Sunday, November 02, 2003

doco vs drama

A comment by Sedgwick on the Seabiscuit doco:
Fear that the Hollywood version will be aimed at gratuitously ratcheting up the Kleenex usage many fold.
pre-empted today's post which was forming in brain inside car yesterday as we took our regular saturday sunday-drive through the sprawling suburbs.
boynton suspects that the new film will be pushing to match the pure drama of the documentary. By pure perhaps I mean authentic - even though such authencity is clearly and covertly manipulated by the assorted trickery of documentary. But like Quiz Show, boynton predicts that it will be the doco that will be more resonant, even more emotional. I really enjoyed the 94 movie and the shift into a dramatic reading, going with the non-likeness dissonance of casting into that other layer of complexity that fiction offers. But I have watched the documentary a number of times since and still find it (more) absorbing. Perhaps that story was perfectly suited to the form having originated and evolved in front of cameras in television studios. Likewise, any Hollywood film of Seabiscuit has to contend with the abundant newsreel footage (which is in much greater supply than that documenting Phar Lap, but then the stuffed racehorse encased in the Melbourne Museum is one mighty iconic relic to take on and mess about with dramatically for card carrying members of nit-pickers inc.)
This may indeed be an emerging preference which is rather confronting for someone who has traded on drama once upon a time. Maybe it's just that there are certain times when the appeal of non-fiction temporarily holds sway - even though there is always the tacit faith in the power of fiction and drama to transform reality.
The work of Bob Connolly and (the late) Robin Anderson is perhaps one local example of documentary doing drama better than the drama department, and the working methodology seems similar:

"What we do is, basically, we look for a really interesting character, and not a hero or a heroine or anything like that, just someone who is gutsy and sensitive and interesting. Dramatically interesting. And we look for a situation — usually involving potential conflict ... a complex one, and a sort of a threat of some sort of conflict, and then we just basically say, well, we think it's our hunch, and I think it's sort of half analysis and half intuition, that with this person and this situation, something is going to happen during the year," says Bob Connolly. (source)

And Ian David who writes both drama and doco-drama reflects:
... For me it's important to let the facts get in the way of a good story, because that's what gives the story its essential power

and in this absorbing Film Australia conversation Ken Burns acknowldeges the tricks and confesses to sometimes walking close to the line for that higher truth, while affirming:

the power in the individual image to convey complex information and the fact that there is so much more drama in what is and was, by extension, that anything that the human imagination dreams up, in essence as Shelby Foot later told me that God is the greatest dramatist...

Big Call. Probably should be the last word but boynton couldn't resist puting the issue to a digital diiviner. Drama wins.

Comments: doco vs. drama

What with being up late last night agonising over which four-legged creature would be annointed by the contents of my wallet I happened to watch "The Making of Seabiscuit". Oh dear, oh drear.

I don't think I shall be shelling out for a ticket.(Assuming I have the wherewithal to so shell after something under 20/1 wins the Cup) Much like there are some poets shouldn't read their own poetry, some people behind the camera should stay there. Pathos to bathos in one fell sweeping hyperbolic statement after another.

Not sure whether in the course of this raft of "I've always wanted to act with ...", "This is a role ... was born to play ..." "Yes, the horse is from the Stanislavsky school of hard knocks" the term "feel good movie" was given an early morning track gallop or not, but come the big day I can see it bursting out of the starting gates at top speed when the critics hit the keyboards.
Posted by Sedgwick at November 4, 2003 07:01 AM

caught a half-head or a nose of the show myself before switching. Never one for the 'making of' genre. May just go to the film, stranger things have happened. Missed National Velvet at noon yesterday.
Posted by boynton at November 4, 2003 10:01 AM

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