Documentaries have long been a popular way for filmmakers to express their views about society. There are a handful of different types of documentaries out there, with the most common being the participatory. In this style of documentaries the topic is usually explained through sit down interviews with one or more experts on a certain topic, supplemented with B-Roll.
As part of one of my final classes at BYU – Idaho, Documentary Filmmaking, I’ll be able to bring together a lot of what I’ve learned these past 3 years into a single documentary. Part of this class involves documenting the process along the way. So this short blog series, “Are You Listening – A Poetic Documentary,” will be dedicated to explaining my thoughts behind this short documentary these next few months.
Are You Listening? - A Poetic Documentary
Are You Listening (Title WIP) will be a documentary following the poetic mode. Above I explained that there’s a handful of different styles when it comes to documentaries. The six styles, proposed by Bill Nichols in 1991, are:
As an audio engineer for films my topic came easy to me. I have a good amount of experience for someone my age and solid contacts in the industry to ask advice from and possibly record for interviews. So as a knee-jerk idea I thought about just doing a standard participatory style about the creation of a film from an audio engineer’s perspective.
The more I thought about it the more stale and uninspired I became. It was starting to feel like I was planning just another YouTube video.
As I was looking into the different styles to come up with a better idea the poetic style immediately felt right.
Why Audio Fits With Poetic Documentaries
Poetic documentaries rely on rhythm. In order to successfully pull off a documentary in the poetic style it not only needs to have a topic that would interest a targeted audience but the edit needs to flow, move, evolve, and build up to something. While other forms of documentaries have interviews, voice of god narration, or subjects to build the feel, the poetic documentary relies on the story or central idea to be propelled by the edit.
And rhythm in an edit in any film relies on one thing:
If you want rhythm in an edit you need proper sound design. It’s extremely hard, if not impossible, to get proper rhythm in an edit if you don’t plan proper audio.
So what better way to show the power of audio in a documentary about audio than by using the style that relies the most on it?
How Audio Engineers Hear The World
This documentary won’t be just how audio enhances a film. This won’t be a “How To” style video or interviews from professionals. No “fly on the wall’s” or “a day in the life’s.”
In order to best express the importance of an audio engineer’s role I feel it’s best to explain how people like me experience the world and why that perspective enhances a story.
Just as cinematographers have a certain way they see the world and can capture it on film, audio engineers have a certain way we hear the world in order to build the sound of a story.
So over these next few months I’ll share a weekly blog post update on how the documentary is going, challenges faced as I work to express this topic, and lessons learned. Yes, for credit in the class, but also to give a sneak peek behind the curtain of planning audio in a film from the start.
Next week will be all on building the story, planning the shots, and planning the rhythm with sound before I even turn the camera on.