Research – Channel Four Shorts

Channel Four is known for producing and showing documentaries that other channels perhaps wouldn’t have that explore subjects that have previously been considered as very personal such as sexuality and explore environments that are considered to be quite private such as police stations and A&E. In addition to these documentaries, Channel Four has also recently started producing ‘shorts’ which are smaller documentaries that range from anything as little as two minutes to longer ten-minute pieces. These shorts cover a wide range of subjects and each take different approaches, in addition to this they are being displayed in an environment that is native to the audience with whom they are aiming to engage; each short is displayed on Channel Four’s On Demand website. As a response I have chosen to research and analyse these shorts in relation to my Final Major Project as they are a fresh new method of discussing content.

 

Bad Dates

This is a series of shorts which tell the story of people’s first dates:

  • These are some of the shorter documentaries but they are still really effective
  • Each one is an anecdote of a memory or experience
  • The person involved narrates the story whilst other actors act out the situation
  • The narrators voice is the only voice in the video (the actors lip-sync along to the speech)
  • Each story is kept short and quirky to keep the audience’s attention
  • These documentaries aren’t meant to be serious, there is a real element of humour and dramatisation
  • It isn’t really meant to educate or provoke any deep thoughts about dating, it’s just a humours anecdote from people who believe they have had a bad date and want to share it

I really like this series of shorts, they are quirky and comical, in evaluation I would need more time than a couple of minutes to make a comprehensive documentary on my subject matter however I could always take a different approach and make a two minute short to tell individual story or experience. I don’t think I would use the specific approach they have taken with actors acting out the story, my visuals would either be the person being interviewed or something different.

 

Selfies

This series of shorts was made up of four videos in which individuals, specifically at the age of being a student (late teens/early twenties) were given hand held cameras and asked to film their experience. This produced four videos approximately seven minutes long on average which would work to be a self-portrait of their current emotional and physical state.

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/selfies

  • The longer approach forms a longer, developed narrative which tracks a period longer than the time it takes to speak an anecdote
  • Each ‘selfie’ has a concept behind it: a point to be proven, recording a special event, telling the truth about their situation or sharing a part of a journey.
  • The filming is up to the people in the videos so depending on the individual’s creativity there is a range of different angles
  • The content is also down to the producer of the video so Channel Four doesn’t have direct control over what goes in the video however I am expecting there was a certain selection process and requirements as there are two males and two females, two stories are more positive and two are slightly more serious.
  • I also don’t know how collaborative the editing process was, whether the subject had a part in editing their story so Channel Four presumably still had most of the control over the final outcome.

If I was to produce a larger documentary on one individual this would possibly be my approach. The technique of giving the subject the camera to create their own representation is interesting and is definitely something I should consider if I am going to be telling someone else’s story. Collaborative negotiation has proven to be an effective form of representation as demonstrated by Wasma Mansour and Sarah Davidmann so this is definitely an approach I need to consider.

 

Tofu

This is one element of a three-part series from Channel Four that covers all aspects of sex and sexuality made by YouTuber Benjamin Cook.

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/tofu

  • This explores a concept rather than an individual story and it features the same people each time talking about these different contexts
  • There is a range of different settings and poses to provide visual variety and a range of different people that are being interviewed, some of them are cast members from the linked fictional pieces Banana and Cucumber
  • Tofu is a series of approximately 10 minute episodes
  • You know what concept you are talking about straight away as the documentary is arranged in a fashion that makes it very obvious
  • There is a loose structure to each episode, there is usually an introduction accompanied with music to outline the subject of the episode, then it progresses to talking more in depth
  • Each episode has the same structure, interviews from the same pool of people, the only variant between each episode is the actual content; as it is a series of episodes it needs to be consistent to be consumed easily
  • The motive behind these episodes are perhaps to educate and to encourage the viewer to talk about the same concepts explored in each episode

I think Tofu is very effective, the experience viewing it is really positive despite it tackling subjects that could be considered ‘taboo’ in society. However I am aware that the motive for these videos would be that effect, making the experience of viewing easier and positive encourages the viewer to return. This is something I would have to consider if I was going to make a short documentary, whether it would be a series of videos or whether it would just be an individual video. If I was making a series I would need to consider whether I keep the style and the structure consistent or make something completely different. I think that also depends on whether the content of the video would be the same or if I was exploring something different. The longer length of the video I think makes it easier to explore a subject in depth, the viewer has to engage with the content for longer however I believe that it would be more rewarding after they had completed the viewing.

 

Reflection:

Each of these documentaries have different aspects which are successful and appropriate for the content they are exploring. An informal approach seems to be the most common theme when discussing personal experiences because it makes the viewer and the subject feel more comfortable about engaging with material they perhaps wouldn’t in everyday discussions. I definitely need to find a way to put my subjects at ease when making my video documentary however this is also a concept I can apply to my photographic practice as a subject is more likely to give me more if they are comfortable around me. It appears that a longer video allows more exploration into the subject however I need to balance this aim of including lots of content with making sure the video is short and effective; this will come through planning and editing to follow a specific narrative. I also need to think about whether this comfortable informal theme is actually appropriate for my work, it might work in the approach to making interviews and filming however if I want to make a serious statement about the concept I am exploring perhaps I should make a documentary with a more formal, serious tone. I will continue my research into other documentaries and moving image pieces with a more serious tone to see whether these would suit my concept better. However it could be that a serious set of images in the exhibition, accompanied by a less serious, informal video documentary would work well and engage with many different audiences. It would also mean that my work can operate in many different contexts as well as just the degree show exhibition. My research into Channel Four has established a good founding for the creative process behind my video documentary, I have identified a good approach for making interviews which will hopefully give me more from the subjects I choose. I have also decided that additional research is needed before I decide on an informal tone to the actual video documentary, as it could well be that a serious atmosphere would be much more appropriate for my concept.

 

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