Monthly Archives: April 2009

Race and ethnicity of narration

I recently stumbled across a POV blog entry by Tom Roston about the race of narrators and whether or not this is a conscious choice. 

Roson mentions March of the Penguins narrated by Morgan Freeman and Disney Nature‘s Earth narrated by James Earl Jones

Roson asks, “Isn’t it interesting that three of the most Hollywood-y nature docs of the past five years are all narrated by African Americans?” Ronson wonders if “there is something else going on.”

I’m still an amateur in the film business, but I think there are many reasons why this trend is seen.

One aspect, I believe, is due to the sound of African American voices. It’s similar to the American shows using hosts or narrators with English accents. 

Consider Nancy Giles, “Sunday Morning” commentator, who does a slew of commercial voice overs.

James Earl Jones, I’d say, has a pretty popular voice because of the way it sounds.

Next, consider “the times.” I think TV and film is becoming more diverse, but there certainly is along way to go.

Yes, part of the reason why media, especially the commercial, has become more diverse is because a wider audience can be attracted and reached. The motive might be to sell more, but the upside is that a diverse audience is included in the production process.

I don’t see a problem with using diverse narrators. It’s a great thing. 

If the voice fits, it fits.

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If you aren’t much of a hipster and you aren’t too much down with the times, you probably don’t know what mumblecore is. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what it was up until a few weeks ago when I read “Next Big Film Has a Premiere in Your Living Room” by David Carr for a media critcism course.

Mumblecore is a new independent film movement, apparently. 

According to J. Hoberman of The Village Voice, mumblecore comprises of mostly white twenty-year-olds, independent movies shot on DV, have a run time of around 80 minutes, and overall the look is rough around the edges; the criteria is never-ending.

Sounds like a documentary I’m making…

I’m just wondering where documentaries fit into all this, if they do at all.

Filmmaker Magazine’s Alicia Van Couvering writes, “If we’re going to generalize, we might say that generally these films are severely naturalistic portraits of the life and loves of artistic twentysomethings. The genre’s ultra-casual, low-fi style has been simmering for the last decade, made possible by the accessibility of DV and inspired as much by reality shows and YouTube confessionals as by earlier American independent cinema.”

According to Andre Soares of the Alternative Film GuideDavid Denby believes Funny Ha Ha by Andrew Bujalski is the first mumblecore film. Others, so I have been learning, agree. It’s also been described as having a documentary feel.

Joe Swanberg is another mumblecore director. His most recent film is Alexander the Last. He seems to be getting a lot of publicity and is hitting it big in the mumblecore scene. Every time I go to my local video rental store, Captain Video, I see his film LOL on display. I’m always tempted to rent it, but I always opt for the docs.

I haven’t seen any Swanson films, or any of these so-called mumblecore flicks. Fiction is not really my thing.

I keep searching and searching and have yet to find any documentary that could be considered mumblecore.

It seems, from the movement’s description, mumblecore films are based on reality. Mumblecore seems to be realism, but faster moving. It seems emo (forgive me if the term is offensive), but more cynical. 

Are reality shows mumblecore? The subjects can be self-interested and starving for attention and have real problems; obviously they are over dramatized. If the drama is real, is it not a documentary? What about other documentaries that use life realities as the story? There sure are a lot of documentaries that do. Consider all those documentaries that follow people’s lives for a given period of time.

I’m still not sure if documentaries fit in this genre, but it seems the only difference between mumblecore films and documentaries is fiction and fact.

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Product endorsement and breaking the news update

I just want to point out Frontline’s journalistic standards, as they pertain to my previous post, “Product endorsement and breaking the news.”

Frontline is an award winning news documentary program, which broadcasts nationally.

Part of the news-breaking-battle is the sponsorship and advertisers and the story being reported.

Here is an excerpt from Frontline’s Web site:

“…Once a project is funded, producers should try and avoid contact with funders except for promotional purposes. Sometimes, however, projects come to WGBH after independent producers have already had discussions with funders. In those cases the producer is obligated to disclose to the Executive Producer the nature of those conversations and to keep the Executive Producer informed of any future ones.” 

(“Funding a Program” 11.)

The program has many more guidelines, which pertain to the ethics of journalism.


I’m working to find more journalism ethics and guidelines from major media outlets. Let me know if you know of any. Please feel free to comment.

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