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The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media
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Old April 18th, 2004, 03:41 PM   #1
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Reality shows good or bad for industry?

I have a question for any working documentarians out there. Has the explosion of all these reality shows made your life harder or easier? I could see how these shows could spark an increased appetite for non-fiction programming, which seems like it would mean increased work and opportunity, but all these shows clearly break every rule for objectivity. Does it make it harder to pitch serious projects? So much of what is on prime time television is contrived, and edited to manipulate the audience's perception. I don't really have a problem with that, because it doesn't pretend to be anything but entertainment, but I was just wondering if it puts pressure on people shooting "real" documentaries to jazz it up a bit. I'm not questioning anybody's ethics, at least not the filmmakers themselves -- but I can see producers and investors demanding the kind of neatly developed dramatic arcs with colorful villians they're used to seeing on network TV.
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Old April 18th, 2004, 08:15 PM   #2
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Reality TV is not documentary.

A true documentary presents the events and the facts as they occur. The final product is left up to the Director/Editor and their work ethics, meaning...did they cut the piece objectively or subjectively?

All of today's Reality TV is not reality at all. It is what the producers want you to see and the way they want you to perceive their version of the story being presented. It all has to do with the almighty $$$ and whether you will tune in next week as a "paying" viewer.

I don't think that true documentarians have too much to worry about. Real life villains are way more warped and "colorful" than most people can imagine.

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Old April 18th, 2004, 10:19 PM   #3
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Yeah, that's kind of my point. I'm asking if the growing acceptance of the standards, or lack of them, in so-called reality programming is putting pressure on people shooting legitimate documentaries to compromise their standards. I think we've definitely seen it news magazine shows that don't even bother to identify re-enactments anymore.
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Old April 19th, 2004, 08:37 AM   #4
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This subject was addressed indirectly on the panel for politics in film at SXSW. There were two points that I came to understand from this discussion.

1) Political documentaries (and to a certain extent, all documentaries are "political") have little to no effect on the public perception of an issue. They usually wind up preaching to the choir. (I suspect there were very few republicans in the audience of "Bush's Brain".) Though, this does not prevent them from being an artistic or financial success - provided the choir is large enough.

2)So called "reality" programming is good for documentarians, in as much as the general public is now open to looking at "non fiction" stories, and are more tolerant of "on the fly" camera shots and sound issues.

Just some observations on my part.
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Old April 19th, 2004, 04:24 PM   #5
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I couldn't stand them, then I started watching Americas Next Top Model. If only they shot in HD.
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Old April 21st, 2004, 04:21 AM   #6
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Bad, because they think this is all the audience wants and good
shows like Wonderfalls...

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Old April 22nd, 2004, 12:47 AM   #7
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I don't typically like the Reality Shows butstill watch Survivor. The rest are kind of 'sensational'.
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Old April 25th, 2004, 01:14 PM   #8
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I have spoken with many of my friends and colleagues with regard to these "reality shows". These bear no resemblance to reality as experienced by us. By way of example, I don't recall any friend having to appear on national TV to confess having a new significant other, whilst in the presence of the current significant other....pleeeeease. And wait, not only do you get this stunning confession but you also are "entertained" by beeped foul language and a futile attempt by the jilted lover to beat up all and sundry whilst being cheered on by the chant Jerry Jerry.

In my humble opinion reality shows are often nothing more than a dredging of the barrel. Do programs like that reflect most peoples reality? I would prefer to have nothing to do "reality" as depicted on TV. My reality is about positive values that occur within average families (not without their problems mind).

Hey before you think i'm overly righteous, I too have watched one and a half episodes of Jerry in amazement and revulsion, have not seen another since. I too have watched Survivor and enjoyed the first couple of episodes until I realised that survival was not about physical survival but about ones ability to scheme and make false alliences with false people. If thats reality then I am lost and seriously need to get with it.

Wife called me in amazement to watch the last half of a reality program that she had discovered whilst channel surfing. The program appeared to try nail adulterers caught in the act, can't remember the program name. When will people stop getting off on others misfortunes?

For me irrespective of the camera work, soundtrack or anchor, without a good subject you have ziltch in my opinion.

Probably the mosty startling thing for me about my rant is that I am probably in the minority. I'll bet for every one of me there are two who gets their kicks from "reality TV", that's leaves me seriously outnumbered, but will still stick to my principles.

Wheeew, that feels better now, my therapist will be proud of me.

To answer the original question, probably it is harder to achieve. You need to produce work of such a high standard to cut through the mumbo jumbo crud. A good documentary on a good subject still beats any thing on offer for me.

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