Initiative post- Ethics in Documentary Making

When I watched ‘Dont look back’ directed by DA Pennebaker I asked myself a question, what responsibilities should a director have towards his subjects, keeping in mind that the secondary characters in that documentary e.g journalists, were his subjects as well and the way they were mocked and shown a bad image of them was a connotative message in this documentary. Did they knew that they were being recorded?, if they knew they were being recorded, did they knew that the footage would be for personal use or for commercial purpose. 

It is a common belief that documentaries have a clear social and ethical purpose (Ellis, 2012: 135). It is important for a student of documentary to understand the key ethical concepts before the production stages of filming particular documentary, they have to ask themselves the following questions, the potential impact of the project? The intended audience? Who might benefit from the film? Who could be hurt by the film? If these questions are correctly addressed and keeps them at the foreground of projects then they are able to take an ethically informed position because human nature is involved and the relationship between a filmmaker and his subjects will evolve from time to time as it is a dynamic and story will change alone (Krawitz,2010: 48). Practically, it is not just the subjects, the relationship with the viewers and to maintain their faith in the accuracy and integrity of the filmmakers work is also an ethical concern (Aufderheide et al, 2009: 6)

“Ethics is not set of rules, it is about taking responsibilities for your decisions” (Quinn, Ethic Behind The Lens, 2013). Before making a documentary, the director has to have a point of view. It is one of the most discussed issue in the documentary making of whether it is possible for a documentary film maker to be objective. This involves two types of attitudes, one philosophical where it is possible for a filmmaker to be objective and other an emotional one where the presence of the camera and the crew alters the behaviors of the subject (Eckhardt, 2010: 150). In Pennebaker’s “Don’t Look back’, the filmmaker follows the emotional line, Bob Dylan’s behavior has a contrast when he is facing on camera talking to the journalists and when he is talking to his fans.

In a relationship between a filmmaker and a subject, a critical issue is of the power as it is understood to be something that a filmmaker has control of the image of the participant in documentary (Nash, 2011: 4). Many filmmakers have admitted that they don’t tell the whole truth of their motivation to get access to the subject or to get the scene what they want (Aufderheide et al, 2009: 14). Ellis suggests that although subjects may have been exploited, but it was necessary to the aim of documentary (Ellis, 2012: 142). In ‘Don’t look back’, although Bob Dylan is the main subject concerned, but there are other subjects that appear minimal in the documentary but play a vital role into being exploited. These subjects are journalists who interview Bob Dylan but Bob plays mind games with them tells them that the truth is hidden from the people and they will lose by printing the real truth. One of reasons which I may feel that Pennebaker might not have got their consent is because he was using a handheld camera. The journalists might have felt this to be a home camera and perhaps they thought that Dylan’s crew might be filming his tour and didn’t bothered to be worried about it. A filmmaker should work in a good-faith relationship that would not put the subjects at risk (Aufderheidi,et al, 2009: 6). The participants are victimized and thus the filmmaker must give up the controlling position and take stance of supporter (Nash, 2011: 5). So by being honest, the subjects can participate in the project without false assumptions (Krawitz, 2010: 50). The Subjects have to be in a frame of mind in which they can take responsibility for their actions (Ellis, 2012: 143).


1, Aufderheide, Patricia, and et al. (2009). Honest Truths: Documentary Filmmakers on Ethical Challenges. Retrieved from–_Documentary_Filmmakers_on_Ethical_Challenges_in_Their_Work.pdf

2, Ellis, J 2012, Documentary : Witness and Self-revelation, Routledge, London., pp. 135-54.

3 ,Ethics Behind The Lens, 2013. Video. USA. Chicago Humanities Festival. Availability:

4, Krawitz, J. 2010, “Treading Softly: ETHICS & DOCUMENTARY PRODUCTION”, Knowledge Quest, vol. 38, no. 4, pp. 48-51.

5, Nash, Kate. (2011). Beyond the frame: researching documentary ethics. Retrieved from

What do I want from Film 3?

When I was doing one of the tasks in Media 1 which required me to document a person I know, it was more of a documentary style video. At that time I realised my calling to pursue in this field. The thing that intrigued me the most was the story telling, when my subject was talking about his experiences, it made me forget that I was recording the conversation. You know it is real when you see it, and this documentary filmmaking is closer to reality, well in my point of view, the observational style of documentary filmmaking is. So when the time came to choose a studio for Media 4, I decided that I would go for Film 3, the fascinating thing about this course is that it questions that what if we applied the methodologies of drama production to the making of a documentary? This question in itself made me ponder about the art of documentary filmmaking, is documentary really what it is or can it be a hybrid of drama and other filmic techniques?

My goals are to be efficient in editing videos regardless if it is a film, music or documentary, produce content that at least makes sense to the audience, collaborate projects with different media makers around the world, to learn how to design sound (I’m really bad at sound selection and making of it) and lastly and most importantly, to launch my own production house for documentary making which will focus on the stories of people who faced hardships in their lives and how they overcome the obstacles. I know my goals are bit much, but like they say, every 1000 mile journey begins with a single step.

Besides that question, I would really like if this course offers practical work more than writing as I believe that one can only learn through practical experience.


Reading Log- Vertov as Theorist

Citation: # Petric, Vlada. “Dziga Vertov as Theorist.” Cinema Journal 18:1 Fall 1978, pp29-44

Log entry

1. Key/significant points or ideas:

-The reading outlines Vertov as a theorist.

-Vertov’s ‘Film-Eye’ emphasized that this method implied depicting ‘Life-As-It-Is’ by the direct recording of facts found in real life; he also insisted that the ‘Film- Eye’ had act not through the medium of theater or literature, since he considered them ‘surrogates of life’

-Vertov’s interest is not in the relationship ‘art and reality’, but rather in ‘reality and organization of reality’

-Vertov outlines the main duty of the cameraman of observing events and objects in life which are observation of the place, observation of moving characters or objects, observation of the theme.

-The author reviews Vertov’s ‘Film-Eye’ method; it is Hegelian in essence and Marxist in form; it functions on a  dialectical principle; and it is always aware of political momentum.


– This reading provides an in-depth guide of Vertov’s theory and an extensive concept of the documentary cinema in both the silent and sound era.

Reading log- Performative Mode

Citation: # Nichols, Bill. Introduction to Documentary Film. Bloomington & Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 2010, pp. 199-211

Log entry (200 words maximum):

1. Key/significant points or ideas:

-The reading is about the final mode in documentary filmmaking which is the performative mode

-It sets out to demonstrate how embodied knowledge provides entry into an understanding of the more general processes of work in society.

-Performative documentary underscores the complexity and affective dimensions

-This mode adds emphasis to the subjective qualities of experience and memory from the perspective of the filmmaker himself and bears similarity to an essayistic model for participatory filmmakers.   

-The free combination of the actual and the imagines occurrences is a common feature of the performative documentary.

-This mode brings the emotional intensities of the embodied experience and knowledge to the force rather than attempt to do something tangible so that audience can experience the world in a particular way as vividly as possible.

2. Ideas that help me to understand documentary: 

– This mode tries and gets us to experience an event and what it would have been like, it tries to make us create perspective of something we may have not experienced before.


Performative mode can be poetic at times as it draws up peoples feelings and emotions when being watched.

Reading Log- Observational Mode


# Hall, Jeanne. “Don’t You Ever Just Watch?”: American Cinema Verite and Don’t Look Back.” Documenting the Documentary. Ed. Barry Keith Grant & Jeannette Sloniowski. Detroit: Wayne State UP. 1998, 223-237.

Log entry (200 words maximum):

1. Key/significant points or ideas:

-In 1960’s, a documentary movement ‘Cinema Vertite’ became known. Halls tells us the documentary ‘Primary’ is considered as a landmark film in the aesthetic development of Cinema Verite.

-The key elements for cinema Verite are wandering movements of hand held cameras, blurred and grainy images of monochrome film; synchronous sounds and the performance of seemingly involved actors.

-The reading outlines how ‘Don’t Look Back’ critiques the dominant media informed by liberal views of the role of the press in contemporary democracy.

-Hall mentions four different strategies of how the director critique media in ‘Don’t Look Back’, let Dylan critique directly, Let Dylan critique indirectly, showing opposite of what Dylan says and edit potentially productive interview,

2. Ideas that help me to understand documentary: 

– From this reading I understand that being in a save boundary of observational mood, one can promote own intentions in a creative way.

3. Comment/questions:

– In an observational mode, is it necessary for the director to ask permission from the secondary subjects in the documentary of their consent to be displayed as they might be portrayed in a certain way that may affect them either way?

Reading Log on Interactive mode of Documentary

Citation:# Nichols, Bill. Introduction to Documentary Film. Bloomington & Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 2010, pp.179-194 [extract: The Participatory Mode, which Nichols original called the Interactive Mode]

1. Key/significant points or ideas:
-This reading introduces to us to participatory mode of documentary.

-Around 1960, new technology allowed sync sound recording on location is called participatory mode.

-This mode requires interaction with subjects and what happens in front of the camera becomes a collaborative effort between filmmaker subject.

-Interview is a common form of encounter between filmmaker and subject in participatory mood.

-The filmmakers presence in this mode of documentary takes on aggravated importance from physical act of ‘getting the shot’ to the political act of joining forces with one’s subject, and in some bitter cases its presence takes on a highly personal and sometimes touching quality.

-Filmmakers of this mode are differentiated into two large components, essayists and historians. this gives participatory mode documentary filmmaking considerable appeal as it roams a wide variety of subjects.

2. Ideas that help me to understand documentary:
– I understand that this mode provides an immersive experience in digging out stories of the subjects in depth.

3. Questions/ Comments
I feel that incase a proper research is not done by a filmmaker then the subject may manipulate their version of stories and can provide a false narrative into the production of the documentary.

This mode seems intrusive as filmmaker actually gets involved into the lives of the subjects and that can lead to certain power and co

Reading log on Reflexive mode of Documentary

Citation:  # Nichols, Bill. Introduction to Documentary Film. Bloomington & Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 2010, pp 194-199 [Extract: The Reflexive Mode.]

1. Key/significant points or ideas:

-This reading focuses on the process of negotiation between filmmaker and viewers.

-Reflexive documentary asks viewers to see documentary for what it is; a construct or representation.

-This mode in general depends on the viewers neglect of his or her actual situation, in front of a movie screen, interpreting a film, in favor of imaginary access to the events shown on the screen as it is only these events that require interpretation, not the film.

-Reflexive documentaries challenge techniques and conventions of realism such as continuity editing, character development and narrative structure.

-Reflexive documentary pokes the viewers to a higher form of consciousness about his or her relation to and what documentary represents.

-Reflexive documentary can be both formal and political perspective. In formal perspective, reflexivity draws our attention to our assumptions and expectation about documentary form itself. In political perspective, reflexivity points towards our assumptions and expectation about the historical world mote than about the film form.

-Both perspectives induce an “aha” effect where we grasp a principle of world that helps  account for how we understand and represent the world. This term was coined by Bertolt Brecht as ‘alienation effect’

2. Ideas that help me to understand documentary: 

– This mode is the most questioning mode of representation, the representation of facts, ideas and evidence come under suspicion.


– This mode seems abstract and the audience may loose sight of actual issues.

Last Media Workshop

Today was the last workshop for Media 1. I’m feeling kind of sad that I may not see my intellectual peers often. The collaboration that Brian talked about in this course really hit me, my problem is that I feel attached to my surroundings too soon, but then I get along with other things quickly as well, lol! Rachel was sweet enough to bring cookies for us.

Now about the business that happened in class, each of us showed almost finished drafts of our project briefs, Rachel gave us the feedback that it is good but needs an addition of text of the name of the game, quotations of  scholars in this genre and correct sounds issues in the video, which will be fixed soon. Besides that I think Jack’s group really nailed it with their news style report on classification board. I’m jealous as their work is really awesome, I just hope that we all get good marks for our hard work.

Thanks Rachel and my mates for a great semester. I hope I get more collaborative work in near future and make a name in this game.

Machines are becoming too intelligent

Gone were the days when you went to library to search for a book or to pick up a magazine to look over for you favourite recipe. Now with the touch of your finger on your smartphones, you get what you want. With every passing year, the technology is getter better and smarter, with the innovations that suggests you to make friends with, try out new places or even find the shortest route to your destination. Today i viewed a short video in class about ‘Kara’ who is an intelligent robot with all the facial recognition and futuristic artefact attached to her, lately when her creator knows that she has started to think, he dismantles her only till she begs and is feared of being gone forever, I think that there is a hidden meaning into it. Although considering humanity, one must not kill, but other then that, your creation must fear you in order for them to seize exist. After seeing movies like I Robot, Terminator and Blade Runner, emotions must be added to these creations with more fear into them.  Machines can act like a fire, keep us warm or burn us to death. All I know is that they need to have limitations in order to avoid apocalypse.

Rought Cut

So glad that my Media one’s Project Brief 4 is coming along great. I just finished editing our finished product, just the background sounds are remaining. Our group has been really awesome working together. There were ifs and buts in our whole production period but I’m happy that everyone provided their individual effort into this project and results are in front of us. This is a picture of me setting up the camera and lighting for project brief 4.