Developing documentary film practice as an academic methodology

This source preferred by Trevor Hearing

Authors: Hearing, T.

http://www.adm.heacademy.ac.uk/events/biographies-of-chairs-and-discussion-summaries/trevor-hearing

Start date: 11 May 2007

Publisher: ADM HEA

In this film I explore ways in which I can use documentary video as a “creative academic research tool”. What might this academic tool look like, what new methodologies of investigation and reflection might be developed using video, and how might it differ from the industrial conventions of broadcast documentary video? Might the changing context of documentary production and exhibition and the advent of new media platforms offer new opportunities for the academic use of documentary video as a method of research and as the means of expression of the knowledge gained? In examining these questions I focus on the idea of “witness” as a conceptual tool in “documentary”.

In the video I take a documentary project which began life as a development for Channel 4’s Secret History series and consider how the transformation of this project, from an aborted broadcast project to an academic historical investigation into the early history of nuclear warfare, also reflects my own evolution from television producer to academic film-maker. I consider how my professional career, and more recent reflective activity in a university context, has led me to question how can I develop a more complex “writing” with video to articulate a more complex understanding of the world, by redefining my practice as a form of academic research. My journey, from the broadcast industry imperative of making simple to comprehending the value the academy places on complexity and contradiction, is illustrated by this project, as I leave the certainties of resolution behind and learn to live with the doubt engendered by critical practice.

I question what is hindering the development of visual literacy as an accepted form of engagement in the academic environment. Is it that we need to learn new forms of articulation? Do we need new models of practice? Do we need to acquire new skills? Is it the taint of popular culture in the visual arena that is holding us back? Or is it the conservatism of an academy that does not have the confidence to move beyond words in delivering “papers”?

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