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Documentaries for Television. This Week Murrow/Friendly/Lowe Robert Drew – NBC/Time-Life Clarke/Laurie Koppel/Bettag US – HBO and PBS, UK - Ch 4 and BBC McBride/Laurie Film List. Murrow/Friendly/Lowe. ‘See it Now’ 1951-1958 CBS Reports 1959-1971 [Murrow left in 1961]

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documentaries for television
Documentaries for Television
  • This Week
  • Murrow/Friendly/Lowe
  • Robert Drew – NBC/Time-Life
  • Clarke/Laurie
  • Koppel/Bettag
  • US – HBO and PBS, UK - Ch 4 and BBC
  • McBride/Laurie
  • Film List
murrow friendly lowe
Murrow/Friendly/Lowe
  • ‘See it Now’ 1951-1958
  • CBS Reports 1959-1971 [Murrow left in 1961]
  • ‘Harvest of Shame’ (1960)
robert drew
Robert Drew
  • 1961 - “The Reason many docs

Are dull is because traditionally they have been little more than illustrated lectures.”

  • Drew in TV wanted to change that tradition
  • http://www.drewassociates.net/Main/About.htm
  • Traditional TV resisted
drew s kennedy films
Drew’s Kennedy Films
  • ‘Primary’ (1960) ABC Close-up
  • ‘Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment’ (Oct 21 1963) ABC
  • http://www.docurama.com/productdetail.html?productid=NV-NNVG115661
  • http://history.sandiego.edu/gen/filmnotes/documentary4.html
d c in television
D-C in television
  • From “Defining the Moment” 1999
  • See excerpt from film
robert drew6
Robert Drew:
  • “Real life never got out of the film. never came to the television set….
  • find a dramatic logic in which things really happen.

If we could do that we would have a whole new basis for a new journalism. It’s hard to define. 

  • it would be a theater without actors. Plays without playwrights. Reporting without summary & opinion. 

The ability to look in on people’s lives at crucial times from which you could deduce certain things and see a kind of truth that can only be gotten by personal experience. ….”

  • Compare Pennebaker’s ‘War Room’ 1992

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A47H4qzV3ms

traditional narrative style
Traditional Narrative Style
  • ABC News Close-Up Unit
  • 1981 “Myths Behind the Miracle”
  • Director Malcolm Clarke
  • http://theoscarsite.com/whoswho7/clarke_m.htm
  • Written/Narrated by

this guy =

traditional narrative style8
Traditional narrative style
  • Despite the influence of Robert Drew and others advocating a more natural unnarrated style – the genre persists to the present day.
  • If Japan in 1981 was the ‘rising’ nation
  • China was in 2008 & Discovery Channel

offered Ted Koppel and a 4 part ‘People’s Republic of Capitalism’

in america change at the big three us networks
In America: Change at the Big Three US Networks
  • 1988 ABC “Close Up” & others
  • shut down
  • public service requirement diminishes
  • Documentaries become multi-subject magazine shows or long form programs of a more sensational nature – focusing often on crime or celebrities
american commercial tv networks
American Commercial TV Networks
  • CBS Sixty Minutes
  • ABC Prime Time
  • 20/20
  • NBC Dateline
  • Magazines
  • Have replaced the TV documentary form at traditional US networks
reality tv
Reality TV
  • The popular stand-in for documentary
  • Competition meets Cinema Verite
  • Read Michael Hirschorn May 2007
  • http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200705/reality-tv/2
tv documentaries today
TV Documentaries Today
  • In America
  • Cable TV & the PBS dominate TV doc work
  • The PBS Frontline Series
  • HBO, Discovery, History, National Geographic, CNN, a few others
  • Ratings, Commercial Advertising, Corporate pressure, the risk…
  • Undermines experimental, bold, controversial, graphic film making
pbs frontline series
PBS Frontline Series
  • Wide variety, traditional style
  • Often Controversial
  • International Subjects
  • Independent Series
  • http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/view/
british documentaries
British Documentaries
  • Arguably more attention paid to long form non fiction film on Television in Britain than in America
  • Channel Four London archives
  • http://www.channel4.com/programmes/tags/documentaries/page-1
  • And a guide to short documentaries http://www.4docs.org.uk
  • And a source of funding for independent films
  • http://britdoc.org/real_films/directory
range of bbc tv docs
Range of BBC TV docs
  • Index to BBC Docs–
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/
  • BBC produces dozens of documentary films each year. Styles differ. Often multi-part in the tradition of “Civilisation” (1969) Heavily narrated by Kenneth Clark
  • Many topical or investigative films but - still usually in a traditionally narrated style
the bbc process
The BBC Process
  • Most films are produced in house or as JV with other broadcasters
  • From big budget ‘Planet Earth’ 2006
  • To low budget in-house

‘White Horse Village’

  • Favoured independents
  • Occasional outside purchase
cambodia surgical ward
Cambodia Surgical Ward
  • A first hand BBC experience
  • A film by Rob McBride and Jim Laurie
  • Pay little, want world wide rights and will control the final edit
  • The producers experience
  • 30 % prod, 70 % funds & dist
  • The Distribution nightmare
next week
Next Week
  • Personality Driven Film making
  • And some elements of style
  • Beyond Michael Moore
  • Nick Broomfield
  • Ross McElwee
  • Morgan Spurlock
  • Techniques of
  • Errol Morris and Ken Burns
jmsc 6085 documentary film appreciation

JMSC 6085 Documentary Film Appreciation

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

0930 - 1230

Jim Laurie

[email protected]

Office: Eliot G-21

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