Introduction to Documentary, Third Edition

Introduction to Documentary, Third Edition

Bill Nichols
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 03/27/2017
ISBN: 978-0-253-02690-3
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The third edition of Bill Nichols’s best-selling text provides an up-to-date introduction to the most important issues in documentary history and criticism. A new chapter, "I Want to Make a Documentary: Where Do I Start?" guides readers through the steps of planning and preproduction and includes an example of a project proposal for a film that went on to win awards at major festivals. Designed for students in any field that makes use of visual evidence and persuasive strategies, Introduction to Documentary identifies the genre’s distinguishing qualities and teaches the viewer how to read documentary film. Each chapter takes up a discrete question, from "How did documentary filmmaking get started?" to "Why are ethical issues central to documentary filmmaking?" Here Nichols has fully rewritten each chapter for greater clarity and ease of use, including revised discussions of earlier films and new commentary on dozens of recent films from The Cove to The Act of Killing and from Gasland to Restrepo.

Author Bio

Bill Nichols is Professor Emeritus of Cinema at San Francisco State University. He is author of Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary (IUP), Blurred Boundaries: Questions of Meaning in Contemporary Culture (IUP), and Speaking Truths with Film: Evidence, Ethics, Politics in Documentary.


“Documentary film has never been more popular - nor creatively complex - and Bill Nichols’s book gives a concise over-view of the genre while tackling the important ideas, issues, and conundrums that we as filmmakers all face.”
 — Mark Lewis, Filmmaker

“This new edition of Introduction to Documentary is incisive and magisterial, a brilliantly organized and ambitious analysis of that enigmatic, open-ended, and vital are of cinema in which reality is not so much documented as transformed. Nichols addresses with ambition and humility all the key questions about what happens — ethically, aesthetically, and politically — when real people agree to play themselves, and collaborate with the filmmaker to transform their lives for the screen.”
 — Joshua Oppenheimer, Director, Producer, Filmmaker

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Table of Contents

1. How Can We Define Documentary Film?
2. Why Are Ethical Issues Central to Documentary Filmmaking?
3. What Gives Documentaries a Voice of Their Own?
4. What Makes Documentaries Engaging and Persuasive?
5. How Did Documentary Filmmaking Get Started?
6. How Can We Differentiate among Documentary Models and Modes? What Are the Poetic, Expository, and Reflexive Modes?
7. How Can We Describe the Observational, Participatory, and Performative Modes of Documentary Film?
8. How Have Documentaries Addressed Social and Political Issues?
9. How Can We Write Effectively about Documentary?
10. I Want to Make a Documentary. Where Do I Start?
Appendix A: Sample Film Project Proposal: Sex with Sam
Notes on Source Material