Saturday, 13 September 2014

Making Documentaries : Part 1

Andy DickensonI’m really excited to feature this, my first guest post, by Andrew Dickenson. Andrew is an Associate Lecturer at Bishop Grosseteste University. 
‘As well as lecturing to students, having my own tutor groups and partner schools to look after, I'm part of the Computing & New Technologies team, examining the creative role of technology for learning and teaching. I'm also looking further at the role of film within learning. All very exciting stuff’
He is also an Apple Distinguished Educator and can be found through his site:

I’m very much of the opinion that giving pupils the opportunity to create short documentary films not only brings non-fiction texts to life, but also allows for pupils to understand the power of the ‘personalisation of idea.’ Pupils develop a greater understanding of the genre and learn how it can be both persuasive and informative, and, as well as giving them the opportunity to be personal, they can install the values of subjective and objective thinking.
The rise of ‘new media documentary’ or ‘citizen journalism’ has been enhanced by how recording technology has changed. With video and stills cameras plus audio recording methods being built into handheld devices, it has become possible for vast numbers of pupils to find their own voice. This has helped reshape the landscape of documentary making. Tablets and phones allow the pupils to record and observe quickly. It’s what they do with the footage, how they plan beforehand and what audio they use, that will determine the way their story is perceived by the audience.
In his 2001 book, Introduction to Documentary, Bill Nichols defines the following six modes of documentary. When considering the use of documentary filmmaking as a viable option for the pupils, you will need to take into account these variations:

The Poetic Mode
AD Yimino'Reassembling fragments of the world', it is often a montage of clips, that are linked in some way such as pattern, shade, colour, visual impact. Usually (but not necessarily) more about artistic expression rather than an evidential account (such as Samara or Baraka - Ron Fricke or Koyaanisqatsi - Godfrey Reggio or Yimino - Marma -
Perhaps ask the pupils to film their journey to school, for a day or week across the year , or ask the pupils to film their peers arrivals and departures from school, and then combine these to produce a Koyaanisqatsi-esque montage.
Possibly use a camera set in the same position, at different times throughout the year and record the change. Decide on how much video needs to be recorded each time.
If you’re in an urban environment then the use of a video recorder positioned to record traffic movement, and then speed up, gives some great effects.

The Expository Mode
night mailUses a technique often known as the ‘Voice-of-God’, where the narrator addresses the audience with an explanation of events, often interpreting what they are seeing on-screen. Will also often gives the director’s preferred meaning of the film to the target audience (such as Night Mail - Herbert Smith - and March of the Penguins - Luq Jacqet or Cafe Cowboy - Benedict Campbell -
If you are lucky enough to have access to an incubator or plant seeds, use time-lapse or set the camera to record for 5 minutes every x hours, then narrate over the top as things hatch etc. Look at a day in the life of… where the narration is provided the pupils.
The amazing website nature site allows for clips to be downloaded. It’s an excellent way of teaching the use of narration in documentaries through science and natural history.
If you are taking part in Bike It/ The Bug Pedal event, create a documentary around your school’s/pupils’/parents’ experiences. This example is from a school I supported:
Perhaps take a personal view from one pupil. If they participate in an out of school activity, ask them to film sequences and the edit to include a narration, without interviews though.

To be continued...