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Television and Documentaries

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  1. Television and Documentaries • 1958 – 2008 part 1 • The Narrated Documentary • Current Affairs Units and Docs • The limits of freedom, independence and experimentation at networks • The rebellion against conventional films • TV and the Independent film maker

  2. Assignments • The film critique • The film list – see weblog. • # 1 a single film – due February 15th • # 2 a compare and contrast – 2 films • # 3 a compare and contrast – 2 films • Details on #’s 2 and 3 on Feb 22nd.

  3. Assignment • First film critique should be no more than 1000 words or four pages double spaced • Identify name of film and film maker at the top and where you got the film • Draw from list on line or e-mail me if you want to review a film not on list • You may also find some docs on LINE

  4. Assignment • The film critique • Describe the film briefly • Analyze its style and content • Why is it effective or not? • What visual or creative or experimental devices does it employ • Draw from Barnouw or Nichols in your analysis. Reference sources

  5. Documentaries on Television • In the early days of television – the news division’s of television networks in America and Britain saw current affairs and long form documentary programming as part of their responsibility • Serious programming • Serious issues • Commercial pressures; abandoned form

  6. Early TV Documentaries • In the 1950s - 1960’s CBS, NBC and ABC set up Documentary units • Producing in house between 12 and 24 Docs a year • At CBS – Fred W. Friendly established “See it Now” and “CBS Reports” • With famous broadcaster Edward R. Murrow

  7. Early TV Documentaries • At NBC – a unit called NBC White Paper was set up and investigative documentaries were introduced • Cultural Documentaries were also encouraged ex: 1973 – The Forbidden City of Beijing produced by Lucy Jarvis • Robert Drew produced political docs (more later)

  8. Early TV Documentaries • At American ABC News – the “ABC Close-up” Unit was founded under Executive Producer Pamela Hill • Encouraged independents as well as in- house documentaries – • usually in a traditional conservative, narrative style

  9. In Britain • At the BBC in the 1950’s the network launched Panorama – a weekly single subject current affairs program • The BBC invested in expensive cultural documentaries • Independent British TV launched a cutting edge single topic current affairs program called World in Action

  10. An early film at American CBS • Taught at J-Schools and Film schools around the world esp America • “Harvest of Shame” 1960 • See 2006 article on the film • http://www.populist.com/06.12.krebs.html • An interesting footnote in 1961 • http://www.vcdh.virginia.edu/HIUS316/mbase/docs/harvest.html

  11. A modern comparison • “When the Levees Broke - A Requiem in Four Acts” (2006) • Hurricane Katrina • Director: Spike Lee • http://video.barnesandnoble.com/search/product.asp?ean=26359397325&z=y • Assignment: check to see if this film is available in Hong Kong?

  12. Harvest of Shame (1960) • Produced by Fred W. Friendly • Reported by David Lowe • Written & anchored by Edward Murrow • CBS Reports • Was striking for its images • For its subject matter • And its timing Thanksgiving 1960

  13. The BBC 1969:“Civilisation” • Started in 1966. The most ambitious, most expensive documentary series shot in 13 countries, 100 locations • Written by “Lord” Kenneth Clark • Produced by Michael Gill • In Colour • Show film excerpt

  14. Civilisation (1969) • The personal view of history by • Kenneth Clark • http://www.tvfactual.co.uk/civilisation.htm • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Clark • Very stodgy by modern standards • But the first of many BIG documentaries for television at the BBC

  15. BBC Panorama • BBC’s first current affairs effort • Single subject for 50 minutes – weekly • “World’s longest running investigative TV show” • 1953 • See: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/panorama/default.stm • See: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/panorama/about_panorama/default.stm

  16. BBC Panorama • Often Controversial • Sometimes for the wrong reason • Allowing a reporter/film maker to go too far – personal involvement is part of doc film making but the actions of this doc reporter • Was out of control • Panorama May 2007 - Scientology • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Md0zPchNeQ0

  17. The American Network Doc • Born at CBS, NBC, ABC • The style of CBS Reports remained at the networks through the early 1990’s • A personal experience • Creativity lost to corporate film making • 1979-1980

  18. This Shattered Land (1980) • A film about the Cambodian Famine • Shooting began in 1979 • Written and produced by Phil Lewis and Jim Laurie • Approval by a committee of 12 people • Graphic nature, scheduling problems • A deeply flawed film about a worthy subject. • Impact less than desired (show film = 2 pts)

  19. Another film by contrast • John Pilger • 1980 • The Silent Death of Cambodia • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2dLjaB83WA

  20. Myths Behind the Miracle (1981) • A film about Japan • Directed by Malcolm Clarke • Written by Jim Laurie • Again the dreaded • Committee of 12 • Limiting POV and Limiting expression • ( excerpt )

  21. Smaller cameras changed the style and form • From the mid 1950’s onward • First in film and then later (1980’s) in video tape • Cameras became smaller & smaller • Less obtrusive • More flexibility for the documentary film maker • Film making followed technology

  22. Early Influential Films & Filmmakers • Some film makers experimented • Robert Drew producing films for NBC, ABC and Time Magazine moved away from narrative story telling. In early 60’s broke convention. • An experiment that lasted a short time to be revived only much later

  23. Un-narrated Docs on Television • Cinema Verite • Direct Cinema • Observational • “Candid Drama” [Drew] • No narration • Resistance by traditional television

  24. Un-narrated Docs on TV • On Drew -- Susan Hamovitch writes of “ambivalence of the television industry …” [toward the un-narrated form] • “difficulty attracting sponsors for the projects;” • and most importantly • “the networks' unshakable preference for correspondent-hosted or narrated reporting. …Predictable, containable, effects of a regular news anchor have prevailed, with exceptions, over more poetic candid documentary.”

  25. Early NON narrative film making • Robert Drew • http://www.drewassociates.net/Main/About.htm • http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/D/htmlD/drewrobert/drewrobert.htm • “Primary” (1960) • http://www.sugarpictures.com/News/News_Item10_JFK.html • Influential in making “War Room” in 1993 About 1st Clinton Campaign • Show excerpt from “War Room”

  26. Early NON narrative film making • Show Clip re Robert Drew – [from CV @ 1530] • Footnote: • “Primary” was not shown on prime time network television • Without national network TV - • Distribution on smaller TV channels, • Theatrical or film festival or DVD or internet (in the 2000’s) release

  27. Next Time • Continue Documentary and Television • American PBS – Frontline • Britain Channel 4 • Getting money from TV to make films • HBO, Discovery, and NGC • Docs on TV – 1998 to 2008

  28. Remember • Critique one film • E-mail by February 15th • Check out film list on WEBLOG • See you February 15th • Cong Xi Fa Cai • Kung Hei Fat Choi