This handbook is intended for those wanting to use documentary filmmaking as a research method to explore subjects and also as a way of expressing ideas. Its focus is practical rather than technical, aiming to complement the many handbooks that already exist covering filmmaking, digital videography, sound recording and video editing. It concentrates on aspects of filmmaking for research purposes at an introductory level that are not so well documented elsewhere, such as the practical stages involved in the production of an ethnographic film. The underlying principal of this handbook is to broaden the application of ethnographic filmmaking to suit a wide range of research areas and documentary expression, encompassing sensory, fictive, observational, participatory, reflexive, performative and immersive modes of storytelling. I have chosen to avoid detailed discussion of technology as this dates quickly. This handbook aims to assist individuals in their personalised searches using online facilities to develop research methods and also teaching, by decoding technical terminology and explaining filmmaking workflows.
in the film’s content. The relationships that audience members develop with the protagonists of a film become something new, a cinematic experience entwined in the public act of viewing, which is quite different to the private experience of fieldwork. Previous sections have attempted to show how cinematic tools and techniques are used to relate the unfolding of experience to its narration through affect and the senses. Now that construction work for the film has ended, you may want to think carefully about how filmmaking negotiates this shift from personal
of the way that things feel differently for each of us. A ﬁlmmaker, however, seeks proximity to others as a way to interpret their thoughts, emotions and actions through images, sounds and stories that are eventually shared in a different but related cinematic experience. Opportunities for these documentaries are found in daily processes, spoken words and critical events, or they might be discovered outside of our existing conceptual frameworks as we encounter new things along the journey.
Filmmaking for ﬁeldwork is more than using a camera and sound devices to
handbook complements these sources of information by concentrating on the practical and theoretical aspects of cinema craft – which change more slowly – and some of the relevant technical innovations that have appeared in recent years. I will describe in detail two popular camera and sound-recording systems that suit the job of ethnographic ﬁlmmaking and point to others that can extend your work in interesting directions. We will then spend some time looking at how to place this technology under manual control, so that you are ready to begin practising. Do not worry if
further problem develops in how to express subjectivity in ways that will connect an audience to the lifeworlds of other people. Filmmaking mitigates this problem by employing artistic techniques for data gathering, which can carry us beyond moments of disbelief in the ﬁeld and prepare us for a more forensic examination at the editing stage. The tantric practitioners I worked with also use a direct and physical engagement with the object of their confusion or uncertainty to seek more coherent expressions. Their solution is to think differently about a situation and act
willing and able to engage in such debates. Such
polemics linked publications and possibly boosted sales too. Watson’s
remarks aptly described much amateur activity, but it would be unfair to
overlook those films that did explore contemporary society.
Watson’s wake-up call for more socially engaged
filmmaking was not new. 2
Since the mid-1920s, some filmmakers had tackled topical concerns in factual
The first years of the new millennium provide an opportunity for
assessing how beur filmmaking has developed since the flourishing of the
banlieue film in 1995 and the surprise success of Djamel Bensalah’s
Le Ciel , les oiseaux … et ta mère in 1999. Since
2000, there has been an increase in the number of beur filmmakers –
Kamel Saleh, Karim Abbou (born in 1968 in Puteaux), Kader Ayd (born in 1976 in
Nanterre), Rabah Ameur
The journey continues
Every sensation shares the same characteristic: it arises and passes away, arises and passes away. It is this arising and passing that we have to experience through practice.
S. N. Goenka teacher of Vipassana meditation
The craft of ﬁlmmaking extends inﬁnitely in all directions. It is as varied as the subjects we choose to ﬁlm and limitless as the human imagination. We are on the cusp of interesting changes in the ways that documentary is being made. I hope this handbook will be useful for people who
and even conference papers and journal articles that relate to the film project.
Tip Aim to maintain a constant back-up of all materials associated with your film on each of the three hard drives. By following this procedure, if one drive is lost or damaged then you can link your project file to a back-up drive and continue your work without disruption.
As well as closeness to a subject, filmmaking for fieldwork also requires distance. To understand the recorded material and find clips more easily once you start cutting, it is advisable to make a
and film-making in Pat Collins’s
Tim Robinson: Connemara
A map is a sustained attempt upon an unattainable goal, the complete comprehension
by an individual of a tract of space that will be individualized into a place by that
– Tim Robinson
In sum a film is a map, and … its symbolic and political effectiveness is a function of
its identity as a cartographic diagram.2
– Tom Conley
Documenting through map-making and film-making
In the documentary film Tim Robinson: Connemara (2011), director Pat Collins