Target audience for our documentary

For our documentary we plan on targeting a wide audience  of teenagers and adults of both male and female gender. We want to get our message across to more than one specific group of people, obviously we feel it in essential to successfully appeal to an audience of primarily teenagers, as the documentary is about teenagers. However, it seems essential to ensure that we are able to appeal to adults as well as teenagers, we will be trying to prove that not all teenagers conform to a stereotype, and shouldn’t be labelled as something, adults need to know this as much as teenagers do.  We would want our documentary to be screened from 8pm on Channel4 we feel this will help us achieve a larger target audience, young teens aged 14 and above will be able to access our documentary; we feel it is very important to educate young teens of the stereotypes and labels that they will be exposed to through their teenage years.


Plan for own documentary: – Labels and Stereotypes

After lots of research into the style of different documentaries out there we decided we wanted our documentary to look into and investigate the lives of teens in the 21st century who are categorised with a specific label/stereotype. We came to this decision after watching and researching a variety of different documentaries. The 1988 documentary by Errol Morris; ‘The Thin Blue Line’, made a real impact on me when watching it. I was fascinated by the impact the documentary had on the people involved. Due to evidence the documentary revealed about the Randal Adams case, he finally got let out of prison after serving a 12 year sentence for a crime he did not commit. As I was so impressed with the positive effect this documentary had, I decided I wanted to produce a documentary tackling a subject I felt passionately about.

An investigation into whether the labels given to teens are correct – The labels and representations of teens in the 21st century

What is the documentary going to contain?

  • a selectio of interviews, with teenagers, parents, teachers – anyone we can get to give their opinions regarding the representations and labels given to teens in 21st century Britain.
  • Short clips of the type of things teens are stereotypically doing: taking drugs, smoking, vandalising etc.
  • Focus on one or two teens as key characters for our documentary.
  • Find teens that are stereotyped as opposing labels eg: ‘Chavs’ and ‘Emo’s’ or ‘Dropouts’ and ‘Geeks’.
  • Newspaper headlines; negative representations of teens within the media (London riots 2011)
  • COmbination of still and moving photography; variety

Follow the lives of two teens and try to understand why they have been given these labels.

The different labels we are going to look at within our documentary:

  • ‘Geek’ – Someone who is very academic and school orientated. Perhaps someone who does not go out and socialise much.
  • ‘Dropout’ – Someone who has dropped out of full time education.
  • ‘Druggie’ – Someone who spends the majority of their time taking drugs.

Use two opposing labels in order to ensure variety and contrast within our research.

Opening sequence ideas:

Shots of everyday teens doing stereotypical things. Flash up of text linking the labels such as ‘Geek’ to a shot of a stereotypical geek, reading a book. Music relevant/associated with young people. Fast paced shots accompanied with fast paced shots.

Although the television programme ‘Misfits’ is not a documentary I think it is good to refer to when creating a documentary about labels and stereotypes. Each character is Misfits has a very specific label; this is shown through the way they act, their choice of clothing and their style of music. In the following clip from Misfits this stereotyped view is portrayed as the 3 characters Kelly, Nathan and Simon are seen wearing very different clothing – clearly styled to represent a specific label, the most obvious would be Kelly as ‘Chav’ and on top of the clear and defined clothing choice each character is seen listening to very different styles of music.

Potential Titles:

  • Label Me!
  • Label Us!
  • Life as a label.
  • Why am I labelled?
  • Stereotype Me!
  • Is my label correct?
  • How do we get labels?

Our favorite potential title so far has been ‘Label Me’ as it’s short, snappy and catchy. It’s relevant to our documentary about stereotypes and labels amongst young people and is new and up to date; clearly designed for a documentary about young people.

Catfish Documentary

Catfish is a 2010 American documentary involving a young man being filmed by his brother and friend as he builds a romantic relationship with a young woman on the social networking website Facebook.

Catfish was a bizarre documentary, it followed Nev Schulman’s long distance relationship with Megan (someone he met through facebook). Nev’s brother Ariel, and friend Henry Joost, film Nev as he begins a long-distance relationship with Megan, conducted over the Internet and phone calls, and they discuss meeting in person. Through the course of the documentary it becomes more and more clear that Megan is a made up person. Nev and co discover that Megan is someone created by a woman called Angela Wesselman-Pierce who does in fact have a daughter called Megan but she has been estranged from the family for a long time. Angela has created Megan and a variety of other people on facebook (based on real people she claims to know) as her friends. Angela flicks through her different false facebook accounts talking to Nev as Megan and Megans made up family and friends. The documentary is quite confusing to keep up with as Nev has been told a number of lies by Angela.


Panorama – Undercover Care

Undercover care was one of the most shocking documentaries I came across.  On 31 May 2011, Panorama aired a special investigation into the horrific physical and psychological abuse suffered by severely disabled and vulnerable patients at Winterbourne View private hospital in Bristol. In the documentary Paul Kenyon exposes the truth about a gang of carers out of control, and how the care system ignored all the warning signs.

The documentary was constructed footage captured by undercover reporter Joe Casey who wore a secret camera, footage obtained from a selection of secret cameras placed around the care home and self-interviews with Joe Casey as he describes some of the horrendous abuse he witnessed during his 5 weeks at the care home. Each night as he came home Casey would film himself and explain the abuse he had witnessed during his day of undercover work at the care home.

I couldn’t believe what I was watching throughout this documentary, the treatment the disabled and vulnerable patients were receiving was really unbelievable and upsetting to watch! Seeing ‘carers’ kick, hit, taunt and abuse people they are being paid to care for is very upsetting. I think Panorama really exposed the truth about the corruption within the care system which is definitely a positive thing, however, I don’t know how I feel about the fact the undercover reporter, TV journalist Joe Casey, obtained this footage by taking a five-week job as a support worker. Obviously the abusive staff that were taking the care system into their own hands deserved to be exposed, however, the way in which they were exposed wasn’t necessarily the most ethical way of handling the situation. In addition, and more importantly, the victims in this documentary; the people facing abuse and neglect, did not get a say in whether they agree to being secretly filmed. Some of the patients were not mentally able to give their permission even if they had been asked, is it ethical to film someone being hurt, humiliated and abused if they are physically and mentally unable to give their permission?

Quote from undercover reporter Joe Casey:

“My experience at Winterbourne View will stay with me for a very long time. The hitting, slapping, bullying, dousing with water, cruel and often pointless use of physical restraint on people – many with a child-like understanding of the world – all happened in front of my eyes. On a near-daily basis, I watched as some of the very people entrusted with the care of society’s most vulnerable targeted patients – often, it seemed, for their own amusement. They are scenes of torment that are not easily forgotten. The targets had no way of defending themselves or speaking out. Anyone who questioned the abuse met a wall of silence. They spent most of their days locked on the top floor of a three-story non-descript building in a business park on the outskirts of town.”

“On one of my early shifts, I saw a support worker poking a patient repeatedly in the eyes as if it were a game. A short time later, another worker pulled the same person across the floor telling her to “suffocate on your own fat”.” – The extent of the abuse is shocking. It’s hard to understand why nothing was done sooner. Why should undercover journalism be the last resort? is the care system really that corrupt? do complaints simply get ignored? How many more corrupt care homes is there in England, in the world, that are getting away with abusing their patients? This sort of exposure obtained through a documentary like Undercover Care brings about a variety of questions. How do violent, unsympathetic, psychotic people achieved jobs within care?

Although the documentary upset and disturbed me, I think it was incredibly powerful and successful in exposing the truth about the care system. Hopefully this sort of exposure will have a positive effect for the future regarding the standards within the care system.


Seven Dwarfs – Ethical?

Seven Dwarves is an observational documentary series about the life of seven dwarf actors as they live together in the same house and perform in a production of Snow White in Woking. During the Christmas panto season all across Britain people of restricted height, some of whom are employed in ordinary jobs from February to November, take on paying roles in pantomime.

The documentary is constructed of observational footage from the house in which the 7 people of restricted height live and follows them exploring what it is like to live as a ‘dwarf’. The dwarves also share what life is like as a small person in frank and candid interviews, all with an infectious sense of humour.

Executive Producer Nick Curwin said: “By capturing every aspect of their lives, the series will break-through panto stereotypes to show how this group of dwarf actors face the challenges of ordinary life head-on.” – The documentary is supposedly meant to prove that ‘dwarfs’ are humans too, that they should not be stereotyped because of their height. Channel 4 states that the series will ‘break-through panto stereotypes’, yet the opening scene to the documentary shows the 7 vertically challenged people dressed up as the 7 dwarfs from ‘Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs’. Surely this is a stereotype in itself? If you want to create a serious documentary that focuses on breaking away from a stereotype and showing a group of people as normal people rather than the stereotype they are endlessly associated with why would you have them dressed up as the 7 dwarfs from the Disney children’s film Snow white?! I find it difficult to call ‘Seven Dwarfs’ an ethical documentary when the first few minutes of it seems very exploitive.  Even the title ‘Seven Dwarfs’ and the fact they’ve chosen seven people with dwarfism to feature in the documentary seems to be conforming to a stereotype. I understand that sometimes it can be difficult to find a good eye catching title for a documentary but is it really necessary to title a documentary about dwarfism ‘Seven Dwarfs’?

Regarding the content of the documentary, I really enjoyed the way in which it was constructed and how the ‘dwarfs’ were represented as having a sense of humour and not taking it too seriously. It reminded me a little bit like Channel 4’s ‘Big Brother’, in the sense that a group of people were being filmed living in a house together. Although I feel the documentary exploited the people in it, I did like how they were, in some cases, represented as ‘normal’ people. The documentary showed them going out and socialising, getting drunk and generally living like young adults should. Saying this, I do feel that it’s difficult to see the 7 people as anything other than stereotypes when they’re being represented as 7 dwarfs living in a house with other people who are also vertically challenged. It suggests that the 7 ‘dwarfs’ cannot socialise with people other than those they have been categorised with; other ‘dwarfs’.

Supersize Me

Super Size Me is a 2004 American documentary film directed by and starring Morgan Spurlock, an American independent filmmaker.  The documentary is over a 30-day period, (from February 1 to March 2, 2003) during which he eats only McDonald’s food. The film documents this lifestyle’s drastic effects on Spurlock’s physical and psychological well-being. The reason for Spurlocks investigation was the increasing spread of obesity throughout the U.S.

The documentary contains very powerful imagery, which successfully gets across the point that eating McDonald’s food, and only McDonald’s food, is a good way to destroy your body! We get to actually see the physical effects, that eating McDonalds religiously over the space of a month, result in.

Below are the specific rules that Sperlock has regarding his eating habits:

  • He must fully eat three McDonald’s meals per day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • He must consume every item on the McDonald’s menu at least once over the course of the 30 days (he managed this in nine days).
  • He must only ingest items that are offered on the McDonald’s menu, including bottled water. All outside consumption of food is prohibited.
  • He must Super Size the meal when offered, but only when offered (i.e., he is not able to Super Size by his own accord).
  • He will attempt to walk about as much as a typical U.S citizen.
Although I did really enjoy watching the documentary as I found some parts quite comical, and I liked the way in which Spurlock personally explores the consequences on his health of a diet of solely McDonald’s food for one month, while investigating the influence the fast food industry has on obesity. I did, however, find the documentary a little bit predictable. It’s hardly difficult to imagine what will happen to your body if you live solely on fast food… We all know that fast food industries such as McDonals, Burger King and KFC, aren’t the healthiest options and living of such food isn’t going to turn you into Macho Man. I like the idea of ‘Supersize Me’ as a documentary and I think it was very clever in the way it showed Spurlock personally living through the effects of having an unhealthy diet, rather than simply interviewing overweight people and showing some facts and figures; it did successfully show that even a healthy person like Spurlock can quite easily become addicted to eating fast foods and this sort of addiction is very difficult to overcome, and has a horrendous effect on your physical and mental state. I also really like the title of the documentary. It takes the investigation into a very serious and problematic issue, a somewhat light hearted and comical approach. The name ‘Supersize Me’ brings about associations of a teen comedy such as ‘American Pie’.
After watching Supersize Me I don’t feel as if I learnt anything I didn’t already know. Although it was an entertaining and watchable documentary I feel as if it didn’t provide any new and useful information regarding obesity. I feel that documentaries should discover new and exciting facts about issues rather than simply taking different approaches in looking at something we already know the answer to, which I fear Supersize Me does.

The Only Way Is Essex – Real Documentary?

I personally really like the Only Way Is Essex and watch it religiously, BUT, I would however never classify it as a documentary. A documentary should be real life, a spontaneous series of events. Obviously it’s sometimes difficult to differentiate between the ‘real’ documentaries and the ‘fakes’! The Only Way Is Essex makes it’s incredibly easy to discard the idea that it could be a real documentary. The characters may be real but the drama and events that take place are most definitely scripted to a certain extent. Even if the producer is simply telling a few of the characters to go to a particular bar, where some rival Essex characters will be, this is still planned! Therefore I refuse to believe that the events that take place on The Only Way Is Essex could be real in any shape or form. Something else that adds to my feeling of ‘fakeness’ regarding ‘TOWIE’ is how the characters always sit in a particular way, always facing the camera, nothing seems natural and spontaneous it seems as if they are focusing everything around the cameras. Furthermore the amount of makeup worn by the female characters, and all of the characters clothing, makes it very clear that they are aware they’re being filmed. They are very made up and far from natural, they seem to always be looking to impress someone. Surely most people don’t wear such excessive makeup and ‘dressy’ clothing on a day-to-day basis?

On a more positive note, I do really like the way in which the documentary is set up. I think the way the characters names come up when they are being filmed is effective, it does make ‘TOWIE’ seem more realistic and life-like, even if it isn’t! It’s very helpful having the names of characters pop up on screen when they are being filmed, especially if the character is new. It gives the audience something to connect to instantly, as soon as the character appears they know they are going to be told the characters name. It also helps with determining who is who; everyone seems to date each other in ‘TOWIE’ and having the names in front of you makes it a lot clearer to distinguish who’s with who and what’s going on.