I am finding Documentary Studies to be far more interesting then I ever thought it would be. But also rather overwhelming.
If everything is clear, and laid out in fiction filmmaking – in how to achieve the look; a well-made, polished, even fashionable film (pull focus… ) – documentary filmmaking is on the other side of the world.
And to make a documentary here, in Montpellier truly seems fitting.
The raw, sometimes harsh, nature of the camera and the sound add a texture to the final project. (All the same there is still much that can be, should be, well-polished and neat) But the documentary does not demand perfection in the way that the short film does. In fact, maybe the short film demands it more-so then a longer length film (or a television episode). Lighting continuity, editing faux-pas can both often fly under the radar with a longer piece (or a well known TV series *cough* Offspring – I still love you to bits), but in the short film everything matters. Characters need to be developed quickly, but they cannot be too stereotypical! The story needs to not be overly complex, but it needs to be engaging, and not let the audience work out the end too quickly.
Let’s say there exists a scale, a line, joining fiction and non fiction. For what IS fiction and what IS not? How can we classify it? To what degree? Essentially, even a fiction film could be a documentary; it is the act of recording a group of people (actors), doing their job… right?
Let’s give the scale seven degrees (or really it should be eight… these french, can’t even count):
0. Camera Caché – Hidden Camera
The camera is hidden so that no-one knows that action is being filmed/recorded.
- Camera à l’exterieur
A camera is set up, for example, outside a window of a classroom looking in. Easily forgotten or unnoticed, the subjects are not necessicarily told that they are being filmed.
- Suivre en accord
The subjects are aware that they are being filmed and
- *I missed what this level is called* something like mise-en-scene du réelle dans la réelle – it is the act of filming with the intention of narrating – those filmed are aware they are being filmed so maybe they recount stories… but the scene is left largely untouched by the director (however much untouched a scene can be given the obvious presence of a camera)
- Provoquer une situation du réelle dans la réelle
The act of asking people to do things, to come into the room, and cause a scene. Everyone is themselves, but it begins to blur the lines because a definite intention has entered into a real-life scenario.
- Fait le tournage en décor réelle, mais travailler avec des comédiens, suivent la réelle.
Here, the perspective of the audience begins to change, it is clear that the situation has been fabricated.
- Je tourne en studio – construire des salons, pas limiter par les horaires, par du bruit – les modéles/comédiens/personnages peuvent jouer leur propre rôles mais créer des situations/scenarios – shot in studio, but with actors/people/comedians who play ‘themselves’
Here we begin to question how to judge the film because many more elements are under the control of the director – mise-en-scene, even to a point the writing or construction.
Is it a pychological drama, or a docco?
- Total fiction
This is filmed in studio, the production revolves around mise-en-scene, creating drama and being technically correct. The audience is aware that all (or most) has been constructed.
So, somewhere in the middle there exists a pseudo documentary/fiction group of works that are especially rule-breaking… The stuff of Bresson, and of pieces of Godard where some elements of control have been given up generating a new effect.