About this studio
“…voice-over narration is… arguably the most blatant example of intervention on the part of the documentary filmmaker. As de Antonio sees it, narration is a fascist act that proclaims a film’s didacticism… However varied the use of narration has been… the overriding view is that the documentary voice-over is the filmmakers’ ultimate tool for telling people what to think. This gross oversimplification covers a multitude of differences…”
Bruzzi, Stella (2006) New Documentary, 2nd Edition, Routledge, New York, pp46–50
In what ways can we experiment with documentary convention and use the voice-over as something more than a purely functional tool?
Direct Cinema pioneer Robert Drew famously dismissed voice-over narration as “something you do when you fail”. But beyond the poles of having no voice-over at all or trotting out the much-maligned voice-of-god, film-makers adopt an endless variety of challenging, often experimental, approaches to the non-diegetic spoken word. From snarling narration dripping with irony, to the fumbling confusion of the film-maker who pretends to know nothing, the voice-over remains a potentially razor-sharp tool.
Documentary studies scholarship has tended to conflate the concept of “voice” with perspective or viewpoint, often for quite useful ends. But in a recent important work Maria Pramagiorre and Anabelle Honess Roe argue forcefully for giving more consideration to “the ways that documentaries attend to and exploit the attributes of voice by paying attention to the sonic principles, audio techniques and structural choices that filmmakers employ in their documentary treatment of recorded voices” (see Vocal Projections: Voices in Documentary, Bloomsbury Academic Publishing, 2019).
In this studio we experimented with documentary voice-overs. We recorded our own and we mangled those of others. Perhaps we realised the sheer scale of the question, while identifying at least some of the possibilities of this under-appreciated aspect of documentary film.
Thanks for taking the time look at, and listen to, our work.