Sunday, May 18, 2014

Documentary: Mode Activity 1

(Expository/Observational/Poetic Mode)

Documentarist's Statement

Due in large part to time constraints, I did not write, record, and add a voiceover narrative to this piece.  I could have easily transformed this into a straightforward use of either expository mode or an essayistic version of the poetic mode with a voiceover, depending on what approach I might have taken. I could have described my son's activities with the sterile voice of an anthropologist, or with the sentimentality of a mother-poet. (I think it would be interesting to have him describe his own actions, but that would push the project into other modes).  The use of a music soundtrack could have also easily lent poetic voice to the piece, and probably helped in an effort to cover up off-camera noises.

As it is currently edited, I feel that this project aligns most with the observational mode, although because I'm the one who filmed it and edited it together, I'm keenly aware of its constructed nature, and of all the omissions, as well of how differently it could have looked if I had made different choices, especially while filming.  I'm wishing I had gotten some different perspectives - his hands coloring at their level, from a perpendicular angle, and possibly an overhead shot.  I also really wished my shots were longer when I was editing them together.  All but one of them were at least 10 seconds long, but I found I needed several longer (probably wide) shots to ground the whole piece, as well as explanatory shots for all the off-camera-noises (of which there were many.)

Because I was filming my own son, it would have been pretty impossible to have fully embraced an expository mode.  I have too much of a relationship with my subject to create a viable impression of objectivity.  But this project fits one of the descriptions of the spirit of observational filmmaking.  It contains "no voice-over commentary, no supplementary music or sound effects, no inter-titles, no historical reenactments, no behavior repeated for the camera, and not even any interviews."(Nichols.) Actually, that's not true.  We did have to repeat his entrance shot for the camera, he was too nervous about its presence the first time, and clean entrances and exits were part of the assignment.

But interestingly, Nichols claimed that "Observational films exhibit particular strength in giving a sense of the duration of actual events," and this film, in total, is about the length it would normally take my son to color this picture.  When I was filming, I found that everything took longer because my son behaved differently with the camera in the space, and was far less comfortable in his processes than he normally is. So the finished product here is a reasonably close representation of what would have happened without the camera present, while what happened with the camera present, while I was filming this, was a much more awkward and halted process.  I'm still deciding how I feel about that in the context of observational mode editing.
Nichols, Bill. Introduction to Documentary. 2nd ed. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2010. Print.

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