Bill Nichols has devised various theoretical ‘modes’ of documentary definition. Discuss and debate a range of the issues that these theories might create regarding the construction of documentary films.
Students are very welcome to find their own documentary essay topics, but these must
be approved by the tutor via email. If you do not wish to choose your own topic a list of
four subjects is presented here to choose from.
Answer one of the following questions in 2500 words or choose your own topic.
1) Bill Nichols has devised various theoretical ‘modes’ of documentary definition.
Discuss and debate a range of the issues that these theories might create
regarding the construction of documentary films.
2) Documentary filmmaking could be seen to be is based on various ‘codes’ and
‘conventions’ used for other types of filmmaking. Discuss how this standard
conventions of filmmaking may make recording and presenting ‘reality’ a
problem for an audience.
3) Choose two documentary filmmakers with contrasting styles. Analyse their
methods of work and critique their approaches to documentary filmmaking.
4) There are many ethical issues behind the documentary filmmaking process.
Discuss some of the various issues concerning ethical decisions and choices
that filmmakers have to make to realise any particular documentary.
Documentary Coursework/Essay (40%)
The CT6DOCTV Essay will be graded using the following marking scheme by the tutor.
– Correct word count (variant of 10% either way) /10
– Clarity of writing
– General structure of document (Intro/main body/conclusion) /10
Correct use of referencing
– Correct style – Harvard APA
– Application of appropriate reference source /5
2. Essay should demonstrate –
– A clear and concise introduction establishing essay topic(s) /10
– Critical awareness of relevant theory /25
(Essay focus should be correctly contextualised within relevant theory)
– A considered and balanced approach /10
(Essay should avoid generalisations and unquantifiable evidence)
– A contextual application of historical references /20
(Historical lineage of techniques or ideas should reference key examples)
– A conclusion /10
(Arguments should be successfully supported and concluded upon)
55Essay Marking Scheme/Guidance
Some of the following is repeated in the Handbook and it is used again here for guidance
A documentary constructed with audio-visual media is similar to a final year project/thesis. The
way you present information (the order and relevance of particular information) can be crucial
to how the final document or production is viewed and evaluated.
Both a thesis and documentary film can contain complex information that can be presented via
the means of an involved and demanding narrative.
Both can be constructed to convince the reader/audience of an argument, problem or particular
point-of-view that requires justification.
A suitable essay for CT6DOCTV should be based upon a question that dares to probe
‘documentary filmmaking’ from a particular perspective. The CT6DOCTV lectures will all touch
on many suitable topics that you might want to consider choosing from.
Try to take the same approach a filmmaker might take in developing a suitable topic for
discussion. For example, what topic would make a good documentary film? What topic is going
to make a good documentary essay? Will your topic attempt to be original in concept?
Please remember that you are required to write a THIRD-PERSON style essay, not a report, and the
essay should NOT be a diary of events or discuss how the team worked together, etc
Make sure your essay states clearly and precisely what you intend to discuss. Try to include a
variety of key texts within your essay to show thorough or good research.
Do not attempt a topic that will be too demanding for your particular word-count.
Your essays should be well researched and referenced from some of the recommended reading
Lastly, please try and start writing the essay in good time. Grammar, writing style and spelling
will all contribute to your final grade, and the more rushed the essay, the less chance you will
have to polish and hand-in something you will be pleased with.
Further information can be gained from the reading list and from ASK study skills
Preferred language style UK English