The Participatroy Mode/Expose/Presenter
Louis Theroux is famous documentary filmmaker, in 2003 he made a documentary called ‘Louis and the Nazis’ where he follows modern-day nazis/white supremacists in America. In Louis’ documentaries he usually picks a person/family to focus on and he will follow them around in their everyday lives and interview/talk to them about the subject of his documentary. Although Louis does voice his opinion in some ca
ses, he is a very neutral and un-bias presenter and leaves the audience to interpreted what they are seeing for themselves and to gain their own opinions. This type of documentary is Participatory Mode. The participatory mode is when the filmmaker is involved with the subject onscreen, not only is the filmmaker part of the film, we also get a sense of how situations in the film are affected or altered by their presence. Participatory documentaries are very engaging for audiences as they can get involved in the story and
engage with the filmmaker unlike a lot of documentaries where they are mostly just sat down interviews etc. By Louis Theroux getting involved in all aspects of the documentary, especially when talking to the subjects, the audience get a much more honest and real documentary, this is because he has conversations with them whilst he interviews them/asks them questions that they might not have expected and by doing this he gets a more honest genuine answer rather than normal interviews where the subject could have already come up with their answer. This happens a lot during Louis and the Nazis, at one point Louis says to a group of Nazis “what if i were Jewish?” and the Nazis got very angry as Louis wouldn’t answer to whether or not he was Jewish, it got to the point where the Nazis asked the camera crew to turn the cameras off which made a very scary atmosphere for the audience and Louis, this is entertaining to audiences because they know that they are watching real life confrontation that isn’t scripted in any way. During this documentary, the audience are exposed to a lot of content that they usually wouldn’t be, modern-day Nazis aren’t really heard of and people don’t know a lot about them so this documentary involves a lot of exposé. Exposé means to expose something that was covered up/not publicly known. The issues in this documentary aren’t exactly covered up but they are extremely shunned by this generation and they are a very small minority of people that nobody really knows much about so Louis and the Nazis is very much an exposé of modern nazis. For example, a part of this documentary that is particularly shocking is when Louis follows two 12 year old girls who are a singing group that sing songs around racism and white supremacy, they take Louis to a ‘Nazi/Skin Head Festival’. This documentary was aired on the BBC and Louis is English, for a British audience, watching how open and accepted extreme racism is within a certain community is very shocking as in Britain you would almost never hear of a white supremacists festival so to watch this being exposed is very new and shocking to its audience. Obviously as this documentary is a participatory mode, Louis is the presenter. A presenter is a person who introduces and appears in a television/documentary or radio programme. As Louis is the presenter and the filmmaker the audience engage with him a lot more than a documentary with no presenter in would because they have someone to lead to story and engage the audience into the subject they are making their film about.
Dallas Buyers Club is film set in 1985, it follows the story of an electrician called Ron Woodroof as he works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is diagnosed with the disease, the film also follows a transgender women (Jared Leto) and her journey along side Ron Woodroof. This is a true story that has been dramatised to become a film, which is what makes this film a docudrama. A Docudrama is a genre of film that turns real life events into a film. Docudramas are usually popular films because the filmmakers will make these docudramas based on what is happening in pop-culture. For example, the subject of transgender individuals and things such as HIV and AIDS are a very talked about subjects in recent times and aren’t as taboo as they used to be, so the filmmakers of Dallas Buyers
Club would have found an interesting true story based around these issues and made a film about them as they know people will be interested. Docudrama’s about famous people such as Steve Jobs (2015) are also very approachable to audiences as the filmmakers have picked a person people are interested in, such as Steve Jobs as Apple is a huge phenomenon in our generation and his death shocked many people, filmmakers would have taken people’s interest in him and made an actual feature film rather than a documentary, they would have done this because docudramas are much more approachable to a wider range of audiences as people see these types of films as just ‘normal films’ and a lot more people prefer ‘normal films’ to docmentaries which makes docudramas so approachable and popular.
Diaristic/Archive Footage/Cut Aways/Docu-Series
Netflix have recently released a new Docu-Series called Making a Murderer. A Doc-Series is a documentary in the form of episodes rather than a feature length film. Some filmmakers may choose to create a Docu-Series rather than a feature length documentary because they can add much more detail and more of the story in because they aren’t restricted to the normal feature film length of around 2 hours. By choosing a docu-series an audience can become much more invested and interested in the story because of the amount of detail and the fact that there is a
whole series rather than just a one off 2 hour film, is very appealing to an audience who is interested in the subject of the documentary as they get more out of it than a normal documentary. Making a murderer is a 10 part docu-series that follows a man’s story called Steven Avery. He was put in jail for 18 years in 1985 for a rape that he didn’t commit and after he was released because he was found innocent, he tried to sue the county for millions for wrongfully accusing him. A few years after his release he was put in jail again and was accused of a brutal murder. The documentary is a mix up between interviews with Steven’s family and friends about how the felt whilst the trail was happening and a huge amount of archive footage from when his trail went ahead in 2005. Archive footage is recorded material, such as film, that is kept by a television network or other media outlet to be broadcast when a subject relating to images in the material is discussed. For instance, almost all of the footage shown in making a murderer (apart from interviews) is archive footage as the documentary was made years after the trail went ahead. The archive footage includes film from the court room as it follows his trail. The documentary is Diaristic and archive footage is very important when making a diaristic documentary. Diaristic is when a documentary shows footage, evidence, happenings that happen over a specific period of time and making a murderer is a perfect example of this because the whole documentary is uncovering evidence and showing archive footage of his case and what happened over that period of time. The archive footage is used throughout the series because without it there wouldn’t be an interesting documentary, having just interviews with the family would be extremely boring and by including all the important bits from the court room, it really grips the audience in as we know we are watching a real life trail and it makes the series much more interesting as what we are watching is the real footage rather than recreation or just a narrator telling us what happened. To also keep the documentary aesthetically pleasing the film makers have included a lot of cutaways. A cutaway shot is usually an aesthetically pleasing or informative shot used to breakup a scene, perhaps an interview or a long narration within a documentary to keep the viewer interested and visually stimulated by what they are watching instead of perhaps a still interview containing maybe two shots in total. This is used a lot in Making a Murderer as there are huge amounts of interviews involved in the series, they use a lot of cutaway shots that show articles from news papers that are relevant to what the person being interviewed is saying, this makes the audience more interested and in what the person is talking about and it is also more informative.
Mockumentary/Interview/Hand Held Camera
A mockumentary is a type of film or television show in which fictional events are presented in documentary style to create a parody. The TV show “Parks and Recreation” is a comedy and politically satire mockumentary, it is set in Pawnee Indiana and is based around the counties Parks and Recreation department and the leader, Leslie Knope. This TV show is a perfect example of a mockumentary as the
characters in the show all have moments where they talk to the camera in an interview style as normal documentaries do, interviews are when the film maker/presenter will ask questions to the subject, sometimes you hear the questions being asked and sometimes you just hear the subject talking to the camera, they are used in the majority of documentaries and using them in mockumentaries are very important to get a sense of a real documentary. Even when they aren’t being interviewed they sometimes address the camera by giving the audience ‘a look’ and the camera will zoom in (these conventions are also used in the The Office, another mockumentary very similar to Parks) and this adds to the documentary feel as we know that they are aware that they are being filmed. When they aren’t being interviewed the way the show is filmed it is in the style of hand held camera. Hand held camera is a technique used a lot in documentaries for many reasons, convenience is one of them, another is to add realism to what is happening onscreen which makes the audience feel like they are watching real live events rather than a scripted performance. Although all of these conventions are used throughout the show to give the programme a documentary feel, the audience know that the characters are acting and it isn’t a real documentary as they are well known actors and everything is done in a comedic way unlike normal documentaries.