Experimental Documentary Filmmaking

Taught by; Nacheal Catnott and Ismar Badžić

Dates of Course: 8th October 2019, 15th October and 18th October

The word, ‘actuality’ is an important one amongst documentary filmmakers. It is loaded with meaning and divides filmmakers into varying schools of thought. It also distinguishes the category that their films belong in.

Autobiographical V’s Observational

Autobiographical is the understanding of the subjects life.

Observational is trying to capture the natural order of things without interfering, also known as, ‘fly on the wall’.


The Problem with Representation:

There are many issues when trying to truly represent authentic events. The primary aspect is because the very act of observing people changes the way in which they act. This means that there is a performative characteristic that dominates the person and the circumstances of the documentary – deeming it untrue and inauthentic. Another area of concern lays within the process of editing the footage. This is the secondary stage in which true authenticity can be compromised, as it gives complete control of events to the editor. Giving them the opportunity to change the sequence of events and cut the footage with an agenda.

  • True Authenticity
  • Presence of the Camera as a Technological Being
  • Performance of the Self
  • The Alien Camera
  • Ethics of Authenticy


  • Reflective/Performative – This breaks the 4th wall. It shows the filmmaker is present and has an agenda. The filmmaker addresses the camera and audience directly. Good examples of this style would be Louis Theroux’s work.
  • Scripted – This is where a film-crew observe events that have already been established prior to filming. An example would be, ‘The Kardashians, reality TV Show.
  • Mocumentary – A autobiographical or observational documentary made as a known fake documentary in order to mock, make fun of with the aim of being funny. The mocumentary, ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ is a good example of this. Where a film crew follow the lives of four vampires.
  • Avant Garde/Experimental – Rejects the traditional definitions of documentary form. Many artists fit into this category by pushing boundaries. An emphasis of control over how the work is experienced is important in experimental. It considers the viewers autonomy, allowing the viewer to make their own assumptions.
  • Anthological – Historical work.
  • Ethnographic – Looking at particular people in a specific time or culture. Issues of romanticising are common with this category.

Diegetic V’s Non-Diegetic

Diegetic is natural and not constructed

Non-Diegetic is constructed


Diegetic Documentary

Green Screen

Avant Garde

Autobiographical Documentary

Final Piece for Exhibition