Documentaries: Students as Recorders of Reality

Documentaries allow students to research and tell a story.  This is the most challenging of the genres in that it requires depth of knowledge of the subject and the ability to represent that knowledge honestly and fairly on video.

Research is an important part of this project.  Interviews are frequently necessary, and the students need to be prepared with a list of questions and a firm understanding of the issues before the interview takes place so that no one’s time is wasted.

Documentaries also allow the students to view a familiar subject from a new perspective. A group of high school students decided to create a documentary on the people behind the scenes at the school.  It turned out to be a rewarding experience for everyone, since the students highlighted and learned about individuals who do not otherwise get much recognition.  The individuals interviewed were honored to be recognized, and, as one of the video crew commented, “All we had to do was point a camera at them and ask them what they do, and they talked and talked.  The problem was choosing what to take out.”

Another group of high school students did a documentary on life in the junior kindergarten program at their school.  This assignment involved the crew’s becoming familiar with the daily routine and educational objectives of the junior kindergarten and shooting a couple of hours of video from a low angle to simulate the vantage point of a four-year old.  High school students representing the school from the perspective of a junior kindergartner turned out to be enlightening and enjoyable and taught them a lesson in the power of perspective.