Gathering the Story: Documentary Film Research and Data Collection


The documentary film genre is a powerful and influential information and communication medium that educates, “embraces difference,” inspires, and motivates its audience. Its increasing utilization in education timely coincides with technological advances in film and video production today. What has historically been a prohibitive undertaking is now a progressively egalitarian vocation using inexpensive equipment and software. Yet the literature on the research and collection aspect of documentary filmmaking, which is crucial to the production process, is still limited. This qualitative study explores professional documentary filmmakers’ experiences with research and data collection. A motivational model served as the framework to develop and design the instrument, as well as data analysis. The questions were reviewed by three researchers, and a pilot test was conducted with a veteran filmmaker. Eleven professional documentary filmmakers in the Asia-Pacific region were interviewed using a purposeful sampling. Journaling, field notes, and observations were used in addition to the in-depth interviews. After analysis and interpretation were completed, five major themes emerged on how the filmmakers approached research and data collection for documentary film: 1) do the research, 2) tell the story visually, 3) find strong characters, 4) support universal themes, and 5) relate to your audience. This research uniquely summarized the knowledge and experiences of professional filmmakers acquired from the actual filmmaking process. These significant results provide relevant and important information for beginner and student filmmakers learning about and exploring documentary film. This study was designed to contribute to the practice and literature of documentary film research and studies, data collection and education.

Author Information
Patsy Iwasaki, University of Hawaii at Manoa, United States

Paper Information
Conference: MediAsia2020
Stream: Film Direction and Production

This paper is part of the MediAsia2020 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Iwasaki P. (2021) Gathering the Story: Documentary Film Research and Data Collection ISSN: 2186-5906 – The Asian Conference on Media, Communication & Film 2020: Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon