Ten glimpses into the crystal ball: the future of documentary

crystalI’ve been contemplating the evolution of the documentary this summer and I was delighted to see that The MediaGuardian’s recent Sheffield Doc/Fest 2011 coverage includes ten articles providing a refreshing perspective on how documentary makers are finding new ways to reach their audience. These articles provide a view into a crystal ball in which we can begin to see a vision of the future. Here are links to the articles, worthwhile reading and a good starting point for further reflection and discussion.

Social media influences documentary-makers
Social media have had a truly revolutionary effect, enabling film-makers and citizens to disseminate their own stories

Adam Curtis: happy to be different
The maker of classic documentary series such as The Trap and The Power Of Nightmares believes he is still learning his trade

New technology opens up documentary-making
Recording devices are always evolving – from 16mm cameras to iPad apps – offering film-makers the chance to innovate

Jay Hunt: Social media promotes a better viewer experience
Using multiplatform and social media is an incredibly important part of what we’re doing at Channel 4

Can you make a film and a profit?
Making money from documentaries is no easy task, but there are some business models that are generating revenues online

How the internet is galvanising support for social justice documentaries
Films that form part of a campaign for social justice are regularly appearing online – greatly increasing their reach and impact

Tools of attraction: creating multimedia content for games and TV shows
Audiences now expect stories to be told in new ways across different platforms, but commissioners often fail to produce compelling ‘transmedia’ content

The impact of Twitter on TV shows
For producers, posts on Facebook and Twitter are seen as indicators of success – but do they influence ratings?

BBC documentary boss wants programmes that do more than entertain
Commissioning editor Charlotte Moore favours quality and craft over feelgood and populist

Steve James hails a ‘golden age of documentary film-making’
Prior to his visit to the Sheffield International Documentary Film Festival, director says attitudes towards docs have changed

Image credit: Crystal Castles by Frogman (2008).


  1. says

    thanks for these articles David. This will make some nice summer reading – and there’s a lot more on your site. By the way, for New Day Films (a doc distribution collective) I do an annual in-depth survey of end-users, in other words, of customers. New Day distributes only to institutions, so, mostly to high schools, colleges, universities. We are really pushing streaming and we have a good website: New Day Digital. But what we’re finding when we talk to the people who actually buy our films is that the institutions are moving very slowly and cautiously into streaming, though they all believe it’s what’s coming. In this case, the media makers are leading the institutional consumers (as opposed to the individual consumers, who are moving much faster.)