The struggle of making documentaries is that you have to produce something that reflects real life events. This causes many issues because when facing something to do with real life issues you face lots of political and morale choices. And since you are a filmmaker you have the power to produce things the way you want them to be. So you can put your own twist on things, leaving out important issues and over dramatising others. So the question isn’t ‘how can you make documentaries accurate?’, but ‘how can you make them as accurate as possible?’
Their are many different factors which contribute to how accurate or bias a documentary is, and that comes from both sides of the camera; the people you talk to, the people you don’t talk to, the scenes you cut out and the scene’s you don’t. Their is an incredible amount of responsibility when producing a documentary, because your reputation as a filmmaker is at risk. So what do you have to keep in mind when producing a documentary.
- Representation – Representation is about balancing the scales. If you are showing individuals, minorities or backgrounds on screen, then you have to do the same with other’s that you are showing. For instance if you were making a documentary that had two major perspectives such as politics, then you would have to show the perspective of both.
- Balance – Balance is about contributing equal amounts of input into each viewpoint as possible. So this means that each viewpoint should have the same amount of time spent on it as the other, but also that each viewpoint should be ‘valid’, by this I mean that it would be irrelevant to ask a footballer about farms. You need to represent each point of view with someone who is equally as relevant to the subject matter as the other. So it would be better to have two directors discussing a film, than one director and someone who works in McDonalds.
- Objectivity – Objectivity is all around how opinions are put across in arguing certain cases. To be objective is to write or discuss your chosen topic without including any bias. For example to say ‘The scum Man Utd defeated the heroic Liverpool’ would not be objective because it is made on viewpoints and opinion. In order for it to be objective, it would need to say ‘Man Utd defeated Liverpool’.
- Subjectivity – Subjectivity is the opposite of objectivity and is when opinions are heard more than facts. You will mostly get one point of view as the voices will likely reflect what the filmmaker thinks. Everything that is seen and heard will support the same viewpoint.
- Impartiality – Impartiality is not taking sides in an argument. To say that you are impartial means that you do not favour certain views over other views. You consider both sides of the spectrum. Many on screen filmmakers are not impartial and may have subtle opinions. Even voices of god can be impartial because they may use certain terminology in their linguistics.
- Opinion – Opinion is when someone believes a certain viewpoint without necessarily using evidence to back up their argument. Opinion’s can often be found either in subtle cases or completely obvious cases. If you are producing a documentary based on opinion then you are subjective. You can listen to opinion’s but you need to have contrasting opinion’s to even it out.
- Bias – Bias is when the filmmaker(s) support a certain viewpoint on the spectrum and edit their film so that it supports or opposes a specific group of people. If you are bias then you won’t really consider the opposing viewpoint and you will disregard the opinions of those who disagree with you. In the case of a documentary, you might make individuals or companies look bad. This is because you may speak to people who support your perspective, or you highlight all of the bad things about the person(s) that you oppose and don’t mention any of the good things.