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Using Non Related Footage in Documentary


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#1 Sean Fleck

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Posted 13 December 2016 - 03:09 PM

Hello

 

I am working on a documentary about the Mojave Desert and was wondering if it is acceptable to use non related footage in the sequence. 

 

Example - one of the short segments is about a forest fire that happened in the desert.  I have many shots of the event, but they all look the same.  If I included footage of fires / firefighters that happened at a different time / location is this acceptable? 

 

Thank you

Sean

 


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#2 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 13 December 2016 - 05:44 PM

Many documentaries use library footage. As long as there is no intent to deceive, or to construct a narrative that is untrue, I don't see the harm.


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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 December 2016 - 06:57 PM

It's an ethical grey area to be sure, it all depends on much of a purist you are.  I seem to recall some famous documentary getting into trouble when they lifted crowd scenes from a different 60's Civil Rights event than the one being discussed at that moment even though there was nothing particularly misleading or inaccurate in the depiction.

 

It happens all the time in a WW2 documentary, for example -- the doc talks about the Nazis invading Poland and they cut to b&w footage of German tanks rumbling down a road that may or may not have been from the invasion of Poland.

 

Today you see many mass-produced docs for TV that mix reenactments with stock footage to tell the story.

 

I'd talk to a documentarian...

 

I went to a roundtable discussion on the use of reenactments over at the Academy with Werner Herzog in the group and at some point he said "I'm not interested in an accountant's version of the truth" meaning that it was more important that the documentary be dedicated to the inner truth of the situation rather than be strictly factual in terms of the footage. But another documentarian disagreed with him, felt that you shouldn't lift footage from a different event as if it were shot for the event being discussed.


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#4 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 14 December 2016 - 09:44 AM

If there's a part where your interview is saying "And all the firemen rushed to take care of the problem" and you have footage of said firetrucks (not for that fire) I don't see much of a problem.

 

I'd say the only time it's okay to show visuals which aren't directly displaying the current speaking subject, is when that "unrelated" footage is still taken from the general subject of the documentary.

 

But never do footage which is both not from the subject at hand and not related to the current words playing on the speakers. You break both of those and your picture becomes somewhat of a parody of itself.


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