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Styles and Modes of Nonfiction Film

Page history last edited by Jayson Yeagley 12 years, 4 months ago

Modes are like genres in fiction film.  The modes listed below or general categories.  It is important to note that most films overlap in several of these major categories.  



Expository Mode-Common mode that explains a topic to an audience.  This film usually explains the history and background on the issue as well as interviews with various knowledgable people (on that subject).  The goal is to give the audience a deeper insight.  There are two types within this mode.  Direct address and Indirect address.  Direct Address= the audience is directly addressed through an on-screen narrator, through an off-screen voice, or through a powerful text track that serves as a narrator.  Indirect address= The audience is not spoken to directly by a narrator on the filmmaker.  This does not mean there is no talking in the film.  It means there is no singular voice guiding the viewer though the viewer is expected to 


Observational Mode- The filmmaker tries to be a 'fly on the wall' in order to make the audience feel as if they are there.  The filmmaker tries to disappear.  The reality is that the filmmaker and others do not interact with the subjects at all.  No questions are asked of the subjects, no interviews are conducted, and oftentimes there is a minimum of editing or cutting away to other elements on the visual track.  The Real World (MTV) or Big Brother (CBS).


Interactive Mode-Filmmakers are actively involved in the issue and in the lives of the subjectcs.  Not only do we often hear the questions asked of the interview subjects, but it also becomes obvious that the film and the filmmaker are affecting the action seen on-screen.  The subjects of the film are acting differetnly than they would had they not been involved in the making of the film.  Classic shows like Candid Camera and Fear factor are examples.



Reflexive Mode-a film that is aware if itself as a film meaning the filmmaker working in this mode knows and presents the constructions of reality or ethical considerations that are a natural part of documentary filmmaking but which are rarely acknowledged.  Often Reflexive Documentaries raise questions, problems, and dilemmas about the very act of creating a documentary in the first place.  In the reflexive mode, documentary filmmakers remind us that we are seeing a construction, an approximation, of reality.




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