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CT&D #78. Documentary Production: Research and Iteration

Referring to the previous post, I have decided to select my (revised) second of three ideas I had wrote about previously in producing a documentary for the sample student abstract. There were several key factors as to why I choose to film businesspeople in a boardroom versus launching a marketing campaign on social media or developing a webseries in hopes of it going viral.

Given the issue that the thesis focuses on is social media not being properly utilized by businesses/organizations for statistical purposes, it is important to show businesspeople and those unaffiliated with how similar or different every approach is in formulating a decision behind utilizing or not utilizing the tool. Thus, the market I’m targeting in positioning my idea is directly where the thought process originates, evolves and is ultimately executed.

Filming the behaviors and actions of what goes on within a company or business is not too commonplace (based on my research). However, films dramatizing and reenacting factual events based on a company is1. Various filmmakers do this to push an agenda or raise an issue by educating audiences via a documentary. In my case as a digital media student hypothetically producing a thesis to raise awareness on the issue of social media misuse, I’ve found a similar project that delved into the dynamics of business interaction between two or more parties affecting corporate decision(s).

A filmmaker by the name of Roger Graef produced a documentary called aptly enough Decisions. In it, the decision-making process is explored within the boardrooms of big businesses in England. Not only was Graef granted permission to film these intimate environments but he also employed use of his “fly on the wall” perspective approach (meaning to us viewers, it’s as if we are first-hand witnesses of the ongoing actions seen on TV). Essentially, this meant that very revealing and tense moments are captured between the company’s employees and their superiors. Ultimately, Graef wanted to show that business decisions are valued among the higher-ups and very little attention (if not more contention) is directed at the regular employee 2, 3.

This kind of workplace culture is just what I need to show in my documentary but it’s still not enough. The focus is not just the culture, it’s the psychology between these parties that determine how a decision is made. This segues into my next point for why I want to film these environments: it’s the question of are these companies unwilling to adhere to new ideas if brought up?

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The TV program, The Apprentice is a mixed reality game show that focuses on strangers (usually with business backgrounds) that team up and work against others in various tasks highlighting the skill sets and decisions that lead to a favorable or unfavorable outcome. In the show, “confessionals” are used to allow contestants to explain to the audience their thought processes (usually when not making a snarky remark). Between this and the aired action amongst the contestants and host within a boardroom, there would be a lot of value in showing the perspectives of these parties (one-on-one, individual, group) in a documentary format. Why? Because doing this would one, show the attitudes towards how people formulate a decision being either looked at as logically- or emotionally-based and two, the rebuttals and points given out by those who would be otherwise shut down because he or she is not superior 4.

Overall, this format will allow for the answering of questions raised by the thesis (i.e. What stigma or why is there such associated with social media that makes it the target of “superficial” and “tokenistic” use?) by examining the (revealing) behaviors the lead to a business determining its decision. Equally important would be making the documentary engaging and to shed light on the decision-makers to give viewers a different angle or perspective (or to elicit a reaction from the audience; maybe this “feedback” will convince companies to reconsider their treatment of neglecting social media use). The student in his thesis claims that “specific information is being kept away from the public.” Why not challenge this statement and film the response this? 5

To end off, given the reasons I listed for producing a documentary in this manner, I strongly feel that there needs to be more of a voice for filmmaking done this intimately. Other than reality TV (a genre that I’m very familiar with) which for the most part entertains rather than educates, not enough documentaries use the “fly on the wall” approach. The closest is actors being brought in to reenact a scene, sometimes with changes in what was actually said, done, etc. And even then, this kind of technique must be done in different settings to see if there is any consistency or lack of that relates to the handling of issues. By all means, if production behind a documentary using this style lacks focus on highlighting the relationship between the parties that discuss social media use and instead aims to dramatize or even satirize the footage (even with scripted dialogue), this is one notable weakness that my idea exhibits. With appropriate implementation and carelessness being avoided, I strongly believe my idea is fresh considering the issue I need to tackle and the trend we see in reality TV production to educate on behaviors (such as Survivor) 5, 6, 7.

Sources:

1: Lebowitz, Janna Goudreau and Shana. “15 Documentaries on Netflix That Will Make You Smarter about Business.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 2016. Web. 4 October 2016.

2: “The Documentary Conscience.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 October 2016. 3: “Roger Graef.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 4 October 2016.

4: “The Apprentice (U.S. TV Series) – Premise.” The Apprentice (U.S. TV Series) – Premise. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 October 2016.

5: Videomaker. “Documentary Storytelling: Researching the Story.” YouTube. YouTube, 2011. Web. 5 October 2016.

6: Vogt, W. Paul. “Paul Vogt’s Research Methods Blog.” Paul Vogt’s Research Methods Blog. N.p., 1970. Web. 5 October 2016.

7: “Outwit, Outplay, Outlast: The Psychology of Survivor.” Psychology In Action. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 October 2016.

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