Who Defines a Documentary?

Documentary theorist Bill Nichols outlines four groups that define a documentary:  “An institutional framework” “A community of practitioners” “A corpus of texts” “A constituency of viewers” An Institutional Framework Institutional frameworks refer to anyone involved in the distribution and support of documentary. They can be divided into two sub-groups. 1. The first group includes those…

Rotha’s Documentary Traditions

In his book Documentary Film Paul Rotha indentifies four documentary traditions: The Naturalist (Romantic) Tradition This tradition draws on the observation of life being lived in its own natural environment. It involves the filmmaker learning about that life and its customs, much as an ethnographer does while in the field. But this tradition is more…

Critical Questions for Viewing Documentaries

In every film class I teach, I show at least one documentary. Titles I have shown include Roger & Me, The Thin Blue Line, and Hearts and Minds. Each semester I ask students what they think or know in general about documentaries. There are two running themes to the responses. One is that documentaries are…

Procedures for Making an Interactive Documentary

My colleague Amy Lauters recently gave me a box she received during her research on farmers’ wives. A family had sent it to her with the hopes she might find it helpful or interesting as part of her work. I took a quick peek at the box’s contents. It contained pictures, a geneaology, newspaper clippings,…

11 Lessons from a Fundamentals of Game Design Course

In the last few months, I have taken some courses in game design and development. The first course, titled Fundamentals of Game Design, introduced basic principles to think about when getting started. While simple in theory, the principles are much more complex in practice. The following post brings together 11 lessons from that four-week course….

Text-Based Games and Nonfiction Storytelling

As part of learning more about game design and development, I have started playing and researching text-based games toward understanding more about nonfiction game development and online interaction. A text-based is just that: A game wherein everything, including scene-setting, character development, and action, is conveyed through text. Some might include ASCII or other images, but…

18 Places to Check Out Documentary Shorts Online

The following post contains a list of several places to check out documenary shorts online. While you can find some for monthly subscription on Netflix, Amazon, and others, this list includes more curated shorts that represent a variety of styles, subjects, and intentions. Everything listed here is presented in English, either through speaking or subtitles….

Interactions and Music Unite Story in Cohesive ‘Florence’

Florence is one of the most beautiful “interactive storybooks” I have ever seen. Available on Apple and Android devices, Florence tells the fictional story of a mid-20 something woman named Florence Yeoh who feels stuck in her life. By chance she meets Krish, a cellist, and they date and move in together. After some time,…

Starting with Smartphone Filmmaking

During the last year or so, I have been looking at different points of entry into filmmaking. This post focuses on perhaps the easiest entry point: a smartphone. A smartphone offers a complete filmmaking kit that fits in your pocket, with recording, editing, distributing, and, of course, viewing. Both Apple iPhones and Android phones offer…