“Altruistic filmmaking” as a phenomenon in documentary filmmaking: A study of the production-related and stylistic devices and differentiators in altruistic films that make charity missions possible

Zdunnek, Mark Volker (2023) “Altruistic filmmaking” as a phenomenon in documentary filmmaking: A study of the production-related and stylistic devices and differentiators in altruistic films that make charity missions possible. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire. doi:10.46289/7Z3A2T6R7

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This doctoral thesis is the first approach to describe the emergence of a new phenomenon, subgenre or format in hybrid documentaries and create a framework of the combination of process-related and stylistic denominators (and underlying facilitating technological factors) to describe it: charity or more specific “altruistic filmmaking”. Based on the historical development of documentary theory and in the research neighbourhood of “video activism” (e.g. cf. Cizek, 2006; Zimmermann, 2009; Askanius, 2014; Mateos & Gaona, 2015; Hoffmann, 2019), this research project aims to delineate the evolution of a new hybrid documentary format in the modern documentary as a frameset. The project includes this theoretical part and an “altruistic documentary” production to support the Rotary Action Group for Reproductive, Maternal and Child Health (RMCH), formerly known as the Rotarian Action Group for Population and Development (RFPD). The film illuminates their comprehensive Maternal and Child Health (MCH) projects in Nigeria as an artefact of professional film practice. In a reciprocally influenced process that I reflected upon over many years, as this thesis’ author and documentarian, I produced, directed and filmed a documentary called Rotary Action for Maternal & Child Health (2013 – 2021) for a charitable cause. It intends to serve as an example or possible representative of “altruistic filmmaking” as a “practice in development” and is deeply entwined and coherent with the framework as a workpiece for demonstration and classification. Commonalities, deviations and symbiotic descriptive patterns additionally exploring biases, stereotypes, and multitudinous factors could thus be illuminated. The research project is a combined effort that juxtaposes and conjuncts findings from theory, film examples, pertinent case studies and my documentary. It reflects the professional practice and results from theory in a gradual, mutually influential process. By synthesising the latest developments in film technology, this theoretical part comprises an overview of their most significant facilitating impacts on style, process and protagonists and mentions aspects for the future outlook. This thesis encompasses the description of imagery features (e.g. immediate, faster, sophisticated effect design, and more) resulting from transformational new technologies (e.g. cf. Hoffmann, 2006; Götzke & Knüppel, 2009) and their implications as centre-stage theoretical components compiled jointly with the literature-review as a collection of the current body of knowledge in the field of approach, style and aesthetics of hybrid documentary (and “video activism”, e.g. cf. Askanius, 2013). It subsequently seeks to use a genre-specific system to explain basic deconstructive film analytic and semiotic features (e.g. camera concept, montage, rhetoric and cognitive influencing factors) within the genre topology and visual language to formulate the vertices of the “altruistic filmmaking” format description. By linking elements of film aesthetics and stylistic devices with the production process, the thesis summarises changes in the process, effects and special techniques (e.g. observational, interfering, manipulative; see discussions on relevant authors, e.g. Nichols, 1985a concerning the “observational mode” and “Direct Cinema”). Furthermore, with the help of an aggregation of selected landmark cases, the thesis carves out topics and effects of altruistic filmmaking. In unison, the thesis highlights utilising principles as applicable techniques such as the “baby schema” (“Kindchenschema”) (e.g. Lorenz, 1971), various patterns, symbolisms and metaphorical expressions. The research also elaborates on content-linked elements of “persuasion” (e.g. cf. Cialdini, 2007, 2016, 2021; Borchers, 2013) and possible “emotional responses” (e.g. cf. Smith, 1994, 2004) and effects on audiences as descriptive characteristics within this newly researched framework of charity filmmaking, which intends to be helpful as a compendium of potent practical tools. As its central result, the thesis concludes with a systematic and multi-layered framework that delimits and explicates charity filmmaking within hybrid documentaries. The conclusion also delineates wide-ranging implications, portrays altruistic filmmaking as a phenomenon and circumscribes its topology, unique characteristics, allocations and avenues for further research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Griffiths, Robinrgriffiths@glos.ac.ukUNSPECIFIED
Zinder, Paulpzinder@glos.ac.ukhttps://www.glos.ac.uk/staff/profile/paul-zinder/
Uncontrolled Keywords: Documentary filmmaking; Altruistic filmmaking; Charity filmmaking; Video activitism
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1995.9.DN Documentary Films
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creative Arts
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2024 09:24
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2024 12:25
URI: https://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/14173

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