The power of the web continues to break new ground in documentary film.
An article in Creative Review July 2012 Straight To Vimeo took my eye, so much so, I delve deeper to learn how the web can act as a facilitator for documentary film production and presentation. I viewed several films mentioned in the article to get a sense of what the filmmaker was trying to achieve when crafting their story.
I have embedded some of these films below and include a short summary of the relevant issues affecting or challenging traditional documentary production for online.
In summary, the article explores new ways producers are making and showing documentary films with digital media technology. Harnessing high-def equipment and high-speed editing and publishing tools for little cost, filmmakers are investing more time polishing their storytelling craft:
“We’re entering a period of high romanticism where you’ll get more really emotional pieces on film and not necessarily factual; it’s a style reaction” observes Adam Curtis of The Guardian (p.34)
Also, the article discusses how the internet has become an integral part of the film making process. From announcing the project, research & producing it, to funding, releasing and distributing the final film all happened via the web.
“The web can act as a facilitator, a way to bring attention to a particular cause, even fund an entire film project” Gary Hustwit (p.35)
London’s Pilgrim Films has raised awareness of issues of marginalized communities across the globe including Vimeo documentary winner for 2012 Amar, which follows a day in the life of a 14 year-old boy in the city of Jamshedpur, India. “As his routine is not unlike the fate of silent millions who lead lives of quiet drudgery in a daily battle for survival. If it makes people stop and think for a moment about their own lives, and how they choose to use their time, then that‘s all I can hope for” says filmmaker Andrew Hilton.
In Keith Ehrilich’s (USA) Made By Hand series, considers how something was made, who made it, and where it was made and under what conditions. Making films about the production process under threat from the convenience of modern technology appeals both to the online viewer and the filmmaker, using their skills inherent to traditional forms of production.
So does this mean the documentary viewing experience is better off viewed on the small-screen?
I still believe the cinema experience of watching films on a large screen, sitting in a dark space, away from distraction, remains my favoured experience. However, the web effect, for documentaries is its enabling well crafted films about niche subjects to connect directly with their audience, finding it’s roots firmly in the internet and removed from the traditional models of distribution via cinema and television networks.
In putting your shorts on Vimeo, and having them go out to blogs and other online media outlets, the number of views can quickly get up to the hundreds of thousands. I’m not even sure why TV networks exist anymore, to be honest. A film can reach more people via the web, both from a funding and a viewership perspective.
What do you think? Is television still the ideal platform for documentary?