summer 2011

Documentary filmmaking and ethics – Summer 2011

In my research project I am investigating ethics in the everyday practice of documentary filmmaking. Here is some turbo-brief info, starting with what I am currently working on.

And that is: participant interviews. In the past months, I interviewed four documentary participants about their experiences. First, when the film had just recently been finished, or had not even been finished yet, I asked them to talk about what it was like to be filmed for a documentary film, what happened, what went well – or maybe not so well; lots of things. And then I interviewed them again some months later, to see if their evaluation of the experience had changed at all with the passing of time.

So now I am stuck between piles of data, working my way through. I decided to not just look at what these participants are telling me, but also at how they are telling that to me. (And that doesn’t make it any easier I have to admit…)

I found some really interesting people to talk to and they were very open to me, something I appreciate very much.

Before this…

My project started with the question what kind of issues were considered moral issues in documentary filmmaking. So I read the literature to find out and I interviewed a number of Dutch documentary filmmakers about their experiences. I turned the results into a questionnaire, which I distributed among 659 filmmakers around the globe. The number of valid returned questionnaires is 158 (not so bad, I think).

I analyzed the questionnaires with a so called exploratory factor analysis (real statistic stuff!). That gave some interesting results, which of course I will publish in my dissertation and – hopefully – in an article for which the deadline is October…


Personally I have always been interested in as well as involved in documentary film. I’ve seen many and listened to many debates about them. One recurring subject has always been that of ethics and documentary film. However, the usual debate only is about single films and single scenes. And with all the newer formats like docusoaps, reality tv and internet-docs, the academic debate has not really come any further over the past three decades. (So maybe, just maybe, I can push it a little…)

If you have any questions or comments, feel free…