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Developing Factual Ideas

Asif Kapadia Explains Why Senna Isn’t a Documentary

When you pitch a TV show you have to be able to describe it so that potential funders know what you are talking about. One way of doing that is to use short-hand words, such as format, reality competition show, or more recently occu-reality (shows based in the work place) and comedy-reality (real characters in real situations, cut for humour).

One of the most contested genres is documentary with purists insisting that it is one thing (pure observation with no intervention from the director, perhaps) to others playing more fast and loose with the term, happy to include biopics, essay-films and character-driven narratives.

Here, Asif Kapadia, director of Senna, one of 2011′s best documentaries, explains why he doesn’t consider it to be a documentary even though that’s exactly what it looks like to the audience:

In Documentaries at IDFA 2012: A Health Warning I attempted to classify different documentaries into a number of types and came up with five main types: contemporary history using eyewitness testimony/archive; underdog/struggle against the odds; investigation/quest; observational/unfolding narrative and ensemble portraits linked by a single geographical place. In hindsight, Senna could stake a claim to each of these categories to a greater or lesser extent. Perhaps this breadth of storytelling themes within one film was what contributed to its wide appeal?

 

Nicola Lees (8590 Posts)

I have worked in the media - radio & TV, production and post-production - for more than fifteen years. I have extensive experience as a TV development producer, and have originated, developed, written and pitched proposals for award-winning documentaries, docu-dramas and interactive TV events for a range of UK and US channels, including BBC, Discovery, TLC, Travel Channel and Science Channel. I'm the founder of TVMole.com, a website that provides industry intelligence to help TV professionals and aspiring filmmakers get their programme ideas commissioned. I've written two books for Methuen Drama/Bloomsbury: Give Me the Money and I'll Shoot! Finance Your Factual TV/Film Project (2012) Greenlit: Developing Factual / Reality TV Ideas From Concept to Pitch (2010) I've produced industry panels for Televisual's Intelligent Factual Festival (2010) and am a regular speaker at universities and film festivals (e.g. Sheffield Doc/Fest, Open City Docs Fest, Northern Nights Film Festival, Televisual Intelligent Factual Festival, Broadcast Video Expo). I've served on several film festival juries, including: FD4W International Film Festival, WFTV Awards, Northern Nights Film Festival and TV Collective Film Night at Portobello Film Festival.


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