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How the screen became part of our extended family

Dr Bruce Graham Fell

Those in power know! They know, because it helps to maintain their power.


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Some of those that don’t have power also know. They risk being ridiculed.

‘There’s an elephant in the room.’ ‘Are you sure?’

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How the screen became our extended family

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understanding of how the screen became part of our extended family. My observation of television was my portal for viewing the screen in all its wonderful permutations. Others have come to the screen via art, cinema and computing. Plato came to the screen via shadows on the wall as did, perhaps, the artists of Lascaux and Nawarla Gabarnmang in times beyond our understanding of time itself. But for me, it was plain old black and white television.

Part One A Brief Introduction In our world, ‘where there is an image of everything and everything is an image’ 1 it’s not a bad idea to acquire an appreciation of where and how our more recent image based culture emerged. To begin, we will have a quick look at where and how the contemporary image first began. This will provide us with both an entertaining and insightful first step for this study. The Weird World of Eadweard Muybridge If you are able to find the time and have internet access this 58 min BBC documentary on Eadweard Muybridge is an entertaining background to the story of the moving picture. YouTube Blurb (Published on Apr 7, 2013) A fantastic documentary on one of the key people in the history of cinema. A portrait of the pioneering photographer, forefather of cinema, showman and 1 BBC Script: The Weird World of Eadweard Muybridge 3 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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murderer Eadweard Muybridge. Born in Kingston upon Thames, Muybridge did his most famous work in California, where his experiments in early cinema and the public projection of his images using a machine he invented astounded audiences worldwide. Alan Yentob follows in Muybridge's footsteps as he makes - and often changes - his name, and sets off to kill his young wife's lover. If we look closely at the story of the moving picture we can see the spirit of ourselves (individually and collectively), ghostly, flicking on the screen. That is, we can see our culture’s attitudes to war, gender, indigenous persons, industry, ecology and the future. Admittedly, at first, such insights are mainly gained via early photography, but as we will see this week, the still image was rapidly overtaken by the moving-picture, if not motion-picture. Over the coming chapters we will come to see how the plethora of films on-line provide a history of both making-film and making culture, and to that end, making self. How the camera was used to frame us, how actors acted, how stories have been edited, the progress of the script, lighting, costume, (and the subject), etc., are all in themselves, interesting. As such, an endless subject for your personal interests. This study encourages you to place your personal interest and opinion into the very images that frame our culture. For example, drawing on Muybridge, if I searched for the first horse race filmed, I’d end up with images from 1878 where Eadweard Muybridge captured a horse on film. On the other hand, if you were interested in the portrayal on woman on the screen, you could make a program that included The Kiss, the studies of the nude by Muybridge, or how Coca-Cola has portrayed woman between 1890 and 2013, or all three.

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Part Two 1840 -1900 What always strikes me when I looked closely at media produced between 1800 and 1900 is that I see a familiar world. That is, I could survive in that world, increasingly so as we get closer to the turn of the century. The norms of the mid to late part of that century present a world that isn’t all that removed from the norms of this. It intrigues me. I’m not sure how far back in time one can go and still feel that they are still within the same culture. I live in a valley in the bush, I have slow-speed internet. One of my son’s lives in Canberra, he has access to fast broadband: for him, coming home to the valley is stepping into the past, but not stepping out of culture. From the magic lantern of the 16th Century through to the Zoopraxiscope of 1878 demonstrates our fascination for the moving image, it also brings to light the relationship between visual storytelling and technology, as does fast and slow Internet access. Note how restricted the scene portrayed by the Zoopraxiscope is: in saying that, they have a quality not unlike gifs do today. The 1800s saw our world quickly taking shape. As the century drew to a close it was as if all the trials and tribulations of creating the perfect moving image had finally been achieved. And while it is a historical fact that in 1895 moving pictures came into their own; what is more fascinating, I would argue, is that a recognisable world was captured on film, one in which the attitudes and actions of persons’ resonate with the world we live in today. If we look closely, we can see flicking on the screen the attitudes of our forbears. That is, we can 5 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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identify resonances of our 21 Century culture’s attitudes to war, gender, indigenous persons, industry, ecology and the future as the genre list of films from the Edison Catalogue suggests: Disasters / Experimental Films / Expositions / Famous People / Foreign Places / Miscellaneous / Naval and Nautical / Police and Fire Departments / Railway / Scenic America / Sports and Leisure / Variety Stage / War / Advertising / Animation / Early Documentary-Style / Drama And Adventure / Humorous / Trick/ Re-enactments The Edison site has three search engines, (Alphabetical), (Genre) and (Chronological). The chronological data begins in 1891, yet many of the narratives are still being storied today on one screen or another. Edison and Lumière were among the first to present full motion picture images to the public. But it was the nature of their inventions that shaped the direction of their filmic outcomes. Edison achieved early, though short lived, success with his Kinetoscope in 1894. He had invented a camera that was electrically operated and very large, needing six or seven men to move it. The sheer size of the camera forced Edison's staff to film events in his ‘Black Maria’ Studio. These events included such activities as vaudeville acts, dancers, jugglers, cowboy rope-twirlers. Edison's staff were forced to bring the world to them, as opposed to Lumière, who was able to go out into the world. Louis Lumière’s background in the family photography enterprise enabled him to be open to a different approach to motion-camera presentation than that of Edison. The Cinématographe was unlike Edison's Kinetoscope because it was both portable and flexible. It was not only a portable camera, but it was also a portable printing machine and film 6


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projector. Hand-cranked the Cinématographe could go just about anywhere. Due to the nature of the technology employed by Edison the movies are not as aesthetically pleasing to view as the Lumière films, though for the purpose of this study, there is no doubt that the content is equally insightful. As mentioned, closely viewed, they reveal a great deal about human nature. The first public paying screening of the Lumière Brothers movies can be seen at INSTITUTLUMIERE. (Click, First Screening, in the right column). The first movie in the screening is believed to be the first in a series of films shot by Lumiere of workers leaving the family photo plate factory. Thousands upon thousands of words have been written about this unique piece of footage, and rightfully so. There are many versions of Lumière show reels. The instant popularity of his films in 1895 meant that many version were created as new films were shot, old films lost popularity, while others continued to appeal. The footage of men disembarking a river barge is in some ways a more important film than ‘Workers Leaving The Factory’. Lumière filmed prominent scientists of the day embarking a barge for a convention. Having filmed the scientists, Lumiere screened the footage back to the scientists that evening. They in turn validated the science of film. That is, film captured ‘truthfully’ what was happening in front of the camera. (At this stage, there is no film editing. What you are seeing in these movies is continuous unedited action: referred to as Actualities.). 7 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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The last film in this series of movies is also remarkable (especially, perhaps, if your interest is the history of special effects in film). The camera used to film these events was hand-cranked. The cinématographe is a three-in-one device that can record, develop, and project motion pictures. Lumière soon discovered that if he rewound the film the audience saw, much to their delight and amusement, something they had never seen, or conceptualised: the world in reverse. As you watch the film, imagine that you are seeing motion-pictures for the first time in your life: the shock of the wall returning to how it once was, would have been truly amazing. Demolition of a Wall (1896) Arguably, ‘Demolition of a Wall’ marks a time in human history where we conceptualised storytelling differently. Via this piece of footage we can get a greater sense of how technology and storytelling are linked. Hence, from workers leaving a factory, as workers leave factories today; from passengers on a river barge, as passengers in many cities do everyday; from being at home with the family, from watering the garden and practical jokes to a train coming into a station, to working on a construction site, to a beer with friends, etc., aspects of us are back there, flickering. The beer scene in the second clip is often referred to as a beer advertisement. By comparison, have look at this 1897 Admiral cigarette advertisement. Now that’s an advertisement! Maybe the two advertisements speak more about the culture in which each was made than the technology employed (nothing is black and white).

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The watering the garden scene 'The Sprinkler Sprinkled', was a favourite at the time, and was refilmed on several occasions. It is, in itself, a study. In fact it’s a number of studies. In terms of visual language and technology, note the boy runs to the edge of the frame, he doesn’t run out-of-shot. (The camera was on a tripod that didn’t swivel) Notice that the gardener brings the boy back towards the camera to punish him. (The film was shot continuously. There was no editing technology at the time). Looking through a different lens, we see that beating a young boy (first version) is considered humorous! In fact, a scene from the clip is used to promote a night at the movies! As we can see via 'The Sprinkler Sprinkled', observing film can be fascinating. As observer we bring to the viewing of a film our own understanding of the world. That is, we bring to the film our own worldview. That’s why we shouldn’t let other views of film (including my own) go unchallenged: your view is, your view (not mine) Just as mine is not yours. For example, if I’m interested in the history of ‘kissing on film’ and I entered in my (re)search engine ‘the first kiss on film’, I would come up with The Mary Irwin Kiss filmed in 1896. Mary Irwin was a famous actress of the time. Compare that kiss to ‘The Kiss’ filmed in 1900. Such observations could lead us to ask, ‘how has the portrayal of kissing changed from 1896 to the present day? (Have fun with that one!) Moving pictures didn’t reach a screen until 1888, and then not fully projected until Lumière’s 1995 films. The Edison films where presented via The Kinetoscope (hand-cranked). It was designed for films to be viewed by one individual at a time 9 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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through a peephole viewer window at the top of the device. FILM IN AUSTRALIA On November 30, 1894, James McMahon opened a Kinetoscope Parlour at 148 Pitt Street, Sydney. For a one shilling entrance fee patrons were able to watch via an eyepiece five successive machines, each running a 20 second Edison program. The initial success of the Kinetoscope in Australia, like elsewhere, was phenomenal; McMahon's Kinetoscope Parlour attracted some 22,000 people to its doors in its first five weeks. These peep-show films were very different from Lumière’s ‘actualities’ that were projected onto a screen in 1895 at the Salon Indien for first public viewing. The theatre seated 120 people, and soon the program was being shown twenty times a day at half hour intervals. This enabled some 2,500 people per day to view the new phenomenon. Four concurrent Lumière programs were running in Paris by April of 1896 (one developed into a permanent cinema). In June of the same year Felix Mesguich, a Lumière operator having finished his first American projection at the B. F. Keith Music Hall in New York, was carried to the stage amid deafening shouts and applause as the orchestra played ‘The Marseillaise’. The new technology was taking the world by storm. Starting in February 1896 in London, an avalanche of foreign Cinématographe premieres began. Six months after the Paris opening the Cinématographe was launched by the Lumière organisation in England, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Siberia, Russia, Sweden, the United States, and soon thereafter in Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, India, Australia, Indochina, Japan, Mexico. Within two years Lumière operators had travelled to every continent except Antarctica. A prominent reason why Lumière was able to screen his films to the world so quickly was steam 10


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technology. By 1895 the Western World was highly mechanised. In particular the steam engine and with it, speed. To look at the 1800s, prior to 1888, you have to resort to photography, paintings, sculpture and other forms of decorative art and craft. And indeed to ‘hear’ the world before 1860 you have to resort to your imagination. We sophisticated folk can easily overlook the fact that for some 130 thousand years Homo Sapiens sapiens didn’t require the moving image or the recorded voice in order to flourish. As you can see below, by 1840 the Western world is beginning to take on the shape of the world we know as the world we live in. There are many timelines on-line, below is just a snapshot of 1840. 1840 (fromWikipedia): Jan 22nd - British colonists reach New Zealand Mar 23rd - Draper takes 1st successful photo of the Moon (daguerrotype) May 1st - 1st adhesive postage stamps ("Penny Blacks" from England) issued May 8th - Alexander Wolcott patents Photographic Process Jun 20th - Samuel Morse patents his telegraph (precursor to the internet) Aug 18th - Organization of American Society of Dental Surgeons founded (NY) And in Australia 3 January - The Melbourne newspaper The Herald is founded by George Cavanaugh as The Port Phillip Herald. May – British Government agrees to cease sending convicts to New South Wales, some 80,000 convicts had been sent since 1788. Convicts still sent to Van Diemen's Land and Port Phillip District colonies. 11 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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25 August - two Ngarrindjeri men are publicly hung along the Coorong in front of their tribe after being accused of the murders of all 26 crew and passengers of the Maria shipwreck. The two men had been convicted in a drumhead court-martial with Major Thomas O'Halloran, South Australian Police Commissioner, presiding and passing sentence. 2 November - Construction of The Causeway across the Swan River in Perth begins. Sydney City Council and Adelaide City Council are incorporated. A ratepayer required 1000 pounds worth of property to stand for election. By 1840, photography was some sixteen years old. It was becoming commonplace for middle class people to have the portrait photographed. Part Three 1900- 1910 26/7/13 ‘In Australia, the first decade of the 20th century brought many changes. Federation occurred in 1901 and Australia became a nation. Our flag was chosen. Non-Aboriginal men and women could vote. The streets were lit by electricity, surf bathing in the daytime was no longer considered illegal and Australia won Wimbledon for the first time. The first lifesaving club in the world was founded at Bondi Beach in Sydney. Peters Icecream company began and, appropriately, the automatic totalisator for betting on horse-races was invented by an Australian. The 'White Australia' Policy was established, the Australian Labor Party was formed. The High Court was set up. The two-party political system began in 12


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Australia. The New South Wales Aboriginal Protection Board was established and Canberra was chosen as a site for the federal capital.’ (Australian 20th Century Timeline) Below, is a sample of films and audio recordings from Screen Australia. Have a look at the ‘hand painted’ coloured film from 1905: La Poule aux Oeufs 1901: Inauguration of the Commonwealth This is possibly the first feature-length documentary made in Australia and the first Australian film to use multi-camera coverage. 1903: Fanny Cochrane Smith’s Tasmanian Aboriginal These are the first and last recordings of Tasmanian Aboriginal songs and language.

1904:Chant Vénitien This is an early surviving commercial recording made by international opera star Nellie Melba in her London home in 1904. 1905: La Poule aux Oeufs d’Or A fable of wealth and greed leads to disaster for a farmer and his wife. The Corrick family entertainers incorporated this early French film into their touring show. You might also find the following films from Australian Screen of interest 1906 / 1907 / 1908 / 1909 / Before the onset of the 20th century, documentary production had commenced, though the term ‘documentary’ was used. The early actualities produced by Lumière were the genesis of the documentary idea. As the first films of fact they 13 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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recorded real events with an accuracy and heightened actuality that made them seem "objects of magical wonder . . . marvellously true to life". To look at the influence of the screen in the 20 th Century we have to appreciate how film was perceived by the ruling class at the turn of the century. As a consequence of films marvellously true to life quality, the ruling class significantly influenced films ‘accuracy’. While businessmen such as Lumière and Edison strove for profit, the ruling class saw the screen as an aid to power and control. The history of politically motivated omission from the dominant screen is almost as long as film itself. For example, just prior to the turn of the century in 1897 while on duty in Russia, Lumière camera operators Francis Doublier and Charles Moisson found themselves at the scene of the Tsar's official presentation to the Russian people, following his coronation two days earlier. To mark the occasion each member of the crowd was to receive a piece of cake, a bag of candy, a goblet bearing the Tsar's monogram and a sausage, all wrapped in a kerchief printed with portraits of the royal couple. As the estimated crowd of half a million pushed and jostled for their souvenirs, two large cisterns gave way, causing the collapse of platforms upon which many people were standing. Hundreds of people fell to their death and many more were crushed to death in the consequent confusion. Doublier and Moisson filmed the tragic events, only to have their camera and film confiscated, never to be returned (The film was never recovered). No word of the tragedy appeared in the Russian press, even though an estimated 5,000 people died. In less than three years after the official birth of the projected image a ruling class had placed embargos 14


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on the re-presenting and re-encoding of legitimate authenticity. Editing The World This period also saw the consideration of visual continuity and the deconstruction of scenes into shots. Such narrative developments as parallel editing meant that the theatre based 'sensation scene’ could now be emulated on screen. The melodramatic notion of intercutting from one locale to the other at increasing tempo until the two storylines were joined, resulted in the replacement of filmic 'real’ time (as seen in the Lumière actualities), by ‘dramatic’ time (time was editied). 'The edit’ enabled the screen even greater power to re-encode reality. The process of editing is a seminal factor in the craft of re-presenting and re-encoding legitimate authenticity. That is, the audience had come to accept the actualities as an honest and truthful replay of an event. As such, the edit story (film) had even more power and influential. (Arguably, the edited moving image has maintained its power and influence to this day.) The Art Of Editing It was through fiction film that the ‘art’ of editing evolved. Editing subsequently changed the nature of screen communication. By around 1907-8 the popularity of fiction film outweighed the actualities: as a result the quantity and vigour of actuality film fell away. To some degree actualities had fallen victim to their own rapid success. For example, Lumière operators did as part of their promotional practice seek out and receive sponsorship from the aristocracy (who were eager performers). The ruling class became infatuated with their frolics being filmed. As time passed the royal parade, or the presidential speech, become less unique to see on film. Once the edited 15 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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drama became available the audiences no longer found the recurring images of aristocracy preening themselves, entertaining. (Though the popular press still screens royal events: births, deaths, marriages and scandals). Editing enabled the filmmaker post-production control over the continuity of a filmed event. This new application jettisoned film towards a radical change in subject matter and hence new ways of reading the screen. Prior to 1903 the screen was "almost exclusively devoted to the film-of-fact's, objective recording of un-manipulated actuality" (Jacobs, 1979 p3). Suddenly the rearrangement and reconstruction of reality for the purpose of narrative and dramatic construction was available. Where previously the camera alone signified the projected filmic event, an entire new conceptual understanding of the world was to evolve from the discourse of editing. Perhaps not until digital manipulation would any other image manipulation process alter, as radically, the way filmmakers and ultimately the mass audience perceived the construction and representation of reality. As we have seen, when the first motion pictures were presented to the general public, both by Edison's Kinetoscope and Lumière’s Cinématographe the process of editing did not exist. Then, the novelty of viewing a moving image was limited to sixty seconds or less, due to the available technology. Yet, within 30 years of the first screened images, the principles of classical editing had been developed. Georges Méliès 16


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French avant-gardist Georges Méliès began producing films that ran for up to 14 minutes. By 1902 Méliès, ‘A trip to the Moon’ utilised his theatrical experience to tell unedited stories. Méliès created a sense of spectacle and a playful sense of the fantastic to make his films seem more dynamic. However his films remained a series of scenes, each scene captured by a single unedited shot. The camera remained stationary capturing the action in long-shot and the shots (scenes) were then strung together to make the story. Méliès is said to have discovered quite by chance crude in-camera editing by turning off the camera during one sequence and starting it again during another. Méliès used this process for vaudevillian effect. However, by 1903, Edwin S. Porter, among others, began to use visual continuity to facilitate encoding the film's message. Building on Méliès work filmmakers like Porter discovered that the organisation of shots made the filmic narrative more dynamic. Porter had demonstrated that the single shot, recording an incomplete piece of action, is the unit of which films must be constructed and thereby established the basic principle of editing. The editing process allowed filmmakers to conceptualise events that, once edited, would ‘speak’ in a language foreign to the discourse of the previous eight years (actuality films screened continuous action). Editing opened up vast possibilities for fiction film, bringing a previously unavailable excitement to the screen and giving rise to the highly successful "Nickelodeon era" (1905-1915). Film could begin to match the narrative of theatre.

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Porter's film ‘The Life of an American Fireman’ (1903) was constructed from twenty shots. Porter utilised newsreel footage of an actual fire and combined it with interior fiction sequences to show firemen rescue a mother and child from a burning building. Porter's use of actuality footage woven with dramatic fiction footage was a catalyst for the fiction genre and a major turning point for the documentary genre. Porter's shot-by-shot alternation between interior and exterior made the story of the rescue seem dynamic, and subsequently extended the viewers' filmic vocabulary. Note that we see the rescue twice. We see the fireman enter the bedroom and save the woman and child. And later, we see these events from the streetscape. Today, we see this type of story telling in sport, rather than drama. For while Méliès strung his one-shot scenes together to tell a sequential location by location narrative, Porter introduced to the audience the filmic equivalent of theatrical narrative concepts. By utilising the actuality footage and interspersing it with a fictitious event, Porter had demonstrated how two shots filmed in different locations, with fundamentally different objectives, could, when edited together, imply greater meaning than the sum of the two parts. Porter's innovation hastened the demise of actuality footage as a means of sustaining an audience's attention in respect to its entertainment value alone. The actuality ‘film-of-fact’ that had dominated the screen for the first eight years of film's public history was all but abandoned by the commercial manufacturers. Actualities no longer dominated, although it would find its niche in reportage and ethnographic genres. 18


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The rapid success of film led to the construction of Australia's first purpose-built cinema by 1906. By 1909 Australia boasted the largest purpose built cinema in the world, seating 4000 patrons. This rapid cultural assimilation of the screen as an entertainment and information medium indicates how rapidly this new form of communication was encoded, worldwide. Part Four 1910- 1920 24/7/13 World War I (WWI) was a global war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. It was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until the start of World War II in 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter The Australian Gazette and other Newsreels from Australian Screen. Many of the newsreels employ animation. From the onset of public film presentation, current events were filmed and exhibited at random intervals. These ‘current news pictures’ mainly covered the familiar contemporary topics dealing with dominant political, cultural and sporting events. By 1910, camera operators in major cities throughout the world filmed headline news. Established theatres throughout Australia showed newsreels. The dominant ‘newsreel’ distributors were Path_ Australian, Animated Gazette, Williams' Weekly, Spencer's Gazette and T. J. West. Australia on film (Australian Screen): 1910, 1911, 19 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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1912, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920 The Higgins, Bryce: 1909-1924 (c.1909) Australia as: This beautifully contains some of of home movie National Film and

Family and Holiday Scenes: are described by Screen filmed home movie the earliest examples footage held by the Sound Archive.

Beyond our shores W D. Griffith segmented scenes into long shots, medium shots, and close shots. His two most famous films ‘Birth of a Nation’ 1915 (see trailer) and ‘Intolerance’ (1916) (a sequence) we stunning productions for their time. His revolutionary directing process enabled the viewer to sequentially access the main thrust of the narrative within a scene. The long shot, or establishing shot, enabled the viewer to locate and orientate the forthcoming action in filmic time and space. The medium shot provides a pathway for the viewer to reach the objective of the scene, often presented in medium close-up or closeup. Most early filmmakers — such as Thomas Edison, Auguste and Louis Lumière and Georges Méliès — tended not to use closeups and preferred to frame their subjects in long shots. Film historians disagree as to which filmmaker first used a close-up. One of the best claims is for George Albert Smith in Hove, who used medium close-ups in films as early as 1898 and by 1900 was incorporating extreme close-ups in films such as ‘As Seen Through a Telescope’ and ‘Grandma's Reading Glass’. In 1901, James Williamson, also working in Hove, made perhaps the most extreme close-up of all in 20


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The Big Swallow, when his character approaches the camera and appears to swallow it. D.W. Griffith used the shot extensively at a later date. For example, one of Griffith's short films, The Lonedale Operator (1911), makes significant use of a close-up of a wrench that a character pretends is a gun. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Close-up) Griffith also experimented with the construction of scenes where shorter and shorter shots were used to heighten dramatic impact. Consequently he demonstrated that by intercutting and ordering sequences, scenes could be fragmented, and only the moments closest to the intent of the scene needed to be shown to achieve realism. Importantly, dramatic time began to replace real time as a criterion for editing decisions. The box office success of Griffith and others who utilised his filmic style indicates the sophistication with which the general public were able to read the rapidly evolving language of the screen. Subsequently, the non-fiction movement began to use the filmic language of Porter and Griffith to represent and re-encode legitimate authenticity. By 1918 Griffith's editing innovations were the prime influence on filmmakers around the world. In the Soviet Union his technical achievements were studied intensely. Lenin had endorsed the importance of the role of film in supporting the revolution, thus, providing an example of filmic solutions being applied to political problems. V I. Pudovkin and other revolutionary filmmakers drew on the new editing methods to interpret the world and draw intellectual conclusions. 21 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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In the early 1920s, the Russian director and theorist Sergei Eisenstein, set about combining the editing language of Griffith with the political doctrine of Karl Marx. Eisenstein developed Griffith's style further by refining the combination of visual composition with the edit process. Eisenstein is famous for his films ‘Strike’ (1924), ‘Battleship Potemkin (1925) and ‘October’ (1927). Consequently, within the period from 1900 to 1930 the addition of and subsequent evolution of the editing process within non-fiction and fiction film had greatly broadened filmmakers' options "to make sense, to move, to disturb, to rob of meaning, to undermine the security of knowing" (Dancyger, 1993 p 32).

NEW DOCUMENTARY DIRECTIONS

Rapid technological developments saw the notion of documentary fracture into distinct genres. This development created the formal introduction of the newsreel genre and the evolution of documentary into the feature documentary. Feature Documentary With the development of longer film spools and the editing process a new form of documentary, the ‘Feature Film’, evolved. This new form enabled the documentary to run for an hour or more, in stark contrast to Lumière’s one-minute films. Once more the film industry (fiction and non-fiction) found itself in new terrain. The feature film soon established itself as the way of the future. Elegant theatres were constructed specifically for showing feature films. Arguably, the elegance of these buildings introduced a new respectability to the notion of going to the 22


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pictures and soon the middle class joined the working class as regular patrons of film. Under these conditions the non-fiction film gained a new measure of importance. The new respectability of documentary spurred a significant development in the genre that Jacobs (1979) describes as "a style of screen journalism that had some of the character of magazine articles". These programs centred on issues of national and international importance such as war, social issues, other cultures and countries. The sociological difference between these films and the earlier Lumière actualities stemmed from the ability to record and sequence reality. The earlier actualities could only replay a brief moment of a lineal sequence of reality. Now reality was the very subject of these films and no longer treated as a background. This concentration on milieu did, for Jacobs, "signal a new point in the factual film's efforts to achieve a synthesis of the real environment and the forces that move through a culture". Many of these new documentaries were made by scientists, explorers, and other non-professional filmmakers as well as professional camera operators. Emerging from this new era was a quest for scholarship that led to a redefining of ‘actuality’ and hence new interpretations of re-presenting and reencoding legitimate authenticity. A new genre of documentary was evolving towards the notion of participation within the social environment as opposed to earlier notions of merely recording life's action as a passing parade. Such films as Lisbon Before And After The Revolution (1910), Captain Scott's Expedition To The South Pole (1911), Votes For Women (1912), The Western Front (1919), are a sample of documentary titles of this period. 23 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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The following short Australian films from SCREEN AUSTRALIA, include advertisements, home movies, newsreels and dramas. They provide further insight into our culture. 1921 / 1922 / 1923 / 1924 / 1925 / 1926 / 1927 / 1928 / 1929

FLAHERTY AND GRIERSON In terms of the documentary movement both Robert Flaherty and John Grierson are considered to be the pioneers of the form. Flaherty’s film Nanook of the North is considered one of the greatest films ever made. Flaherty intended producing a biography of a typical Eskimo family. The resulting film was in reality a study not of a typical Eskimo family, but presented a glimpse of an Eskimo life from the masculine perspective. The gender specific point of view of a male filmmaker is typical of the vast majority of documentaries and fiction films produced in the history of the moving image. That aside, Nanook of the North (1922) further extended documentary discourse. This documentary was Flaherty's first feature film and is unquestionably a landmark in documentary history. It is generally recognised as the "classic progenitor of the documentary idiom". For the purposes of this discussion it is relevant to note the equipment that Flaherty used. His equipment included a specially built telephoto lens as well as developing and printing equipment. These 'embellishing technologies’ enabled him to produce a documentary that utilised encoding 24


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processes that had been more commonly associated with the dramatised screen. Flaherty achieved his ends in two ways. The use of a telephoto lens enabled him to film dangerous and logistically difficult events from a safe distance, while enabling those events to be read by the audience within a culturally acceptable frame. That is, the telephoto lens enables the audience to get close to the action, a process that had become culturally encoded, primarily through the drama genre. Flaherty acquired developing and printing equipment that enabled him to process his film. The developing equipment, just as the telephoto lens, enabled Flaherty to get close to his subject matter, but in a different way. By projecting sections of the film to the head of the Inuit tribe, Nanook, as well as Nanook’s family, the target group soon became accustomed to viewing themselves on the screen. As a result, they rapidly understood the purpose of the camera although they had no previous contact with film. Consequently Flaherty was able to re-present legitimate authenticity. Scenes such as Nanook and his family preparing for sleep, in what appeared to be a ‘typical’ igloo, were not what they appeared to be. The audience views the sequence of the family undressing under their fur coverings and snuggling against each other for warmth as a process that appears genuine, though it was an authenticated reconstruction. The ‘reality’ of this scene is that Nanook and his family were acting out the every-day ritual of going to sleep. This process was not in principle dissimilar to countless other actualities, such as Lumière’s ‘Baby’s lunch’ (1895). To film the igloo interior sequence, the space had to be constructed for the camera. The actual, real event could not be filmed due to the bulk of the image recording technology in comparison to the size 25 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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of the igloo and the amount of light available. The filmed igloo interior was not of a typical igloo, but that of a giant igloo. The larger than life igloo took several days to build, whereas a typical igloo usually took several hours. The ‘hyper-real’ igloo enabled the filming of a typical Inuit bedtime ritual. Nanook and his family developed an understanding of what Flaherty was attempting to capture by viewing the film rushes. The harsh environmental reality of their world could not be changed by European contact, but their culture could. What Flaherty rendered in Nanook of the North (1922), Moana (1926) and Man of Aran (1934) was his version and perception of a reality, his factuality. By utilising advanced technology of the day Flaherty was able to communicate with an audience. He was able to access advances in film production and to develop a sophisticated encoding process in order to make meaning. Although not called documentary at the time, Nanook of the North signalled the beginnings of a new type of documentary. Flaherty's concentration on detail, combined with a highly developed sense of continuity, was a break from the traditional purely descriptive documentary of the day. Hence, a new horizon in reading the dominant screen was initiated. Flaherty had "swept away the notion that what the camera recorded was the total reality". He "proved that there was another reality that the eye alone could not perceive, but which the heart and mind could discern". Grierson John Grierson, more than any other individual, is responsible for the development of the documentary film in the English-speaking world. 26


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Swann suggests that the documentary, or "film of actuality", had been important from the time of the Lumière brothers, but it was only after the films of Eisenstein, Pudovkin and Flaherty that Grierson considered film as a tool for ideological propaganda. Grierson was quick to note Lenin's belief in "the power of film for ideological propaganda. Grierson adapted Lenin's revolutionary dictum to the purpose of social democracy. Affected by the powerful editing style of Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (1925) where Eisenstein uses intellectual montage to create highly charged and emotionalised sequences. Grierson took the principle of social or political purpose and meshed them with a visual aesthetic. At the height of his career Grierson was able to maintain a strategy of steadily producing short documentaries offering a consistent social view that reinforced certain attitudes in a manner which some consider to be similar in tactics to today's televisioncommercial makers. Over time Grierson's meaning of ‘documentary’ came to stand for a concept, a purpose, an idea, rather than a film code. His social movement films, celebrating the worker were, for him, realist; he felt Flaherty's poetic films celebrating ‘humanity’ were not. A Griersonian Perspective Of Flaherty Grierson and Flaherty, while friends and occasional production allies, had different philosophical approaches to the use of the screen. Flaherty's ethnographic approach was to preserve on film the dignity of a world rapidly falling victim to the onset of high modernity. As time passes one cannot deny the magnitude of Flaherty's Nanook of the North, Moana and Men of Aran. Grierson, 27 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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however, a working class socialist, found himself making documentaries celebrating the worker, through a period of world economic depression, leading to the outbreak of the Second World War. He subsequently developed a personal theory of documentary that emphasised the fundamental needs of the working people of the time (though usually ignoring the plight of the unemployed and the under-class). Grierson and his devotees believed Flaherty's work lacked a relevant socio-political message. For Grierson, Flaherty had a particular mythic vision of life, one in which he re-created a vision in his films. For Flaherty, in his attempt to record exotic cultures before they became lost forever, would often arranged for his subjects to revert to prior cultural activities. While filming the famous walrus kill, in Nanook of the North, Flaherty in later years recalled how Nanook and his fellow hunters, fearing for their lives, called to him to stop filming their life and death struggle with the giant sea monster, as it edged further out to sea. With Nanook's harpoon lodged deep in the Walrus, he and his co-hunters tugged at the harpoons leash for 'grim life' while the walrus dragged them towards the ocean. Nanook called to Flaherty to shoot the walrus, with the rifle that Nanook had become accustomed to using in such circumstances. Flaherty pretended not to hear Nanook's desperate plea. Nanook's rifle does not appear in the film. Seventy years later, the footage of the walrus and Eskimos in a life and death struggle is still breathtaking documentary footage. Similarly, when making Moana, Flaherty found on arriving in Samoa 28


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that the native woman no longer wore grass skirts, instead they had opted for cotton skirts. Flaherty had grass skirts made for his version of Samoan life. Grierson Towards Social Reality Grierson believed that documentary meant ‘now’, what was happening at the doorstep. He believed that a documentary should comprise contemporary discourses particularly in a world in the grip of depression, edging towards the possibility of war.

Grierson, said "I look on cinema as a pulpit and use it as a propagandist". Grierson believed that one only began to wander into the world of documentary after having passed beyond the non-fiction forms of travelogue, newsreels, "magazine items", scientific and educational films. Grierson was concerned with shaping the institutions of society, his goals were always social, economic, and political. He accessed every available filmic style, including ‘art’, to achieve his goals. Grierson perceived his style of documentary as antiaesthetic; he maintained that ‘art’ was "the byproduct of a job of work". Grierson rejected beauty as worthy in itself; he rejected aesthetic experience as being enriching or broadening. Similarly he had little interest in films that offered information and insights along with refinements that ultimately contributed to a more sympathetic understanding, unless this process led to ‘action’. Grierson sided with stories that were taken from the ‘raw’ against those with ‘artificial backgrounds’ that 29 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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neglected the ‘real world’. Part Five 1930s 24/7/13 Background to the 1930s After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the largest stock market crash in American history, most of the decade was consumed by an economic downfall called the Great Depression that had a traumatic effect worldwide. In response, authoritarian regimes emerged in several countries in Europe, in particular the Third Reich in Germany. Weaker states such as Ethiopia, China, and Poland were invaded by expansionist world powers, the last of these attacks leading to the outbreak of the Second World War a few months before the end of the decade. The 1930s also saw a proliferation of new technologies, especially in the fields of intercontinental aviation, radio, and film. (1930s From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) Background to the 1930s and film Sound film Adapted from from Wikipedia The primary steps in the commercialization of sound cinema were taken in the mid- to late 1920s. At first, the sound films incorporating synchronized dialogue—known as "talking pictures", or "talkies"— were exclusively shorts; the earliest feature-length movies with recorded sound included only music and effects. 30


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The first feature film originally presented as a talkie was The Jazz Singer, released in October 1927. The Jazz Singer was a major hit, it was made with Vitaphone, the leading brand of sound-on-disc technology. Sound-on-film, however, would soon become the standard for talking pictures. By the early 1930s, the talkies were a global phenomenon. In the United States, they helped secure Hollywood's position as one of the world's most powerful cultural/commercial systems. In Europe (and, to a lesser degree, elsewhere) the new development was treated with suspicion by many filmmakers and critics, who worried that a focus on dialogue would subvert the unique aesthetic virtues of soundless cinema. In Japan, where the popular film tradition integrated silent movie and live vocal performance, talking pictures were slow to take root. In India, sound was the transformative element that led to the rapid expansion of the nation's film industry—the most productive such industry in the world since the early 1960s. The cinematic society Adapted from Television and Climate Change: the Season Finale (2009) by Bruce Fell. In terms of this discussion, much of what has come to underscore the contemporary ‘commercial’ screen in terms of visual language and content has its roots in the cinematic society of the USA. Cinema, in the sense of Lumière’s cinématographe projections, arrived in the USA in 1896; by 1909 the USA had over 1,300 movie theatres, with an attendance of two and one quarter million admissions per day. 31 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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By 1919 nearly every small town in the USA had a cinema. By 1935, 80 million people per week attended the cinema in the USA alone. There, dancing upon the screen were two types of films. The first rendered images of the naked ‘other’, hiding behind the respectable fig leaf of ‘science’ and ‘authenticity’ — films such as the 1935 ethnographic film Sanders of the River ‘focused directly on the bouncing breasts of dancing native women’. At the same time, Hollywood films (often screened in the same theatres), ‘relegated native nudity to the background, or restricted the imagery to minimal ‘native’ garb (Shohat & Stam, 1994:108-110). Hence, the growing sophistication in screen production techniques was not accompanied by a growing awareness of the world portrayed. Beginning in the late 1920s, with films like ‘The Toll of the Sea’ (1922) and Phantom of the opera (1925) colour film was beginning to make inroads. By the 1930s Technicolour began to dominate the production of film; for Denzin (1995) it was not only ‘more scientifically accurate than Black & White films, it was also able to ‘repeat’ the dominant forms of the culture.’ The period from around 1935 can be viewed as a particular point in time when Western hegemony can be observed as having taken on an obvious cinematic imprint. No longer was the cinematic screen a novelty; rather, the experience of being before the cinematic screen had become a regular weekly event. Cinema fundamentally transformed American society into ‘a culture which came to know itself, collectively and individually, through the images and stories that Hollywood produced’ (Denzin, 1995:24).

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It is fare to say this was also happening elsewhere. The USA appears to be the nation that lead the way in commercial film the 1930s. Within the context of a commercially driven marketplace, by the end of the 1930s screenlanguage had become sophisticated; as opposed to the screen-language of earlier films such as George Méliès brilliant 1902, A Trip To The Moon. As mentioned early, the film containing multiple sets and special effects, of interest here, is that the film presented actors bowing to the audience (at this time, film actors often performed as if they were on a theatrical stage). What distinguishes the cinematic society from the audience watching films such as A Trip To The Moon, can be found in the aesthetic advancement of screen-based editing and directing, in combination with technological advances in audio and colour. Denzin draws on a series of interviews conducted with cinema patrons by Blumer in the 1930s to reveal the influence that these sophisticated techniques had upon the emerging cinematic society. Below are five excerpts from Blumer’s interviews with movie patrons of 1933. Note how influential the content of fiction film had become, arguably, more influential that documentary: When I discovered that I should have this coquettish and coy look which all girls may have, I tried to do it in my room. And surprise! … I learned the very way of taking my gentle friends to and from the door with that wistful smile, until it has become a part of me (Female, 19, white, college freshman). The appearance of such handsome men … dressed in sports clothes, evening attire, formals, etc., has encouraged me to dress as 33 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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best as possible … One acquires positions such as standing, sitting, tipping one’s hat, holding one’s hat, offering one’s arm to a lady, etc (Male, 20, white, college sophomore). When I was sixteen years old I saw … The Ten Commandments … from that time on I have never doubted the value of religion. … Our race was portrayed so vividly and realistically that the feeling of reverence and respect for my religion was instilled in me (Male, 20, white, Jewish, college junior). I saw a moving picture in which the heroine was a very young, pretty girl. In school she had taken a business course and after working hard she had been promoted to the position of private secretary. I used to sit and dream about what my life would be like after I had that position (Female, 16, white, high school junior). I particularly liked pictures in which the setting was a millionaire’s estate … I would imagine myself living such a life … My daydreams would be concerned with lavish wardrobes, beautiful homes, servants, imported automobiles, yachts, and countless suitors (Female, 24, white, college senior). The cinematic society is one in which an everyday relationship between the audience and the screen has come into play, one that continues to this day. For a moment, lets jump forward some fifty years. It is useful to follow Blumer with two examples from contemporary Australian commercial television — the first from a newspaper article and the second from on-going research I’m doing with university students: 34


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A Country Practice turned into a country tragedy in June 1985 when one of the series best-loved characters, Molly Jones … died after a 10-week drama-loaded battle with leukaemia. Her death made Australian TV history by attracting more than two million viewers, many of whom jammed Channel Seven’s switchboard with calls to express their distress (Van den Nieuwenhof, 2006). My boyfriend’s mother and sister are avid Grey’s Anatomy fans. What I found interesting was their reaction to what they saw on screen during the show and the way they talked about it afterwards. Unconsciously, they had become so familiar (and emotionally invested) in the lives of the characters, that during the show they laughed and cried at the action and often reprimanded or defended the characters. Afterwards they spoke about the characters as they would real life friends or foes, for example, ‘Meredith really needs to hurry up and figure out what she wants before she turns around and Derek isn’t there for her anymore…’ (Fell:Forthcoming). Back to the 1930s: fascinated with both the star and the world of the star, the cinematic society endeavoured to replicate the kissing, walking, sitting, dressing and speaking that they observed popular movie stars portraying. For mercantile reasons, the screen’s mise-en-scène (the world of the screen) increasingly became a habitat for mass consumption commodities — such products were endorsed each time the star came in contact with them: clothes, automobiles, food, cigarettes and so on. Hence, the audience’s desire to replicate the mise-en-scène was turned to economic advantage. As Denzin points out, with the advent of high fidelity sound and technicolour, the screen became a 35 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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dream machine: ‘the movies created emotional representations of self, sexuality, desire, intimacy, friendship, marriage, work and family’ (1995:33). For Denzin, the cinematic society represents a significant shift — the metaphor of the dramaturgical society, or ‘life as Theatre’ (Brisswtt & Edgley, 1990; Goffman, 1959; Lyman, 1990a), ceased to be just a metaphor, ‘it became interactional reality: life and art became mirror images of one another’ (1995:32). The image of life and art becoming mirror images of one another is a significant descriptor. As the stories presented to the cinematic society became ingrained in the cinematic imagination, Denzin argues, ‘they became master tales, myths, which structured how lives were evaluated and judged’ (1995:33). Casting back to Shohat and Stam, we get a sense of how colonised people and land were incorporated into the master tales and myths. Hollywood stars such as Shirley Temple, David Niven and Basil Rathbone stood at the ramparts, ‘scanning the horizon for signs of native restlessness’. Colonel Williams in Wee Willie Winkie (1937) tells Shirley Temple: ‘Beyond the pass, thousands of savages are waiting to sweep down and ravage India. It’s England’s duty, it’s my duty, to see that this doesn’t happen’ (Shohat & Stam, 2002:126). Drawing on Ray (1985:56-9), Denzin stresses that this cinematic imagination ‘argued for stories with happy endings’. Such stories incorporated ‘the values of individualism, freedom, the frontier, love, hard work, family, wealth and companionship’ (1995:33). Barnouw (1993) agrees, though he observes that this has always been an aspect of cinema, pointing out that the box office failure of films such as the 1903 Native Women Coaling a Ship and Scrambling 36


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for Money, was due to its offence to colonial sensibilities. The film presented a panoramic view of a coal dock with a ship in the background. Tourists can be seen throwing coins onto the dock where a large group of ‘black’ men and women fight for the money. The film then shows between 200 and 300 black women coaling the S.S. ‘Prinzessin Victoria Luise’ of the Hamburg-American Line (Edison Catalogue). Note: The film is still not available for public viewing. The following links are to Screen Australia include advertisements, home movies, newsreels and dramas. Combined, they provide insight into our culture in the 1930s. 1930 / 1931 / 1932 / 1933 / 1934 / 1935 / 1936 / 1937 / 1938 / 1939 One of the most notorious examples of the political documentary, Triumph of the Will (1935), emerged from Germany. This government initiated project enabled its director Leni Riefenstahl access to enormous resources, including: a staff of 120 people, which including sixteen leading camera operators, their assistants and supporting technicians, thirty cameras and four sound trucks, twenty-two automobiles and their drivers, along with uniformed police. During this period all documentary production in Nazi Germany, was directly controlled by government. The German government implemented and directed the documentary ‘voice’ towards the glorification of the nation and its' Führer. Under government sponsorship the German documentary developed outstanding technical excellence, as Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will (1935) and Olympia (1938) demonstrated. The technical excellence 37 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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displayed in films such as Riefenstahl's further embellished the official version of reality. The documentary had found another purpose; as Jacobs states, in pre-war Germany documentary was used "to suppress the faculty of understanding that might have undermined the bias of the whole (Nazi) system". 1940s 1/8/13 The 1940s began with the world at war. World War II (WWII or WW2), also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the vast majority of the world's nations— including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. It was the most widespread war in history, with more than 100 million people serving in military units from over 30 different countries. In a state of "total war", the major participants placed their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities at the service of the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. Marked by mass deaths of civilians, including the Holocaust and the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare, it resulted in an estimated 50 million to 85 million fatalities. These deaths make it likely that World War II is the deadliest conflict in human history. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) WORLD WAR II INFLUENCE DOCUMENTARY GENRE 38

ON

THE


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The outbreak of World War II forced all governments to realise that film, and in particular documentary film, could provide the social glue required to maintain an adherence to the government's agenda. Film had become part of popular culture and hence had become a logical means for disseminating information. The feature documentary and newsreel were used during this time to deal with the background as well as the foreground of war. Governments needed to inform and motivate the general public and its militia. With the outbreak of World War II, documentary films became an important tool in the mobilization of national resources. Official government departments for the production of propaganda films had already been established in Germany. Britain and the USA had the need to produce their own versions of the war, as did the smaller political powers like Canada and Australia. In Australia a film division within the Department of Information (DOI) was established in 1942. The high Australian unemployment rate was second only to that of Germany, and for this reason the official Australian documentaries of the period prior to the war "were prosaic and conventional, delivering a strictly official account of life in Australia during the Great Depression". Extending The Meaning Of Documentary Utilising the documentary to motivate national and international opinion during the period surrounding World War 2 demonstrates how flexible the documentary genre had become. As mentioned, Germany had already established a government bureau of propaganda before the outset of the war. Now, Britain and the USA needed to show their people that they were in fact ‘allies’. The USA and Britain under the guise of national harmony produced documentaries that skimmed over the prevailing social issues generic to each country and 39 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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concentrated on bonding home and ally into one united fighting front. The devastation inflicted by the Japanese at Pearl Harbour stirred Americans into war fervour. However the American soldier found the Pearl Harbour bombing difficult to place in context with the war in Europe. There needed to be a means of clarifying who they were fighting, who they were supporting and why. For the first time in the history of the USA, the army was to take on the task of political educator. The majority of American documentary and fiction filmmakers engaged themselves in the obligations of a government at war. From 1942 until the end of the war documentaries in American, as elsewhere, served as a powerful device for implementing national policy. The significance of the American war documentary in discussing the ‘power’ of the dominant screen to inform has some interesting consequences that were uncovered in the American war series Why We Fight. One of Hollywood's most successful directors, Frank Capra, was commissioned by then Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall, to produce a series of films to prepare enlisted American soldiers for war. The seven Why We Fight documentaries (1943-1945) are, according to MacCann, among the most successful propaganda films ever made. They attempted (1) to destroy faith in isolation, (2) to build up a sense of the strength and at the same time the stupidity of the enemy, and (3) to emphasise the bravery and achievements of America's allies. MacCann points out that Capra used a variety of filmic genres in his attempt to communicate with the audience, including compilation footage, re-created footage, excerpts from Hollywood films, animation, and excerpts from Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will. Riefenstahl's documentary was originally devised to 40


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inspire the Nazi cause, but under Capra's direction excerpts were used to motivate the American troops. Capra's documentaries were technically outstanding achievements. However, research carried out by the US army indicated that the predominantly working class audience did not read the screen as Capra had intended. Only the well-educated middle class audience did so. For the majority of his audience Capra had moved outside and beyond their horizons of understanding. Semidocumentary Britain had a small dynamic documentary movement Britain found itself facing possible invasion as Germany rapidly conquered Europe. The British used documentary to bolster national resilience. Barnouw asserts World War II was the period where the development of the Bugle-call documentary took place and that they were an adjunct to military action. The documentary maker's task was to "stir the faithful's blood, and chill the enemy to the marrow". Under the umbrella of the Bugle-call documentary, Ellis maintains three major types of British wartime documentaries emerged: the actuality/newsreel or ‘records of battle documentary’, a continuation of the peacetime social documentary and the semidocumentary. With the development of the semidocumentary the notion of documentary moved closer to the fiction genre than had been seen previously. The British semidocumentary in the main combined the standard documentary conventions utilising non-actors, location shooting, a narrator describing or embellishing the action with a high degree of skilfully handled artifice, such as tightly scripted dialogue, sometimes location sync-sound recording, carefully 41 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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plotted suspense and familiar characterisations. Significantly, the war had necessitated British documentary to move beyond the 1930s social documentary, and incorporate some of the ‘purpose of life’ themes found in the earlier work of Flaherty (see Nanook of the North (1922). By 1941 the annual cinema ticket sale attendance in the USA was 2.1 billion (Austin, cited in Denzin, 1995:18). The first Australian Oscar was won in 1942 for Kokoda Front Line!, directed by Ken G. Hall. A fulllength edition of the Australian newsreel, ‘Cinesound Review’, produced by the Australian News & Information Bureau and Cinesound Productions Limited. It was filmed by the Australian war photographer Damien Parer and directed by Ken G. Hall. Significant Australian films of the 1940s 1940: Forty Thousand Horsemen, 1944: The Rats of Tobruk, 1946: The Overlanders 1949: Eureka Stockade 1940 / 1941 / 1942 / 1943 / 1944 / 1945 / 1946 / 1947 / 1948 / 1949 The USA in the 1940s (Adapted from The History of Film The 1940s) Some of Hollywood's best directors, John Ford, Frank Capra, John Huston and William Wyler, made Signal Corps documentaries or training films to aid the war effort, such as Frank Capra's Why We Fight (1942-1945) documentary series (the first film in the series, Prelude to War was released in 1943). 42


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Other prominent titles of the time: The Battle of Midway (1942) / From the Aleutians (1943) / The Battle of San Pietro (1945) / Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress (1944) A new breed of stars that arose during the war years included Van Johnson, Alan Ladd, Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth.

The world of the 1940s saw new technology, much of it due to the war effort. Significant computers are being developed as are Atomic weapons, Radar, ballistic missiles, jet aircraft and even commercial television. Other inventions of the time include the microwave oven, Velcro, Tupperware and perhaps most important, the Frisbee. AS SEEN ON TV 1950-1960 Myer Emporium 1956 I belong to a unique subset of Australians who witnessed the introduction of television into this country in 1956. I can remember a pre-television life; then, the wider world entered my family’s home via the radio. Prior to 1956, my experience of the moving image came through the occasional outing to the local Drive-in Theatre — I don’t remember attending the cinema prior to viewing television. The family tragedy of my mother’s death in 1956 coincided with the euphoria of the Melbourne Olympic games, plus the introduction of television 43 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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into Australia. My first memory of coming in contact with television comes from this period. A week or so after my mother’s funeral, I remember my brother running into our bedroom and announcing, “We’re off to see television tonight Nip”. Donald was eleven and I was five years old. Donald had heard about television at school; however, I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. After a thirty-minute drive into the city of Melbourne, Dad, Donald and I joined a throng of people standing in a semicircle before one of the Myer Emporium shopfront windows. On the other side of the window, a television receiver flickered; however, that wasn’t what caught my attention — I was captivated by the experience of being in a crowd, at night, in the city of Melbourne. I remember my father picking me up and pointing towards a bluish light, which must have been the flickering television receiver. However, it wasn’t the flickering light that I registered as significant. From the vantage point of my father’s shoulder I had the perfect opportunity to gaze at the spread of cakes and biscuits set out on several card-tables at either end of the semicircle where the owners sat sipping tea and watching television. For the majority of Australians, the price of a television receiver was a substantial family investment. In 1956, as a result of the Melbourne Olympic Games being televised in and around Melbourne, five percent of Melbourne households purchased a television receiver as compared to one percent of Sydney households.

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New Talk In The Playground Prior to my family purchasing a television receiver, the highlight of my weekday afternoon and early evening was playing with my toys in the living room and listening to radio programs such as Tarzan and The Air Adventures Of Biggles. The storylines of these and other radio serials drifted into my play and conversations. One episode of Biggles, ‘The Land Of The Living Dead’, has stayed with me all my life — I was terrified by the images, in my mind, of the Zombie people who inhabited the Land Of The Living Dead. At some point in time I began to notice that some kids in the playground were banding together to talk about a world of which I had no understanding. These kids talked about toys, lollies, soft drinks and heroes that I hadn’t heard about. There came a time when the cosmology of schoolyard radio-inspired games and conversations began to fracture. I felt ill at ease as the alien television cosmology began to manifest; it was as if friends who once spoke the same language as me were now speaking a new language. Initially, the advantages of being able to speak this new language didn’t fully register. However, the older kids outside of the new order, such as my brother, longed to become part of the new-speak. One boy in particular stands out as central to this new world — a stocky pale-skinned fellow with curly dark hair, who had recently arrived in Australia from the USA — he was several years older than me, and hence, several years younger than my brother. The boy was often the centre of schoolyard adoration by younger and older children alike. He appeared to know all about television — in addition, he drank Coca Cola and shared exotic American lollies with friends. Initially, he didn’t wear a school uniform, his clothes, like his accent and food, were otherworldly — he even had a girlfriend!

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‘I can spell television using only two letters,’ said the American boy. ‘How?’ replied my brother. ‘T, V,’ replied the boy. Watching Superman With Geoffrey One day, my best friend Geoffrey invited me to his house to watch Superman. Geoffrey had arrived at school one morning transfixed by having witnessed the spectacle of Superman flying through the air. Geoffrey’s parents were the first in our street to purchase a television receiver. As he and I walked up the hill to his house, Geoffrey reiterated how Superman leapt tall buildings in a single bound, and had x-ray vision. I didn’t have any idea of what Geoffrey was talking about — but was excited nonetheless. We took off our shoes in the laundry, before Geoffrey’s mother led us into the living room. Geoffrey promptly sat on the carpet, back straight, just like we did for Mrs Pritchard, whenever she read us a story at school. Not needing to be prompted, I sat beside Geoffrey — back as straight as his. I don’t think I noticed the television console until Geoffrey’s mother opened the two cabinet doors; even then, I don’t think I associated the grey glass screen with what was about to follow. Geoffrey’s mother turned a bakelite dial before stepping back and standing behind us. Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Look! Up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superman! Stories About Stories As a result of our first- and second-hand experience with television, Donald and I entered into conversations during the evening meal that excluded our father and grandmother. This altered the power dynamics at the dinner table — my father and grandmother had next to no knowledge of what we 46


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were talking about. Without realising it, Donald and I had become the holders of exotic knowledge, and though such knowledge was at best partial, such was the mounting interest in television that our father and grandmother listened intently. Boston Blackie Mr and Mrs Cunningham became the proud owners of the second television receiver in our street. Subsequently, as my father drove Mr Cunningham to work each morning, Mr Cunningham talked about what he had watched on television the previous evening. Shortly after, a colleague of my father also purchased a television receiver; as a result, my father was hearing second-hand television stories on the way to work, at work, and during the evening meal. Around this time, a friend of my grandmother also purchased a television receiver. As a result, a strange dislocated conversation came to dominate our evening meals. Donald and I would talk about the television programs we had watched at the homes of our friends, as well as the programs we had heard about in the schoolyard; in turn, my father and grandmother talked about programs their friends had watched. My grandmother was yet to watch a television program, while my father had only observed television through the window of the Myer Emporium. Invariably, during our television conversations my grandmother and father would recite various versions of, ‘I don’t know how they can afford it.’

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The Cunninghams invited my family over to watch Mr Cunningham’s favourite Saturday night program, the USA detective drama, Boston Blackie (Australia, 1957-58; USA, 1951-53). As a result, my grandmother cooked a batch of drop scones, and Donald and I were showered and dressed in clean pyjamas. Mr and Mrs Cunningham proudly directed us into their living room, where we stood and admired the television receiver, which was not turned on, though the cabinet doors were open. Mrs Cunningham and my grandmother adjourned to the kitchen to prepare supper. A short time later, the six of us sat in a semi-circle before a coffee table partaking in a supper of fruitcake, Anzac biscuits, drop scones and tea. Had there not been a television receiver in the room, we would have most likely sat in a circle around the coffee table. Though it didn’t register at the time, the furniture in the Cunningham’s lounge room had been re-arranged to accommodate the television receiver. Our lounge room had a traditional, soon to be old-fashioned, circular arrangement — chairs and other furniture were arranged equidistant around the room. Though the radio was often the centre of our evening attention, there was no need for the furniture in the room to substantially take the radio into consideration — it sat on a shelf to the side of my father’s reading chair. Once supper was over, Mr Cunningham said to my brother, ‘Well Donald me lad, what do you think, should we watch some Boston Blackie?’ Donald’s eyes lit up. Mr Cunningham stood and began making his way towards the television receiver, before turning to Donald and asking, ‘Could you help me turn on the television Donald?’ ‘I always let Pop do it,’ said Mrs Cunningham to my grandmother. Hearing his wife, Mr Cunningham added, ‘It’s the tubes you’ve got to be careful of’. Mr Cunningham then proceeded to instruct Donald in 48


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how to switch on the television receiver. My father and grandmother leant forward, unlike Donald and myself, my father and grandmother were caught in a void of expectation where ‘nothing seemed to happen’; sensing their anti-climax, Mr Cunningham explained that the ‘tubes’ had to warm up. He then went on to explain the correct procedure for turning on and turning off the television – apparently, if you turned the television off before the tubes warmed up, the lifespan of the tubes would be shortened. (Mr Cunningham’s use of the term ‘tubes’, referred to both the cathode ray tube and the thermionic valves that enabled early analog television to display its image (see Australian Heritage Commission, 2003). ‘Well done lad,’ said Mr Cunningham as he and Donald sat back down. ‘Good on you mate,’ said Dad, or my grandmother. ‘You’ll be able to turn on your own television set one day,’ said Mrs Cunningham. ‘Not cheap Noel, they’re not cheap,’ said Mr Cunningham. And so it came to pass that going to the Cunningham’s on a Saturday night developed into a semi-regular event. During this period we become closer to the Cunninghams. Donald and my grandmother watered the Cunningham’s garden when they went on a holiday. My father, an electrician by trade, undertook some electrical work for the Cunninghams — refusing all offers of payment. A Cardboard Box Changed My Life Donald and I arrived home from school to discover a very large cardboard box sitting against one wall of the living room. And although I couldn’t read the text on the side of the box, I only required one try, when it came to guessing what was inside. Unbeknown to Donald and myself, our father had taken the day off work, picked up and set up our very own television receiver. The box had been 49 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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placed around the already functioning television in order to create a sense of celebration. That night, for the first time, we ate our evening meal in the living room — because that was where the television stood. The following evening, the first adjustment to living with television presented itself. My grandmother was not happy about Donald and I eating in the living room. It was agreed that we would leave the television turned on during dinner, and that we would listen to it, just as if we were listening to the radio. This seemed like a reasonable compromise, that is, until we sat down and began eating. It was then that it became obvious that ‘hearing’ television was not the same as listening to the radio — television demanded to be watched. Due to the design of our house, the television receiver couldn’t be seen when we were seated at the dining room table. My father promptly solved the problem. The following evening he attached caster wheels to the base of the television. This saw the beginning of a custom that would last for many years — as my grandmother began serving dinner, my father would swivel the television and point it through the doorway towards the dining room table. Goodbye Biggles While Geoffrey and I continued to play together, especially on the weekends, when we rode our bikes for hours along the new cement pavements of our burgeoning neighbourhood — my televisionmotivated visits to Geoffrey’s stopped. Increasingly, I watched television by myself after school, as did Geoffrey. We would talk about the programs we watched the previous afternoon and evening as we walked to school each morning — on most occasions we watched the same programs. I can’t recall listening to radio serials such as Tarzan or Biggles ever again. While some aspects of my world changed, other facets remained similar. For example, though we stopped going to the 50


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Cunningham’s to watch Boston Blackie, family friends who didn’t own a television began visiting on Saturday night to watch our television — I continued to wear clean pyjamas on Saturday nights, and my grandmother continued to make drop scones. From The Special To The Everyday At some point in time the special quality that surrounded the watching of television melded with the all-day everyday character of domestic life. Once our extended family and friends had purchased their own television receivers, Saturday night supper went from drop scones and jam to an arrowroot biscuit. The space before television quickly moved from a site of special occasion to an unceremonious place, one where my father cut his toe nails and such like, while my grandmother ironed, darned and slept before going to bed; a site where Donald and I lingered after school and before bed. However, there was still a gap between the subtext of a typical USA program and the reality of my suburban lifestyle. Some eighty-five percent of Australian commercial television content during this period consisted of programs produced in the United States of America (Bailey, 2003). Many of these programs were produced during the previous decade, when the USA was undergoing a radical ideological shift from prudent consumption towards over-consumerism and increased household debt (Lipsitz, 1990). I felt alienated from the world portrayed on television. Having longed to live in a house ‘with’ television, I now longed to live in the world of television. My favourite programs contained products and consumer concepts that were utterly exotic to my suburban lifeworld. For example, the ‘American’ pizza (apparently common to all Americans at the time), was a mystery to my family, as it was to many Australians during this period — not unlike the Australian characters in David Caesar’s 2001 film Dirty Deeds, we didn’t know what pizza was. (‘Toto’s’ is Australia’s first house, established in 1961.) We 51 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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watched in envy ordered pizza and phone. As a result, USA and consuming

as USA television characters other takeaway food over the I fantasised about living in the exotic American consumables.

Ricky Nelson Drinks Coca-Cola The person I most wanted to be like was Ricky Nelson. Ricky was the youngest son of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, a successful showbiz duo who had turned their stage performances first into a radio series and later into a television series. Their two sons David and Ricky co-starred in the television series. I have a lingering memory of Ricky arriving home from school; he saunters through the back door of his parents’ lavish suburban kitchen — his apron-clad mother is making dinner. Ricky says ‘Hi mum’; Harriet replies ‘Hi Ricky.’ Ricky continues on towards the refrigerator and without seeking permission from his mother takes an individual-sized bottle of Coca-Cola and flips the lid — using a bottle opener attached to the side of refrigerator. Helping himself to a Coca-Cola was merely part of Ricky’s everyday activities — his mother didn’t react. Yet for me, Ricky’s action was radical. In my family circumstances, Coca-Cola was a luxury item. Up until this point in time, the idea of having a fizzy drink after school had not entered my reckoning. My family’s refrigerator, like the ice-chest it had recently replaced, had never held a ‘spare’ (family-size) bottle of lemonade, let alone an individual-sized bottle of Coca-Cola. Birthday parties and Christmas holidays had always been the only domain of fizzy drinks. On those rare occasions when we did purchase fizzy drinks, we always purchased the normal family sized-bottles — one always had a glass of lemonade. Cowboys For Good Boys Ricky Nelson represented the dream I wanted to live — unlimited fizzy drinks and a ‘normal’ family. While television influenced my aspirations, I was nonetheless living with the reality of my mother’s 52


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death. To this end, I found a certain degree of comfort in cowboy programs. It was not uncommon for the hero’s wife to have died; subsequently, the cowboy roamed the Wild West alone — doing good! There was at least one serial where the cowboy’s son and daughter had to cope without their mother. Programs such as these helped me imagine getting on with my life. They helped me to imagine that even without my mother, I could get through life — that I could beat the baddies and grow-up to be a good man! I applauded the ‘good’ cowboys shooting the ‘bad’ Red Indians and cattle rustlers. In the early days of Australian television, a sizeable portion of the eighty-five percent of USA content broadcast on Australian commercial television were programs such as: The Lone Ranger (1949 to 1957); The Cisco Kid (1950 to 1956); Adventures of Wild Bill Hickock (1951 to 1958); Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (1954-1957); Cheyenne (19551963); Gun Smoke (1955 to 1975); Have Gun Will Travel (1957 to 1963); Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans (1957); Tombstone Territory (1957-1960); Wagon Train (1957 to 1965); Bronco (1958- 1962); Wanted, Dead or Alive (1958-1960) and Maverick (1959-1962). (Production dates are USA based) When researching these programs, I came across numerous photos of the lead characters, most if not all of whom I had not come across in forty years. Revisiting these images brought about happy feelings, not unlike the sensation of coming across photos of long lost friends. The persona of my root’n toot’n, shoot’m-up cowboy heroes is the antithesis of what I strive for in life, and yet, I can’t deny my feelings of nostalgia. 53 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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Coco Pops Donald came home from school one afternoon in around 1959 with the exciting news that he knew how to make a chocolate milkshake out of Kellogg’s ‘Coco Pops’. Consequently, the following Friday during the family’s once-a-week trip to the Supermarket, our grandmother purchased a packet of Coco Pops. The following Saturday morning my grandmother and I sat at the kitchen table like scientists observing an experiment. Donald opened the Coco Pops packet and proceeded to sprinkle two heaped dessertspoons of Coco Pops into a half-filled glass of milk. The three of us gazed into the glass — nothing happed. Donald had expected some type of effervescent activity to instantly take place between the Coco Pops and the milk, but the Coco Pops merely floated listlessly on the surface of the milk. My grandmother suggested that perhaps Donald should stir the Coco Pops. Again nothing. Eventually, my grandmother took to the glass with an egg whisk, but the Coco Pops refused to transmogrify into a chocolate milkshake. My grandmother then suggested that perhaps the Coco Pops needed to be added to the glass before the milk. Desperate to save face, Donald quickly drank the glass of milk and Coco Pops, before announcing, ‘Tastes good but.’ One of Donald’s schoolmates had misinterpreted the advertisement for the new Kellogg’s breakfast cereal. It wasn’t long before we came across the advertisement; initially, we read the advertisement as saying that mixing Coco Pops with milk produced a chocolate milkshake. However, by the time we watched the advertisement a few more times, the mystery was solved. The tagline for the Kellogg’s Coco Pop advertising campaign in 1959 was, as it is in the 21st century – ‘Coco Pops, just like a chocolate milkshake, only crunchy.’ Internationally Acclaimed A jet airliner soars above an airstrip, a beautiful woman waves goodbye. Powerful, handsome, men 54


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shake hands. One moment these men are being ‘important’ in Australia, the next they are being important in London, then Paris and finally New York — their important business is always taking place in the company of beautiful women. The up-beat music, mixed with the sounds of a bustling exciting world, confirms what the strong male voice proclaims: ‘Internationally acclaimed, Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes, smoked all around the world.’ I enjoy this advertisement, the jet aeroplane soaring, the exciting men travelling all over the world. My father smokes ‘Peter Stuyvesant’ cigarettes. I was proud that the cigarette my father smoked was internationally acclaimed. The Saint One of my grandmother’s favourite programs was The Saint. The lead character Simon Templar (Roger Moore) played the role of a special investigator. Roger Moore, according to my grandmother, was a handsome ladies’ man. Not only could The Saint fight and shoot, leap and bound in order to catch villains, he could also be a ‘wicked lad’. The circumstances under which my grandmother made these comments were always similar. In the course of his investigations, The Saint would have to interview a suspect or a witness, usually an attractive woman. This often repeated scenario would find The Saint and the attractive woman in some secluded room. The woman would offer The Saint a drink, usually ‘scotch on the rocks’. (It was some time before my teetotal grandmother, let alone I, realised that ‘the rocks’, was ice.) With a scotch in hand, one of the characters would offer the other a cigarette. The Saint would light the woman’s cigarette before lighting his own. From time to time The Saint (like our next door neighbour), would place both cigarettes in his mouth, light them, then give one to the woman. Each would then inhale; this was usually a long and 55 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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considered process — during which a deep understanding of each other would take place. By the time The Saint and the beautiful woman had exhaled their cigarette smoke, which was usually accompanied by intense romantic music, the two would kiss — to which my grandmother would say, ‘He’s a wicked lad.’ I came to notice versions of the ‘scotch on the rocks, cigarette, and kiss’ scenario in a number of films and weekly serials. I hadn’t experienced alcohol, cigarettes or a romantic kiss, I didn’t find these scenarios wicked, so much as the usual manner in which powerful men and beautiful women went about an exciting life. Smoke Rings And Coca-Cola The majority of my childhood television heroes smoked cigarettes. I had my first ‘puff’ at nine years of age when Donald and I began walking our dog on Sunday afternoons. Our walks took us past the nearest Soda Fountain (Fish & Chip Shop) where Donald would buy me an individual-sized bottle of Coca-Cola. I looked forward to our walks; drinking my own bottle of Coca-Cola; moving side-by-side through the world with Donald. We were like two Texas Rangers (Tales of the Texas Rangers 19551957) — motherless, but taking on the world nonetheless. Donald was fifteen, his Brylcreemed, Ricky Nelson- inspired hair glistened, he wore pointy black leather shoes, slacks, a polo shirt, and an American college-style cardigan — Donald idolised Col Joye, whose band, Col Joye and the Joy Boys regularly appeared on Bandstand (1957-1972). I loved Donald’s cardigan, it was just like the cardigans American kids like Ricky Nelson wore to Soda Fountains. Donald knew how to do the ‘drawback’; I would proudly watch the three stages of this process. First, Donald drew the cigarette smoke deep into his body; this appeared as if it were an active, searching process. Having inhaled, Donald would enter the 56


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second stage; there, he appeared to embrace a moment of contemplation — this was the place where detectives solved mysteries, the place where decisions were made about kissing and killing. Having contemplated, Donald entered the third stage of smoking. I could tell when he had reached this stage because a certain knowing look spread across his face — sometimes he nodded, other times ‘I just knew’ that he ‘knew’. Once this stage was achieved smoke began to escape between his lips before gushing out his nostrils — just like my cowboy and detective heroes. My First Sighting Of An Aboriginal Australian My father and grandmother were viewing the ABC investigative journalism program Four Corners — initially, I wasn’t aware that the images of the forlorn people living in squalor were Australian Aboriginals. My confusion was partially generated by an often- gazed-at glossy dustcover of a picture book commemorating Queen Elizabeth’s 1954 tour of Australia. One image in particular fascinated me — a naked Aboriginal man holding a spear. I didn’t understand why the man was allowed to stand naked amongst fully clothed people: members of the Australian Defence Force, a man shearing a sheep, men in suits, plus women adorned in flowing dresses, ornate hats and white gloves — the image of the Aboriginal man was also the only image of a naked person that I’d seen. At first, I didn’t associate the glossy dustcover-image of the muscular naked brown man with the black and white images on television. An aboriginal child, perhaps my age, looked into the camera — which I read as looking at me. The child had flies crawling in her or his eyes, mouth and nose. My father made a disparaging comment about Australian Aboriginals, my grandmother agreed, dad stood, walked to the television, and changed channels. 57 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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A Refreshing Change I don’t remember what we watched after my father switched from the ABC’s Four Corners to a commercial channel. Whatever it was, in a microsecond my family had fled from the plight of indigenous persons to a program that was less confronting. My father’s dismissive attitude towards indigenous persons living in corrugated iron shanties, where semi-naked, dishevelled children struggled to survive, coloured my formative assumptions of indigenous Australians. Any rigorous contemplation of their plight had to compete with our acceptance of the American Way — in my case, the desire to dress like Col Joy and brylcreem my ‘Ricky Nelson’ hair. In the American Way of my solid brick suburban dreaming, one drank Coca-Cola and sucked on FAGS (cigarette-shaped and-coloured lollies), while speaking and walking like Boston Blackie, The Saint and The Men from U.N.C.L.E. — all of whom smoked internationally acclaimed cigarettes in a world where beautiful women longed to be kissed by gun-toting heroes. Curfew For Cowboys After my first three years of primary school, it became obvious to my teachers that I had learning difficulties. It was felt that I started school too early (due to my mother’s death), and therefore I needed to repeat third grade. During this period I had been watching television until at least 9.30 or 10.00 pm. The Saturday night detective program Boston Blackie didn’t begin until 11.00 pm (TV TIMES). My grandmother decided I needed to begin the new school year by going to bed at 8.30 pm. On that first night I cried myself to sleep as the theme music of Wagon Train (1957-1965) rang throughout the house. I couldn’t comprehend why my grandmother couldn’t understand my affinity with the characters of the program — they were part of my life! What’s more, a new character had entered the series the 58


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previous week; he was a young knock-about character, and his clumsy manner and naïve approach to life held so much promise of adventure and ‘friendship’. To my seven or eight year-old sensibilities it seemed unfair that I should have to go to bed at 8.30, and as a result, miss out on getting to know this new character, not to mention keeping abreast of what the other Wagon Train characters were doing. As a compromise, my grandmother tucked into bed beside me, my replica Smith & Western rifle, to which I added my Gun Smoke (1955-1975) six-shooter, and my new Have Gun Will Travel (1957-1963) long-barrel holster. Living In The Past In the late 1950s, right through the 1960s, a number of family and friends didn’t own a television receiver. There came to pass the most curious of sensations when visiting these households. There was something familiar about these homes that was no longer familiar within my home! Whenever we visited a home that didn’t have a television, there was a sense of going back in time. It was a bit like the memory cues one can have when browsing a second-hand or knick-knack shop, when chancing upon an item that was once central to a domestic activity — the everyday ice-chest, instantly forgotten once the everyday refrigerator took its place, or the record player, now replaced by an everyday iPod. These ‘no-television homes’ held particular memories. The occupants still listened to the wireless (radio) programs that I no longer listened to. Their furniture hadn’t been rearranged to accommodate a television receiver. There was a different internal dynamic operating in these homes; uncle Norm and auntie Grace weren’t readying themselves around the timeslots of The Saint or Wagon Train — though the pros and cons of purchasing a television receiver was often discussed. Uncle Norm worked night shift, he didn’t see the need for a television — auntie Grace thought it might keep her company. Auntie 59 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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Edie said she wouldn’t mind having a television, ‘now that Jim had passed away’; however, auntie Edie was on the pension and couldn’t see how she could afford it. The McDonalds thought they might get one, now that Betty was about to start school. ‘There are so many educational programs on television,’ recited Betty, eyes affixed to her father’s. I remember this moment, because it struck me at the time, that ‘we’ didn’t watch educational programs. I wondered which programs she was talking about? Blurring The Vision At around ten years of age I was becoming interested in Australian Rules football. I remember my father, brother and uncle sitting in our lounge room watching the delayed telecast of the 1961 VFL Grand Final between the Hawthorn and Footscray football clubs. My next clear television-place memory is situated in 1963; the President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy, had been assassinated — I am playing with my toys in the lounge room while watching Channel Nine’s New Faces, when a newsflash announces the assassination, I run to the laundry and tell my grandmother. My memory begins to blur by the time The Beatles toured Australia in 1964. I think I remember seeing them on TV at the time; but was I standing in the lounge room, where my grandmother and I practiced doing the ‘Twist’ to Chubby Checker in 1961, or was I sitting in the dining room? My memory of time and place is well and truly blurred by the time Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969. That is, I can’t say if I remember seeing the original television event, or if my memories of those images are in fact memories of a replay. As I try to remember television events beyond my tenth year, the distinction between the original televised event, as opposed to the replay of that event, has become increasingly difficult to determine. My memory of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon has, like so 60


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many televised events, become blurred as the experience of viewing countless re-plays washes over that first-time instance. With the advent of sophisticated replay and instant archiving technology my memory doesn’t appear to have the capacity to separate the experience of a replayed event from that of viewing the event for the first time; hence unlike my memory of the 1961 football match, I can remember the events I saw on television, but I can’t remember where I was, when I saw them.

Seeing Beyond The Seamless The following exercises provide an insight into directing for both fiction and non-fiction screen. Exercise One: How Many Edits Choose an advertisement that is currently being flogged on any of the commercial networks. Without counting, guess how many edits and special effects are incorporated into the thirty-second piece. As a ‘punter’, an everyday viewer, the producers of the advertisement (any program), don’t want you to notice the edit points or the special effects. A screen-based story is based on a technological-seamless process of camera angles and framing and cutting between shots (editing). As audience, we want to be drawn into the story— we don’t want to see the technology at work. Exercise Two: Slow Motion Record a popular advertisement (the more the better). Now play the advertisement in slow-motion (frame by frame if you can). Count how many edit points there are in the thirty seconds. For example, editing from a wide shot of a person to a close up of that person. Note when Text is overlayed on the footage. Notice how the audio changes: voice, music, etc. 61 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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Exercise Three: One Thousand And One, One Thousand And Two Watch a recorded program, any program on any channel or DVD. Once you have watched the program, rewind to the beginning. As soon as the first shot (Camera Angle and Frame) appear, start counting ‘one thousand and one, one thousand and two, etc. WHY? Counting ‘one thousand and one’ equals (roughly) one second. In most instances, no matter the genre, you will not get past ‘one thousand and three’ before the shot changes (the exception is a talking heads program). When it comes to some music clips and action sequences, you won’t even reach the end of ‘one thousand and one’. Exercise Four: Information Programs Now find a documentary or information program (ABC Four Corners, a segment from the 7.30 Report). Again, use the ‘one thousand and one’ test. Exercise Five: The Sound Of Silence Turn on the television and mute the sound. Zap from channel to channel. Watch a variety of programs: drama, sport, and news, even play school. Notice when the pictorial component is driving the story. Notice how often you can or can’t follow the thread of the story without having the sound/audio audible. There are several factors involved in our ability to read a silent screen story. If you were watching the news with the sound turned down, and you saw images of a flood, as a normal televisually literate viewer you would know that somewhere in the world there had been a flood. You may suspect that the 62


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flood was of a significant magnitude simply because it made it onto national television news. To find out where the flood occurred you might need to turn-up the sound. However, the images have already conveyed the fundamental story. Returning to the flood, the television news story is simply an example: we could have used any other television genre: images of a flood are, images of a flood. Of course, the likelihood of any mention of the ‘flood’ by a television news service is highly dependent upon there being images in the first place: The first time I observed a news conference at a television network, it became obvious to me how important images were to news and information television. In attendance at the morning news conference were the network’s local, state, national and international news editors. What struck me was the fact that the news editors were not talking ‘news’, as I had naively presumed news to be! They were, in fact, talking ‘images’. The international editor pitched a story about ‘great flames in New York’, while the state editor pitched a story about ‘good pictures of a pile-up on the Pacific Highway’. Of course ‘images’ would not have made the agenda if I had attended a program conference at a radio station! But they are important for the screen. The image is just as important in fiction as it is in non-fiction. In a television drama the accompanying audio is often there merely to accentuate the visual storyline. The narrative is being driven by a combination of camera framing, acting and precision editing. Again, we can read the story, or part of, without having the audio turned up. The visual language is, in many dramas and action sequences, powerful enough to take the audience on the desired 63 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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journey. Some sites covering the 1970s Australian film and television chronology The 1970s http://aso.gov.au/chronology/1970s/ Television. AU provides an inside into what we were watching in the 70s http://televisionau.com/timeline/1970-1979 What Wiki says about the 1970s: In the Western world, social progressive values that began in the 1960s, such as increasing political awareness and political and economic liberty of women, continued to grow. The hippie culture, which started in the latter half of the 1960s, waned by the early 1970s and faded towards the middle part of the decade, which involved opposition to the Vietnam War, opposition to nuclear weapons, the advocacy of world peace, and hostility to the authority of government and big business. The environmentalist movement began to increase dramatically in this period. MUSIC The early 1970s saw the rise of many diverse forms of popular and rock musical styles, including jazz rock (aka "fusion"), southern rock, folk rock, and soft rock, with the latter including recording artists such as The Carpenters, Carole King, and James Taylor. It also included the rise of such popular, influential rhythm and blues (R&B) and Motown artists as Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, and The Jackson 5. FILM The highest-grossing film of the decade was Star Wars (1977). Oscar winners of the decade were Patton (1970), The French Connection (1971), The Godfather (1972), 64


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The Sting (1973), The Godfather Part II (1974), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), Rocky (1976), Annie Hall (1977), The Deer Hunter (1978), and Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). The top ten highest-grossing films of the decade are (in order from highest to lowest grossing): Star Wars, Jaws, Grease, The Exorcist, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman, The Godfather, Saturday Night Fever, Rocky, and Jaws 2.[13] Two of these movies came out on the same day, June 16, 1978. Australian Television 1971 18 June: VEW-8 Kalgoorlie begins broadcasting. 13 August: ABD-6 launches as Darwin's first television station. 11 September: ITQ-8 Mount Isa begins broadcasting. 22 November: A Current Affair, hosted by Mike Willesee, makes its first appearance on the Nine Network. 11 November: NTD-8 is officially launched by Administrator of the Northern Territory, Fred Chaney. 1972 13 March: Soap opera Number 96 debuts, heralding the night 'Australian television lost its virginity' 20 March: Brisbane channel BTQ7 claims Australia's first one-hour news bulletin, The Big News 1974 29 August: GSW-9 Albany begins broadcasting as a relay of VEW-8 Kalgoorlie. October: Colour test transmissions begin on Australian television. 8 November: Countdown begins on ABC. 1975 1 March: At midnight, colour television is introduced across the country. The main networks celebrate with their own unique slogan - Come to Colour (ABC TV), 65 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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Seven Colours Your World (Seven Network), Living Colour (Nine Network) and 0 - First in Colour (0-10 Network).[10] 1976 20 November: RTS-5A Loxton launches in the Riverland district. 1977 21 January: GTW-11 Geraldton begins broadcasting, completing the roll-out of regional commercial television across Australia. 24 September: The Victorian Football League Grand Final is broadcast live to viewers in Melbourne for the first time. 1979 11 February: Current affairs program 60 Minutes debuts on the Nine Network. 7 April: The Special Broadcasting Service begins test transmissions on ABV-2 Melbourne and ABN-2 Sydney, with foreign-language programming shown on Sunday mornings. Storytelling for the Screen Reading about the mechanics of storytelling is important and insightful, especially when the material being read is in context with the practical needs of the director. The same is also true of viewing television and film. When you view the screen within the context of a director, there is a great deal to be learnt. Storytelling for the Screen backgrounds the process of the director. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about non-fiction or fiction; the basic ingredients of ‘story’ are the same. The driving force of a story is the question, “what happens next?” (That’s what keeps the audiences’ bum on the seat) 66


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Statement: In most instances, a screen-story works when the events relate to a single subject. Suggestion: Within your niche interest, find a single subject and tell that story. Please Note: Don’t try to tell too much. Rationale: Most screen-stories follow a single theme, thread or line that runs right through the program from beginning to end. Your niche interest may have evolved a number of themes, threads or lines-ofthought and interest: Accessible storytelling usually requires you to choose one aspect of your niche interest. Advice: Don’t try to tell a story about everything your research has discovered. It is usually best to choose a clear line of thought and tell ONE aspect of your research: and tell it well. AUDIENCE: One of many ways of talking about screen-based storytelling is to consider the relationship between the following FOUR dynamics 1) The beginning 2) The middle 3) The end & 4) The audience If you engage the audience at the start, you have a chance they’ll be with you in the end. Remember: if you’ve got the audience at the end, then you had them in the middle. Each of the first three steps, in conjunction with an audience, enables your story to be told. 67 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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Where are the eyes of your audience? In terms of both fiction and non-fiction moviemaking the eyes of your audience are in one place and one place only. They only see what the camera allows them to see (this is where the story is being told. The camera (and audio) determined how the audience follows the story. At first, the statement seems obvious. Yet, time and time again someone new to directing leaves some of the story in his or her head (imagination) and not in front of the camera. That’s why a movie consists of the FOUR dynamics mentioned above. The camera has to be placed somewhere (as you have noticed subconsciously throughout your research). Every clip or movie you’ve watched is based on the camera being placed somewhere: there was nothing stopping the director from pointing the camera in a different direction. HENCE, wherever the camera films, there views the audience. Okay. We’ve got the basics. Now we need to tell the story Principles of storytelling: Make your story clear. Make your story simple (which should not be confused with telling a story to a simpleton!) A story starts somewhere and ends somewhere. What makes it interesting is the CHANGE that takes place and how you, as director, capture that change. That is, by the time the story is over, your audience has to have seen (and heard) a transition: from good to bad or from bad to good, from right to wrong or from how it use to be to how it is now, etc. As a general rule a story begins at the moment of change and completes when the change is complete. It may require some flashbacks, some background 68


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information. Start with the moment of change and work forward, introducing what brought about the change, when required. Statement: Make your ‘intention’ clear Question: What is the intention of your story? Rationale: Once you work that out, don’t deviate. Screen Time When you stop and think about it, very few if any screen stories are told in real time. Rather, they are told in Screen Time. As audience, we want to be told the story expediently. We don’t want ‘our time’ wasted. Nor do we want the Screen Time to race ahead of us. You will have noticed that the Screen Time of the films produced between the 1890s and the 1920s appear very slow. Screen Time is a cultural construct. You must be aware of contemporary Screen Time. The only way to do that is to go back to last week’s exercises and study the screen. Every director I’ve ever met studies the screen. When they sit down to watch TV or Film they are at work; they are studying where the camera has been placed, how the story is edited, etc. For you, as a new director, you must learn to study the screen. The best way is to watch something you like, over and over again. And then watch it again and again. See how a movie you like is told: Beginning, Middle, End (screen-time / change / clarity). Shaping screen-time is one of the central components of directing, of being a screen-based story. Screen-Moments 69 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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In addition to shaping screen-time is the understanding of Screen-Moments. Such screenmoments are created using heightened storytelling through the use of significant images and sounds that heighten and/or accentuate the meaning within the story you are telling. (Make no mistake; creating screen-moments is an Art, not a science) You can only learn about screen-moments by studying the screen, as mentioned above: study the screen. Directing is all about telling stories in pictures and sound. Ask yourself, which is the most economical way of telling my story. (Most likely the programs you like most are being told clearly using clear images and sound.) Remember, the golden rule of filmmaking is show, don't tell. A director should always try to tell a story, no matter how dry the subject matter.

Exercise. Go back to the Seeing Beyond The Seamless chapter on page 61 and delve deeper. Place yourself inside the camera and realise that someone decided to film (exactly) what you are looking at. Ask yourself: why? Some of the answer draws on imagination and other aspects rely on technique, a technique you can acquire by studying the screen. Required Viewing: Your favourite screen-story *Don’t watch it: study it! 70


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The Director as Scriptwriter Words for pictures can be illustrated in comic or serious ways, but they must be proved. So one of your first jobs is to choose the pictures that will prove/show your points in the most imaginative and interesting way. Choosing the pictures to illustrate your script is a vital part of script writing within non-fiction. The combination of the script as ‘text’ with the script as ‘image’ (photo’s, drawings, or computer generated images) is an important pre-production process. The writer-director becomes acutely aware of production restrictions, whereas a scriptwriter has only the boundaries of their imagination to contend with. The director is more likely to have to contend with the reality of transferring words into pictures. If successful, the combination of a well-researched and well-honed script, combined with well-directed sequences, usually produces the finest of stories. However, the combination of script and visuals does not mean that one is obliged to replicate. Radio or print journalism may force the storyteller to produce a more literal commentary on events. However in the hands of an artist, television, film and video can rely on either the image or the audio to counterbalance, embellish, juxtapose, give texture too, and layer a story. For example, a director may utilise narration to create a satirical or sober perspective of the images placed before the public ‘a visual sense of the meaning behind the commentary’. As a director you are required nine times out of ten to make your point with pictures. Hence your script should concentrate on making sure that your story can be represented visually. You may want to start 71 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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making notes about how best you can visually represent the various sequences that are now starting to fall into place. As the writer-director you should also be thinking about the style in which you are going to tell your story. Most stories told in this subject will reflect on films and hence most of the footage has already been shot. In such cases, your task is to ONLY present those aspects of the various films you are discussing, show the audience the actual moments that reflect your niche story: this is a lot harder than it might, at first, seem. If your segment is going to work within the ‘standard’ format, then you will be working with talking heads, cut-aways and actualities. Here, your task is one of choosing when it is the best time, cinematically speaking, to capture the images you will require: Sunset, sunrise or under the midday sun? Location lighting states change. That is, the world looks different at sunrise as opposed to midday, as opposed to sunset. What might render as a clean and bright image in the morning, can turn into a sinister location later in the day, late afternoon shadows will cast a different inference. At other times factual narration might require visually creative interpretation. Often the director will use animation, surreal or docudrama devices to best visually represent the storyline. In situations like the above, the director also needs to think about a sound track. For instance, say you were interviewing an eighty-year-old person, she was telling you about an experience that happened to her seventy years ago. When the old woman was ten years old, the woman found a lost masterpiece in the attic of her grandfather’s summerhouse by the Black Sea. The story is wonderful, the woman looks and sounds great on-camera. However, she takes a long time to tell the story, she continually stops to remember details. When correcting herself she remembers 72


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having removed a dead rat, complete with maggots crawling out of its eyes, from the base of the dusty white sheet covering the painting. Though the interviewee is cinematically pleasing to look at and pleasant to listen too, you have to condense her story. The old lady spoke about the attic, the dead rat and the painting for twenty minutes; unfortunately you have to fit her story into two or so minutes. She has given you a wealth of soundtrack and cinematic opportunities. In order to condense the time in which she actually tells the story, and the program time in which you have to tell the story, you could do the following. You could animate her story with images of little feet climbing the stairs, the creaking of an old door opening, the chomping of maggots, sea gulls and the ocean lapping the shore of the Black Sea. You can film the feet of a little girl ascending a staircase, you can track in on a dead rat, you can have extreme close-ups of the maggots oozing out of a dead rats eye socket. You could have a shot of a little hand pulling back a dusty sheet, accompanied by a subtle musical fanfare as the painting is discovered. You could use some or all of these devices to edit the old lady’s story down to the available storytelling time. The tele-visual aware audience will accept the added soundtrack and images; they know that it is a reenactment. As long as the re-enactment compliments the story and doesn’t in anyway deviate from the spirit of the story, then you have created a legitimate entertaining and informative information segment. Visual resonance is a vital component that no director can ignore. To ignore visual resonance is to rob your program of its ability to create layers of information, to deny it from touching the audience below the surface.

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While there are always exceptions to the rule, it should be remembered that television and YouTube operate in a virtual departure lounge. The audience remote control or mouse in hand - are always on the verge of departing, especially in those early unknown and uncharted first few seconds of a new story. A wise director plays to the audience’s curiosity. They present an intriguing situation and say, ‘watch’: now that we’ve got the first thirty seconds out of the way, you have still got a minute or two while the ink on the contract dries. The audience is curious, their imagination is stimulated, but only so long as they believe there is going to be a pay off. Whether the opening scene in your script contains a narrative statement or question, ‘audio hooks’, or ‘visual hooks’, those ‘hooks’ must assist in quickly establishing where the story is heading. Conventions The opening moments of a story are also a time for setting up the conventions for the program, and it is within these conventions that one can use Rhythm, Pace and Climax, to establish a logical flow. The best advice is, get into the movie fast, establish what you are going to do, then do it. Second, build the movie with a variety of scenes and a gradual crescendo of climaxes. The shaping process that you are now developing follows the fundamentals of almost all tele-visually based programs. While predominantly working in the standard format of Beginning, Middle and End, the director is wise to establish a series of rising climaxes. Soap programs like ‘The Days Of Our Lives’ use this method to overkill - nearly every ad-break for the past twenty something years has been foreshadowed by a rising climax - it would appear that the method works! 74


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We are working in an entertainment medium, and to that end, even if our subject matter is of a deadly serous nature, the director needs to keep the storyline progressing. Visually, we can aid this by creating a variety of locations. The need for variety between scenes is a point that bears repetition. This is especially true if you are dealing with an intense subject. If you can find devices to release the tension - giving your audience time to reflect before the next intense movement - then your work has more chance of succeeding. Finding a conclusion to your program is often a difficult logistic to resolve. You’ve worked hard to get your potential audience interested, you’ve developed a series of crescendos to keep them tuned-in, and now you’ve got to abide by the hourglass and get them out the door as efficiently as you got them in. Your story will be, ideally, based on rigorous production research and in depth self-reflexive analysis. Whether based on rigorous research or the need to fill a program hole, there is little or no substitute for creative imagination. Non-fiction television, film and video are not required to be dull or painstakingly boring, they don’t have to be tedious. While there will always be a place for the sober factual film, there is a need for it to be presented in creative and ingenious ways. First draft Before one can begin a script, a director must settle on some basic storytelling devices: approach, style, form and structure. The approach one takes is vital in setting up your directing style. A tried and true storytelling device is that of the character-based story - ‘truth’ being stranger than ‘fiction’! A character may provide worth, empathy, and identification to a story. The director has to also be aware of the pitfalls characters can bring to a program. While ‘engaging’ characters facilitate an 75 Bruce Graham Fell (PhD)


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entertaining program, the director has to be careful that the character/s don’t detrimentally dominate the program. An engaging character can entertain to the detriment of passing on important, deeper, and more meaningful information. Yet in saying that, often an engaging character can enable a director to give shape to an otherwise ‘seemingly’ formless event. It’s hard to avoid the fact that some viewers will perceive the ‘engaging character’ as typical. Consequently, you are faced with the ongoing directorial challenge of constructing a balanced and considered representation. Shaping your script is heavily reliant on building a frame, constructing a skeleton upon which you can build the body of the story. For example, a successful pop song relies on the public’s ability to catch on to what is being placed before them. In popular music, this usually requires a ‘hook’. In simple terms - this is a musical or lyric based construction that we can easily remember and repeat. Journalists and television executive producers are always talking about the stories ‘angle’, or its ‘hook’. Getting a ‘handle’, or finding the right ‘angle’ to a story, is not an easy or obvious process that has simple solutions or magic formulas. The perspective the director takes in the telling of the story is all-important. Each director has to struggle with each film until they find the key, the spine to build the story around. Directing and scriptwriting are not an exact science; there will never be one perfect approach. We all view the landscape from different perspectives; consequently there will always be new interpretations of and ways of telling stories and events. Even within ourselves, as storytellers, we have mood swings, moments where one perspective occupies our thoughts more than another. Some 76


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days are good, and some days are not so good. Consequently we can reject yesterday’s idea, only to find that tomorrow we reject the brilliant idea we are having today, only to accept yesterday’s rejected idea once again! As a director you have to be receptive to all those ideas, and have faith in yourself that, in the end, equilibrium will be reached. The chances are that there are good points and bad points in yesterday, today and tomorrow’s ideas — have faith in yourself to meld them into the final program. While there is no prescribed or sanctioned way of directing a non-fiction story, a ‘style’ is vital. Once the director has agreed upon a style, then they can more easily develop the overall progression of the program. However, at this stage the director is still shaping the film, the first draft is still a collection of doodles, vegemite sandwiches and empty coffee cups. There are still no boundaries — the program can still go anywhere. Finally, spare a thought for fantasy, humour, farce and parody as communication tools.

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