Research Questions on Documentary Modes

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Codes and Conventions of Bill Nichol's Observational Mode. Questions: 1. What are the codes and Conventions of your chosen genre 2. What are the typical stylistic elements (visual and sound) employed within your case study? 3. How effective is the documentary in getting people’s attention? Why? 4.

Text of Research Questions on Documentary Modes

  • 1. Observational Mode (Bill Nichols) Codes and Conventions

2. Codes and Conventions What are the codes and Conventions of your chosen genre? Observational Documentaries Events are observed and usually recorded objectively with no authorial instruction. They usually present as fly-on-the-wall by use of cameras which are on walls or just follow people around with no authoritative presence from the cameraman. It is sometimes criticized for its lack of history or background information on the events which take place. Documentary is purely to observe the life of another. Equipment can be informal and handheld camera is sometimes used. Never many interviews, especially not those carried out by a presenter Long takes are often used. 3. Case Study Here Comes Honey Boo Boo Follow(s) the escapades of the Thompson clan: stay-at-home mom June, chalk- mining dad Sugar Bear, and sisters 12-year-old Lauryn ""Pumpkin"", 15-year-old Jessica ""Chubbs"", and 17-year-old Anna ""Chickadee. From family outings to loud and crazy family get-togethers, Here Come Honey Boo Boo takes us off the pageant stage and into the outrageous family life of the Honey Boo Boo clan. 4. Stylistic Elements Visual Sound Events of the family are observed from the side-lines- you never see any of the camera crew or a presenter. A handheld camera is mostly used rather than hidden or wall mounted cameras. This gives the sense of realism, and allows the audiences to feel part of the action rather than a 2nd hand party as a narrator would be. You rarely hear the voice of a camera man, usually only used to get Alana (the youngest) to speak during interviews. A lack of narrative voice helps the audience to feel as though their reading is completely their own and the documentary is objective in terms of an observational mode. A lot of the visuals are intrusive from waking up in the morning to trips to the bathroom. The audience feel as though they are the fly on the wall within this familys life as they get to see all the fine details of their lives. No voice over is used, dialogue comes from the characters which are being followed. This adds to the before mentioned objective view, as the audience cannot be swayed by what a narrator or on screen presenter says or thinks. 5. Stylistic Elements Visual Sound Interviews are used, although this breaks convention. They are informal and usually humorous. The interviews are effective because it gives the chance for the characters to reflect on events which have taken place in the documentary and usually add to the humour of the piece. Ambient sound is usually kept in, such as their dogs barking or the train running past. This tells an audience about the lifestyle of the family and the conditions in which they live. Ambient sounds often also add the fly- on-the-wall effect as the documentary would feel more naturalistic, increasing reliability of the objective view. No stock footage, images or animations. This is effective in not overkilling the documentary and giving an audience the lives of the family in its simplest, rough form. Music is used in the title sequence and sometimes as a mood setter or to add to the humorous tone. Music is dubbed in at times to add to the light-heartedness of the documentary and to set the mood for when the emotion of the scene is about to change. Credits and labels are used. Credits and labels help the audience follow the narrative by helping people understand who is who and who plays a role in what. 6. How effective is the documentary in getting peoples attention? Why? The documentary is extremely effective at grabbing an audiences attention. Although the documentary is a love it or hate it docusoap, which tells the shocking lives of a family in America, it plays on this fact. The way in which it is presented through sound and visual you can see the play on humour without the need of an onscreen presenter or voice-over. The fact that the documentary is set in observational mode allows an audience to make their own mind up about it through the objective stance and feel part of the action. The outrageous nature of the documentary is another key attention grabber, as it is added to by the absence of a normal person as the on screen presenter bringing you back down to sanity. 7. What is the target audience for the documentary? The target audience for this documentary is young adult to middle ages. This is due to the humorous nature. I think this can be said for many observational documentaries which are trying to show a laughable truth about society, although, there are also some observational documentaries which are used to shock an audience for more serious reasons. 8. How commonly is this genre used? Give examples This genre of documentary is quite common within the target audience of younger people (due to the humour, narrative and sometimes explicit content). Examples of this genre would be; 9. Big Brother 10. The Only Way is Essex 11. One Born Every Minute 12. 16 and Pregnant 13. Im A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! 14. How does this genre differ from other genres of documentaries? Observational documentaries often differ from other forms of documentary as they are the least polemical, subjective and preachy. They usually give the audience chance to make their own opinion up about a situation. Also, they differ in the way that they never have an on screen presenter, which adds to the polemical stand point. Many are made purely for entertainment, and not to be taken too seriously such as; Honey Boo Boo The Only Way is Essex Im a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here 15. Although, some are made to be informative such as; One Born Every Minute And others purely for shock and to convey a message about society Teen Mom 16 and Pregnant