TLDR – Today I thought about how the style of a film can affect its content, and how that in turn might influence the audience.

Having read Bill Nichol’s piece on theSix Modes of Representation‘ in his book Introduction to Documentary (2010), I was intrigued as to how it might relate to my RIPU work, and my future projects in general. My thoughts over the last few weeks have been about how to best present my agenda or ideas through the medium of film, in a way that reacts in a long lasting and meaningful way with audiences. I have been focusing on documentaries within the wildlife/environmental/natural history genre, and which styles of films have the most impact. My concerns are about global issues such as climate change, deforestation, species eradication, and the like, and films are a wonderful way of reaching mass audiences to present information about these issues. The problem seems to be that people do not seem to act on these films in a purposeful way, so I have been thinking about how technology in particular, might be used to engage with audiences on a deeper level. In addition to technology, I might now also consider which mode of documentary to produce. The six modes can be described as:

Poetic Mode – (1920’s) Doesn’t use traditional linear continuity. Footage is arranged to evoke association and moods through rhythm and spatial juxtaposition.

Expository Mode – (1920’s) Designed to construct an argument or disseminate information. Often utilises an omniscient voice-over to match the visual.

Observational Mode – (1960’s) Based on the ideals of capturing ‘the truth’, these films simply observe a situation and allow audiences to reach their own conclusions.

Participatory Mode – (1960’s) The filmmakers interacts with the subject on camera, either through voice-overs or interviews.

Reflexive Mode – (1980’s) Highlights and questions the nature of documentary filmmaking, asking audiences to consider the process as well as the content.

Performative Mode – (1980’s) Makes the filmmaker an active part of the filmmaking  process, offering a more personal point of view than the participatory mode.

I have recently been thinking about some short documentaries which I would like to make, and how I might utilise certain technologies to accomplish these. Now I am also thinking about what sort of mode or style in which to film. My three ideas so far, are:

  1. A short film highlighting the effects that dementia can have on one’s family.
    • As my grandfather is currently suffering from dementia, I can see on a daily basis how it affects not only him, but also my family. I think I would like to interview a series of people and open a discussion about the disease. Since I would also be involved as a subject, the film would be considered as a reflexive documentary.The audience would be aware that I was making a film, and my own experience of that process would be a part of the final piece. The film would also be participatory in the sense that it would involve the subjects having interviews, but also performative as my own views and experiences would become a part of the story.
  2. A short film focusing on the experience of new and expecting mothers.
    • A lot of people I know are moving into parenthood for the first time and I am intrigued with how they are coping with the pressures and expectations. Does the saturation of social media in our every day life ease the pressure, or add to it? The interviews would result in a participatory documentary, but with elements of observational film, as I would like to capture moments of ‘every day life’ in an unobtrusive way.
  3. A short film based around one day in the life of a local football team.
    • I’d like this to be a film about feelings or moods, rather than just an observational film about a football team. With that in mind, I would like to capture a day from an outsider’s point of view, not interacting with the team in any way (other than observing) and then piece together the footage with some music to create an atmosphere of the day, rather than a record of it. That would fall into the poetic mode more than anything else, and I see it as a type of montage piece.
  4. A series of interviews of my fellow students and their time at NUA.
    • Although I’ve left this later than preferable to start, I’d like to attempt a case study of a few of the students at NUA and record a few short interviews over the course of 12-24 months to follow their progress at the university. I was inspired by the 7 Up series which has been running now for over 50 years. This would be a mixture of the participatory mode, but also performative and reflexive. It would be a struggle but I would like to study a person or persons over a period of time to see how their thoughts and emotions about a particular subject (NUA) change and evolve.
    • I’ve recently had another idea for a poetic documentary based on one particular student in my class. She works with language and words, and I think it might be nice to create a very short montage piece bared around her work. It would be a lot of atmospheric visuals of her working, with a separate audio track underneath, involving her talking about what each of the pieces represents. Since she is bi-lingual, I like the idea of mixing both English and French languages to create another layer of montage within the film.

I hope to make all of the above films over the course of the next 18 months at NUA, so I will update the website accordingly.