Recently, there have been what seems like an explosion of “mockumentary” shows on TV and in film. These shows share many aspects of a documentary, such as using interviews to comment on action, use of tracking shots and camera movement, or long, uncut shots to capture action, etc. All of this makes the viewer think that what they are watching is reality when it is actually completely scripted. This activity will teach students to identify the types of filming techniques in a documentary and analyze the use of these techniques in a mockumentary.
Students will be shown a short 5-10 minute clip of a documentary film. While watching, students will be asked to record any types of filming techniques they noticed. What types of camera shots were used? Pan shots? Tracking shots? In what places were voice-overs or interviews used? How were clips edited together?
After viewing the first clip, students will discuss and share what they noticed and record a list on the board. Keeping this list in mind, students will then be shown a 5-10 minute clip of a mockumentary such as The Office or Modern Family. After viewing, students will be asked to list any film techniques from the documentary that they noticed were used in the mockumentary. They will then compare the techniques used in the documentary and mockumentary: What was happening in the TV show when these techniques were used? Does it have the same effect when used in the mockumentary as it did in the documentary? Were there some techniques that were used in the documentary that weren’t in the mockumentary? Or Vice versa? Why?
This activity will force students to notice the filming techniques used in documentaries and mockumentaries. It will hopefully give them a better understanding of how various filming techniques can impact a documentary. It will also allow them to see how these same techniques could be scripted into a mockumentary and how these scripted techniques can affect the mockumentary in similar (or dissimilar) ways.
Extra: Clips from reality shows can also be shown. Students can compare the filming techniques used in reality shows to those of documentaries and mockumentaries to see how meaning is made in reality shows using similar filming techniques.