What does the future hold for Documentary style movies and television shows?
Documentary films have been on the rise in popularity over the past decade, and it’s in my belief that in the not too distant future, documentary films will be the go to medium for visual entertainment. Now that the general public has access to professional grade cameras that are affordable, the playing field not only has leveled, but the weekend warrior cinematographer can capture shots just as aesthetically pleasing as any Hollywood director. Another caveat that has enabled amateur filmmakers to compete with the film industry is the Internet. The Internet has provided ordinary individuals with a platform where they potentially can be heard across the globe. Affordable equipment and world-wide exposure, what else does someone need to make a film?
Social media has changed the dichotomy when it comes to communication, and now it’s much easier for one voice to have a galvanizing effect. This maybe the most important aspect of the future success of documentary films.
Since the inception of film in the early 1900’s, film has drastically changed with the times, now-a- days you have to decide between a dozen different genres of film before you decide what you are actually going to watch. Documentaries, defined by Webster’s Dictionary (2013) as ‘presenting facts about a person or event’ and by Nichols (2010) as being ‘about reality’, ‘real people’, and ‘real events’ is definitely a specific choice when it comes to being entertained. Documentaries are usually seen as boring due to the majority being made for educational purposes rather than to entertain.
Thirty years ago if you told someone you enjoyed watching docs above all else, you would quickly be labeled as an intellect or a nerd. After the emergence of reality TV in 1992, the public’s fascination of ingesting material thought to be real quickly grew.
Since then, you’ll be hard pressed to flip though the channels and not have the bulk of what you are seeing to be reality TV.
Why is this⁉️
Again, since film’s inception, its purpose has changed time and again from being informational to sometimes being outright propaganda. The public’s knowledge of what’s being presented has heightened, and over the years TV has become a commodity in which its consumers think of themselves as well educated. Everyone is a critic.
Cookie-cutter sitcoms and made for TV movies are no match for the carnal emotions displayed when two roomies are fighting over stolen applesauce. It’s these types of visceral characteristics that engage viewers, by choosing a protagonist who relatively could be your next-door neighbor allows for a connection between the viewer and character that isn’t offered in any other form of entertainment.
This is one reason documentaries are being pushed to the forefront.
The public’s trust has been exploited, and today’s educated consumer is becoming aware of the staging that takes place on these reality sets. Now that the drug of realness has infected visual content, the public now aches for material that is completely factual, the more raw the better. Raw equating to truths that may shake your core beliefs, introducing you to storylines that expose humanities darkest capabilities.
“Representations and misrepresentations are certainly core elements in debates about documentary ethics, and the notion of misrepresentation is often tied to an understanding of film subjects as exploited, violated, or falsified by the filmmaker.”
Filmmakers sometimes have a conflict of interest when it comes to documentaries. In some cases the truth isn’t as sexy as embellishing it. Also, documentarians must initially gain the trust of the subjects by coaxing them into a false sense of reassurance when it comes to how they will be portrayed. If a subject is a dimwit, it will be impossible to make your audience believe he or she is a scholar despite your best attempt. In some cases actual truth isn’t the same to the subject and the filmmaker. In most cases absolute truth is non-existent when it comes to what was shot and what is being presented. It is the sole responsibility of the filmmaker to provide a healthy balance of truth and entertainment without having either drive the narrative.
“Today documentary does more than present the audience with a view of the previously unseen, it in complex ways ‘engages and empowers publics’ " ( Aufderheide and Nisbet 2009: 465).
This statement is a summation of why I believe Docs are the wave of the future when it comes to entertainment. The internet not only allows for people to network, it also couples entities such as Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, and Google+ to name a few, with a variety of share widgets. Viewers can easily suggest content to friends or to the general public via blogs and social media. That’s the engagement aspect, the empowerment comes from the inability of the movie industry to make you believe their blockbuster is better than the flick your cousin Ryan told you about.
China is one country that recognizes this paradigm shift.
The article by Tianqi Yu, ‘ Going Global – Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival 2013’ illustrates how the Chinese government aims to gain control over the power of documentaries. Fully aware of filmmaker’s ability to construct and probe Chinese social reality, China plans to rebrand using films as propaganda, the nation will present itself as prosperous and culturally dynamic. The thought of government control may make you nervous, but this festival is well organized so that all parties of interest are mutually compensated. For instance, there’s a committee of judges that represent the people, deciding upon if a topic is too sensitive in nature.
Next, the government encouraged entrepreneurs to align their social responsibilities with the social function of documentaries, thus giving them ample reason to invest.
Also focus was given to social media as an alternative option for distribution.
So far, there’s nothing that seems tyrannical, in fact by changing the attitude to one that wants to educate the masses, the government is receiving addition support and funding.
“Fiction film equates with the conversational telling of a story, while documentary equates with the delivery of statement (or series of connected statements)"
Check out this 'VIDEO TREATMENT' for the Documentary Mini-Series:
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