In what ways can we experiment with documentary convention and use the voice-over as something more than a purely functional tool?

Assignment 4: the triplets

image from Three Identical Strangers, Directed by Tim Wardle (2018),


The task

You will complete this task in groups of 3 or 4.

Imagine three very different full-length documentary films. They can be about absolutely anything. Perhaps, for example, one is a happy piece about an old man whose best friend is an adorable shaggy dog, the second is about the exploitation of child labour in the fashion industry, and the third is an experimental film drawing on the works of a famous philosopher. These are just examples, don’t take them literally.

Now the strange thing about these three imaginary films is that each of them has an opening scene of 2-3 minutes consisting of exactly the same sequence of shots.

You’re going to shoot and edit that scene and lock your edit in place. Then you’re going to write and record those three different voice overs for that scene, without altering the images at all.

The key thing to keep in mind is that each of the three versions of your film needs to be massively different in terms of style, politics, viewpoint, tone, formal qualities, and so forth. Consider everything you’ve read, discussed and seen this semester, and try to express some of that in three distinct films.

Some answers to questions you might have:

  • You can change any aspect of the soundtrack, not just the voice-over. This includes music and sound effects.
  • You don’t have to do the actual speaking yourself. On the contrary, you will need to give serious consideration to who should do each voice over. Remember our discussions about identity, power, exposition, argument, form and poetry, etc. There’s a difference, for example, between a middle-aged man with a posh English accent, and a young woman with an Indian accent – or for that matter, someone speaking one language and subtitled in a different language. Or a child reading poetry and old an person directly commenting on the images you’ve shot. There’s a difference between a voice-over recorded in a studio and one recorded in a shopping centre, or between whispering and shouting.
  • You might also want to think about genre and audience in relation to documentary voice-over.


Since your scene is from the beginning of three hypothetical films, you should consider how the voice-over and the images work together to establish context, introduce characters, etc.


Update 23rd April:

In our class we discussed ways we could complete the learning outcomes of this assignment in this time of social isolation and restrictions. In the end, we concluded that the best option was to loosen the requirement in the same ways we did for Assignment 2. This means (1) you can work as an individual if you prefer, and (2) you can use found-footage, animation, etcetera if you’re unable to shoot your own footage.


Jade Coyle

A film about a director explaining their intentions after receiving backlash for their controversial documentary. A film about a broken woman who survived a kidnapping. A film about a friend who lost their close-friend, famous muscian to a long battle of drugs and depression.


Ria Pflaum

This video explores three very different ways of using voiceover as more than a purely functional tool to convey information in documentary. The three films all use a discussion of Disney and its theme parks as the foundation to experiment with genre and narrative structure.


Martin Ho
This video hopes to illustrate 3 ways narration can be used as more than just a purely functional tool to convey information. But what is the other use of narration? To entertain. So these videos hope to entertain through their use of humour, intrigue and being appealing to the ear.


Natalie Campbell

Video 1: Georgie

This film introduces an informational program about the processes and procedures happening at Blue Gum Farm during the lead up to the Inglis Premier Yearling Sales. There is a professional tone to the voice-over to assert authority on the topic, as it should be an educational experience for the viewer. The literal connection between the visual and audio creates a formal structure, as it should be an easy and enjoyable watch.

Video 2: Caitlin

I made this piece in collaboration with a racing industry worker who delves into the underrepresented response of the workers, regarding the racing protests. Coupled with a very minimalistic soundscape, I hope that the viewer is prompted to reflect on her words and interpret the juxtaposition between her tone and the mood of the footage as an indication they have been mislead by the media. I imagine this film to be supported by emotional testimonies from people in the industry, and to cement that personal tone I used the structure of a conversation to narrate this film.

Video 3: Samson

This is a first person, autobiographical piece about Samson who has travelled from Zimbabwe to work in Australia. In this introduction Samson talks through one of the most trying times in his life, which concluded with one of his happiest days. There is something very intimate in hearing of such a complex emotional journey over something quite mundane. Rather than choosing the most interesting part of the interview, I used this segment as it allows the viewer to understand Samson on a deeper emotional level, than a usual first impression would. The audience is privy to his vulnerability, and I hope that seeing a ‘stranger’ in such a personal light will prompt them to want to know more.


Liam McGain


Isabel O’Riain

A series of three videos exploring ASMR, weightloss within The Bible Belt and an influencers moment at a restaurant.


Sarah McMahon

a History of Little Lon
Melbournes Little Attractions
and the MSG Crists


Leah Oliveria

These 3 videos all centre around COVID-19 and the quieter experience of isolation and lockdown. How is life during a pandemic coming from a kid? Or according to our parents? How does isolation and lockdown become part of our spaces and our mental states? This project tries to reflect a small portion of that.




Haoran Shi

Opening scene version 1 for Gaysian

Opening scene version 2 for Swansea Love Story

Opening scene version 3 for The Invisible Patients

Jana Politis, Anhar Al-Shameri and Emma Welsh

Jana Politis, Anhar Al-Shameri and Emma Welsh, present ‘The Triplets’. One scene, three ways. Inspired by the original footage of Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic film ‘Psycho’. A video essay film analysis of Psycho’s famous shower scene, an imagined intimate interview with Janet Leigh (loosely based on real interviews), and a fictional rendition of ‘Buzzfeed Unsolved’ (a gruesome murder mystery).

Special thanks to Lambros Politis and Meera Srikanth for allowing us to use their voices.

Jarvis Ho

Through this piece, I wanted to show how cinematic footage can be manipulated, with the use of voice over and soundscape, into a True Crime, Biopic, and Tourist documentary about Melbourne that then focus on the MCG.


Morgan Reinwald

The Dining Room is an individual scene with the shots edited and locked in place. However, there is three different versions of the narration which work to tell completely unique stories. The first version is about a man’s disdain for his family, while the second has the complete opposite perspective and demonstrates one’s familial love. The final adaptation is potentially about a murder?


Henry Roach
An informative opinion piece about the current meat industry In Australia. This film was created to assert a specific opinion on the matter. Influenced from styles such as Four corners and 60 minutes, the film attempted to portray a specific agenda.
This is an introduction to a biographical documentary of a skilled chef, Jean Georg. This film has multiple voice overs introducing their relationship with him as well as describing his unique styles in the kitchen.
This is an experimental film that can classified in the art house genre. This film is about a man who changed his life from a cook to a minister. The film looks upon his spirituality and how he was converted to christianity. 


Liam Ward • 26/05/2020

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