Week 3 – Documentary and Ethics

This week we get our hands dirty with the video camera and do a quick turn around doco task. We talk sound for documentary, and spend some time thinking and discussing issues around ethics. Lastly, we watch and discuss some more films.

1. Class Exercise –  The Camera

In groups of 3/4 familiarise yourself with the video camera.

Find out:

  • how to insert and format the SD card
  • how to put it into manual mode
  • how to change the battery
  • how to do a manual white balance
  • how to change the aperture
  • how to change the shutter speed
  • how to focus (and check the focus)
  • how to check and adjust the audio levels

2. The Task

‘Nature on Campus’

The aim of the exercise is to give you an idea of how to explore making pictures and sounds from whatever is at hand – even though it seems very ordinary and trivial!

The challenge is: in groups of 3 or 4, make a film about “Nature on Campus” – less than 3 minutes long. It must not contain any spoken or written texts, no voice-over, no music, no acting. All sounds and pictures must be recorded by you on location. You should have both close-up shots and wide shots, both some camera movements and some locked off shots. Even within these limits try to make your film show us a certain theme or tell us a story.

3. A quick review

What are some of the things we have looked at so far?

– modes
– ethics

Lets try and consider these aspects with all our future viewing as we move through the semester

4. Viewing

Here are some things to watch in class for discussion. Firstly take a few minutes to find out any background information you can about the following 2 films:

Bunuel – Land without Bread (1933)

The Family BBC 1974 Documentary:

5. Discussion

Following on from the above two clips, remember our reading for this week was:

Why Are Ethical Issues Central to Documentary Filmmaking?

Get stuck into it and be prepared to discuss in class with your fellow students in week 3!

“What do we do with people when we make a documentary?” How do we treat the people we film; what do we owe them as well as our audience? Should they receive compensation? Should they have a right to block the inclusion of events that prove incriminating? Is it all right to have people repeat actions or conversations for the sake of the camera? Does this compromise the integrity of their actions and the film’s claim to represent a reality that exists autonomously from its filming?

A reminder, the book – Bill Nichols’ Introduction to Documentary – is available in the library as an e-reading, if you prefer to get it that way!

The whole book is valuable and we’ll be looking at it again throughout the semester.

  • What is the purpose of ethics?
  • What are the types of ethical issues that can arise in the making of a documentary?
  • How can we put in to practice issues around ethics in our own documentary work?
  • How are you going to place yourself (as filmmaker) in relation to subject and audience?


One short reading and then a reading & viewing exercise

1. A nice and easy start: It’s louis theroux on his method.

2. Complete the following reading and viewing exercise:

Watch this: (it’s only 5 or so minures)

Then read pages 1 – 3 of this article:
Away from Copying_Truth_or_Dare_Art_and_Documentary

Critically reflect on this in your blogs this week and come in week 4 with your thoughts ready to discuss. This task relates strongly to the ‘Nature on Campus’ exercise we did today in class. Why?

3. A reminder about your assessment task. It’s due in 2 weeks. Name your blog posts according to the week you’re reflecting on.

4. Upload your ‘Nature on Campus’ films and link its URL to your blog

Post a comment