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Observational Documentary and music selection


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#1 Thom

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 12:39 PM

NClarke brought up the style of observational documentary on another post. This can be a highly nuanced style with arguments all over the board in regard to what "observational" truly is as well as whether or not a filmmaker is really "observing" as opposed to capturing what s/he wants to communicate (observation forced into a preconceived framework) or what s/he feels will gain an audience. Any discussion around this topic would be really interesting but that isn't what I wanted to talk about here. My question here refers to the soundtrack or music selection process.

Let's say that the filmmaker has achieved an unbiased shooting and editing process (or as close to neutral as possible), how then does one select the accompanying soundtrack? This, like shooting and editing, is another way to manipulate the visuals and/or the narrative and possibly force/communicate something other than the truth one intended or the subject agreed to. So, what is your process? Do you want to enhance the apparent (like the pace of the action) or the mood of the scene/action (argument, laughter)? Do you prefer something more organic using the original recorded sounds and location ambiance? Do you think more in terms of big picture soundtrack that focuses on the theme or spine of the documentary?

This topic is nuanced enough and it is much more specific, sort of.


[added the 'e' in NClarke - sorry about that]

Edited by Thom(asher), 14 August 2008 - 02:47 PM.


#2 NClarke

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Posted 18 August 2008 - 04:13 PM

QUOTE (Thom(asher) @ Aug 14 2008, 02:39 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
as well as whether or not a filmmaker is really "observing" as opposed to capturing what s/he wants to communicate (observation forced into a preconceived framework) or what s/he feels will gain an audience.
[added the 'e' in NClarke - sorry about that]


This point has been a tough one for me to figure out. When I am on a shoot, I am constantly thinking about what makes a story that is compelling and fairly easy to understand. The fact is that most real life stories are so complex and involve such a variety of interlocking relationships that they would just become a confusing mess if I tried to communicate that on screen. So am I being unethical as a filmmaker if I try to simplify the story for the sake of the audience, even if it is basically still true to real events?

I realize that no matter how much I may try, I will never be able to create a true objective observational doc. It doesn't exist. My decisions whether in production or in post make that impossible. Even something as apparently mundane as how much ambient sound to add can greatly influence the feel of an edit. Instead I try to capture what I think is true of the experience of the person I am documenting and what is true of my experience as an observer. I guess these observational docs say as much about the filmmaker as they do the subject.