and producer. Herzog has won several national and international awards for his films. This shows the public respects him...
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