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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 Assignments The film critique

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Television and Documentaries

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television and documentaries
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
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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
documentaries on television
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
early tv documentaries
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
early tv documentaries7
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)
early tv documentaries8
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
in britain
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
an early film at american cbs
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
  • An interesting footnote in 1961
a modern comparison
A modern comparison
  • “When the Levees Broke - A Requiem in Four Acts” (2006)
  • Hurricane Katrina
  • Director: Spike Lee
  • Assignment: check to see if this film is available in Hong Kong?
harvest of shame 1960
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
the bbc 1969 civilisation
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
civilisation 1969
Civilisation (1969)
  • The personal view of history by
  • Kenneth Clark
  • Very stodgy by modern standards
  • But the first of many BIG documentaries for television at the BBC
bbc panorama
BBC Panorama
  • BBC’s first current affairs effort
  • Single subject for 50 minutes – weekly
  • “World’s longest running investigative TV show”
  • 1953
  • See:
  • See:
bbc panorama16
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
the american network doc
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
this shattered land 1980
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)
another film by contrast
Another film by contrast
  • John Pilger
  • 1980
  • The Silent Death of Cambodia
myths behind the miracle 1981
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 )
smaller cameras changed the style and form
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
early influential films filmmakers
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
un narrated docs on television
Un-narrated Docs on Television
  • Cinema Verite
  • Direct Cinema
  • Observational
  • “Candid Drama” [Drew]
  • No narration
  • Resistance by traditional television
un narrated docs on tv
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.”
early non narrative film making
Early NON narrative film making
  • Robert Drew
  • “Primary” (1960)
  • Influential in making “War Room” in 1993 About 1st Clinton Campaign
  • Show excerpt from “War Room”
early non narrative film making26
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
next time
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
  • 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