Accuracy is the degree to which a subject iscorrect and reliable.
In the world of factual programming, being accurate isvastly important. The whole point of a documentary is that it provides truthful,up to date and dependable information in to a subject matter.Succeeding in creating a completely accuratefactual programme is not easy. It involves copious amounts of research, andthere is always the risk that the information that you have gathered is notcorrect. In order to ensure that your data is accurate, it is important tocongregate information from multiple sources.Inthe case of the documentary, “The Man Who Killed Michael Jackson” (SteveHewlett), it was hugely imperative that the information given during thedocumentary was correct. The programme looks in to the death of Michael Jacksonand how it was most likely caused by his doctor, Conrad Murray.
Due to thisbeing a hugely popular subject, the filmmakers had to spend a lot of timeensuring that the data in this programme was accurate. The documentary depictsfootage from Murray’s trial, interviews with Murray and also statisticsrelating to Jackson’s death. Therefore, it is difficult to dispute the factthat this is an accurate documentary.However,the documentary “Blackfish” (GabrielaCowperthwaite), a programme that looks into how the OrlandoMarine Park’s giant orca killed his trainer in 2010, was called”inaccurate and misleading” by SeaWorld. “SeaWorld is one of theworld’s most respected zoological institutions, that SeaWorld rescues, rehabilitatesand returns to the wild hundreds of wild animals every year, and that SeaWorldcommits millions of dollars annually to conservation and scientific research.
Instead of a fair and balanced treatment of a complex subject, the film isinaccurate and misleading and, regrettably, exploits a tragedy that remains asource of deep pain for Dawn Brancheau’s family, friends and colleagues.”– A statement made by SeaWorld.Balance, Impartiality and BiasWhen making adocumentary it is vital to take in to account different viewpoints, to look atmore than one side of a subject and to not make biased statements orjudgements. However, this has been proven difficult by many filmmakers as oftena documentary will exhibit a certain viewpoint, especially on documentariesexamining social, political or cultural issues.To ensure that your programme isbalanced, impartial and non-biased you must obtain applicable and appropriatearguments and present them suitably. You must not include too much, or any,personal opinion as you must keep in mind that the viewer is not watching thedocumentary to hear your opinion, but to be educated.
Basically, you must beopen-minded.A good exampleof a documentary like this is “Panorama: The Secrets of Scientology” (JohnSweeney). The documentary looks in to the recent growing popularity of theChurch of Scientology, and if the religion can be considered a cult or not. Thedocumentary features interviews with people with opposing viewpoints,interviews with members of the Church, background information on the Church andplenty of indisputable footage of arguments, court cases etc. Therefore, thisdocumentary can be considered balanced and unbiased.
Thedocumentary “Kurt and Courtney” (Nick Broomfield), looks in to the death of KurtCobain and how his wife, Courtney Love, may have been responsible for hisdeath. It is obvious when watching the documentary that it is unmistakeablybiased, as Broomfield mostly just searches for evidence that Love was Cobain’skiller. The documentary depicts three accusations from a private investigator,a close friend of Love’s, and her own father that she murdered Cobian.
Herarely looks at the other side of the story, that Cobain committed suicide,which is the side that most people believe. OpinionIn order topresent information it is important to gather varying opinions on the matter.It helps with the validity of the opinions if they come from professionals thatare associated with the subject matter. For example, in “Super Size Me” (MorganSpurlock), a documentary in which Morgan Spurlock does an experiment where heonly eats McDonalds food for one month to see how his body reacts, Spurlockgathers information from various medical professionals such as a cardiologist, agastrologist, a dietician and a general practitioner. We see these people everynow and then throughout the documentary as they give information and theirprofessional opinions and advice to Spurlock on how his McDonalds challenge isaffecting his body.http://www.youtube.
com/watch?v=XmOj54D2GJI– In this clip from “Super Size Me”, Spurlock’s doctors are telling him thathis new diet is proving itself to be very harmful for his body. They advise himto stop doing the challenge because his heart, liver and blood are suffering.These opinions help Spurlock to make the point that fast food is more harmfulthan most people realise.Opinion indocumentaries is significant. However, so is fact. Due to it being factual programming, I think thatdocumentary makers should focus more on the facts than the opinions. Nonetheless,opinion can help the documentary maker send an overall message or create ageneral tone.Thereare documentaries which don’t require opinion and only give facts andinformation to the viewer.
Documentaries such as “Planet Earth” (DavidAttenborough) do not rely on gathering information from people. Documentarieslike this don’t have interviews with people; they just provide information tothe viewer and show footage of the subject matter. Their purpose is moreeducational and therefore opinion is not necessary.RepresentationThe way thatthe subjects are represented in a documentary is mostly down to the documentarymaker and it affects how a subject is seen by the viewer throughout the wholeprogramme. The documentary maker can manipulate the footage of the subjects tomake someone seem a certain way, which may add entertainment value or may causethe audience to think a certain way. They can also interview their subjects ina particular setting with a carefully thought-out background so that they arepresented how the documentary maker wants it. Or, they may decide to onlyshow specific features of their personalities.
For example, they may show theviewer the kinder side of a person and then choose not to show their moreaggressive side.Coming back to”Kurt and Courtney”, this is a prime example of how the documentary maker, NickBroomfield, has decided to represent Courtney Love in a specific way.Broomfield hints at multiple times throughout the programme that Courtneymurdered, or hired someone to murder, Kurt Cobain. This is done by showing herin a negative light by featuring the negative things that her father had to sayabout her. He also showed footage of her friendswho he made clear were drug/alcohol dependant, which sheds a negative light onher life.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rsXUAsMd48– This is an interview that was featured in the documentary with a man named ElDuce who claimed that Love offered him $50,000 to murder Cobain.
Thisimmediately makes the viewer suspicious of Love, even though El Duce appears tobe drunk and unreliable, it still makes the viewer think “what if?”.AccessIn order tocreate a documentary you need access to a location, people or objects. Withoutthese things it would be very difficult to create a believable, entertainingand convincing programme. Some people that you may want to interview might notbe available or willing to answer questions, and so you have to find a wayaround that. Also, if you want to shoot on a specific location it may beillegal to use recording equipment in that location, for example in an airport,and so you have to move location. These are just a few of the issues that adocumentary filmmaker will come across.Access is also about getting the audienceinvolved in the making of factual programming so that they have a say in how asubject is represented and viewed.
It also allows them to give feedback on asubject. An example of this is a programme called “Talking Bad”, which is aboutthe fictional series called “Breaking Bad” and it allows the audience and fansof “Breaking Bad” to talk about the episodes of the show and what they thoughtof the characters and the storyline. A similar programme is “Talking Dead”which is the same thing as “Talking Bad”, but is for the fictional series “TheWalking Dead”.PrivacyDocumentarymakers often run in to problems regarding privacy when creating documentaries.
They are eager to get information and sometimes that involves crossing a lineand becoming quite intrusive. However, it is sometimes necessary to beintrusive to get the information that the programme requires. Documentary makerMichael Moore, for example, tends to ask people personal and/or uncomfortablequestions. In his television series “The Awful Truth” he asks various Christianpoliticians about their faith and beliefs. Some of these interviewees appear tobe uncomfortable and try to avoid the questions.Thereare certain laws that a documentary maker must follow in order to avoid finesand legal action against them.
For example, if a subject asks if he/she can stopbeing filmed then the cameraman must stop filming unless they have a warrant tocontinue. Also, when filming or recording in institutions, organisations orother agencies then permission to film must be obtained.In 2010 anargument was but forward by Brett Mills from the University of East Anglia thatdocumentary makers should respect the privacy of animals as much as they do forhumans.
He said “It might at first seem odd to claim that animals might have aright to privacy, but animal behaviour shows that they can make a distinctionbetween public and private behaviour. There are times when they withdraw from”public” areas, and appear to want privacy. For humans it is assumedthat documentary makers would need consent to go into people’s private lives,but no such boundary exists for wildlife filmmakers. When confronted with such’secretive’ behaviour the response of the wildlife documentary is to read it asa challenge to be overcome with the technologies of television. The questionconstantly posed by wildlife documentaries is how animals should be filmed:they never ask whether animals should be filmed at all.
” This is a goodpoint as in wildlife documentaries, as long as they have permission, the director/cameramancan film the animals as much as they want. In the documentary “Grizzly Man”(Werner Herzog) we see a lot of the footage filmed by Timothy Treadwell ofgrizzly bears in the wild, as well as Timothy’s life in Alaska. Treadwell wasclearly hoping to make a film using this footage; however he was killed beforehe had the chance. Therefore, in “Grizzly Man” we may be seeing footage thatTreadwell never intended anyone else to see. His privacy is consequentlycompromised, as well as the bears and other animals he filmed.Contract with ViewerContract with the viewer is about whatthe viewer is promised when watching the trailer for a documentary or in theopening of the documentary. For example, a documentary maker might make thetrailer for their documentary seem more exciting than it actually is in orderto get people to come and see the programme.
This tactic is used often in thefilm industry, and not just in factual programming. Filmmakers often get themost action packed/the funniest/the most dramatic parts of their film and putthem in the trailer so that the film appears to be more appealing to theaudience when in reality the film may have a completely different tone.For example,”Catfish” (Nev Schulman) is about a true story of a man who meets a womanonline and after getting to know her gets in to a relationship with her beforeeven meeting her. With his friends filming him, he decides to pay her asurprise visit so he can finally meet her. The trailer makes the film seem alot tenser than it actually is by taking the more dramatic parts of the filmand putting them in the trailer, along with “creepy” music and misleadingquotes from reviews.
In actuality, the film is barely tense at all andtherefore the contract with the viewer is broken.