When you think about documentary filmmaking, odds are you relate it to being the opposite of Hollywood movies. Documentaries are more about informing the audience about a subject without taking any kind of liberties with the truth, very different from Hollywood blockbusters.
But what you may not realize is that there are many different types of documentaries. A good video agency is not only aware of the various types of documentaries that can be made, but they have experience producing them as well. Before going into the various types of documentary films that are out there, it’s important to understand that certain types of documentaries are more suitable for different needs and goals.
A good video agency can help determine what types of documentaries will best suit your particular marketing needs for any given situation. Keeping that in mind, the following are the different types of documentaries that a video agency can help you create.
These types of documentaries tend to contain a lot of narration and are what most people commonly think of when they think of documentaries. Most expository documentaries will use a combination of interviews and B-roll (footage of the topic that’s being spoken about).
You can use old photographs and footage of the company to accompany the interview. You can also shoot new footage specifically for this film. In addition to using the interviews, you may also choose to add voice over narration to tie the video together.
A good example of the expository documentary is the work of Ken Burns. Burns is known for his multi-part PBS documentary series, such as Jazz, the Civil War, Baseball and many others.
Observational documentaries are often known as “fly-on-the-wall” documentaries. This is because the filmmaker will follow a subject around without interacting with them. There’s no sitting down to interview the subjects.
Observational documentaries allow subjects to go about their usual business and show audiences how they act within their environment. Although the subject may speak to the camera, the filmmaker rarely interacts with them directly.
You can use observational documentaries to show audiences a behind the scenes look of your company. For example, showing the manufacturing process of your product – from your team brainstorming the product to its production on the assembly line.
P.A. Pennebaker is one of the more famous observational documentarians. His documentary The War Room is a good example of this style, as it follows the behind the scenes activities of Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign team.
Participatory documentaries are documentaries in which the filmmaker becomes a major part of the film. His or Her actions are not only captured on film, but also drive a lot of the film’s narrative.
There are a couple of good examples of this, especially in recent years. Michael Moore is a well-known modern documentary filmmaker who is so involved in the narrative of his films that he becomes one of the main characters.
Another example is Morgan Spurlock, who made the documentary Supersize Me, in which he ate nothing but fast food for 30 days in order to explore how bad fast food is for your health. The critically acclaimed Werner Herzog is another excellent example.
Not only does he often interact with his subjects on camera, he’ll also lend his voice to the narration of the film, often providing reflective thoughts that are unique to him on what’s happening on screen. You can create participatory documentaries in a number of ways.
The owner of the company could become your main character, but without having him or her be the exact focus of the documentary. For example, the owner could go around asking different consumers questions about your company’s products and how they compare to the competition. You could even use their voice over as the narration for the documentary.
Poetic documentaries are more about getting your audience to feel something instead of informing them. While many poetic documentaries tend to be less mainstream, a few have garnered worldwide acclaim, such as the Koyaanisqatsi trilogy by Godfrey Reggio.
These films capture stunning images from around the world, from natural wonders to various cultures performing traditional dances to the construction of enormous skyscrapers. These images tell a story without a single word of dialogue – instead, they are accompanied by a magnificent Philip Glass score.
You might be wondering, how could a video agency creating a poetic documentary possibly benefit your business? Well, creating a powerful emotion in your audience is an excellent way to get them engaged with your brand. For example, say your company manufactures shoes and you donate a certain amount of shoes each year to a people in need.
You could produce a visual montage of the shoe being designed, manufactured, and loaded up on trucks to be taken to a charity, shelter or orphanage. Finally, you could include some very powerful imagery of children and adults in need receiving their own new pair of shoes.
Not a word of dialogue is needed to convey the power of your organization’s efforts. The final films can be purely visual, and make use of music that evokes very strong emotions. Videos like this are superbly memorable, and created ideas about your brand that will stay with audience members for a lifetime.
These are the most engaging and effective types of documentary film-making approaches that a video agency can use to help you create. With these powerful films or videos complimenting your company’s marketing efforts you’ll be sure to reveal some incredible results.
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Mark Serao, Co-founder and Director of Production at Grey Sky Films, has had an eye on brand building from an early age. Inspired by the music industry and how record companies use a grassroots marketing strategy to build their artists/brands, Mark set out to apply those same fundamentals to the business community. Since 2001, Grey Sky Films has worked with businesses, both large and small, to increase market share by producing compelling video that evokes emotion and subsequently creates more sales opportunities.