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How Social Media has Changed Documentary Filmmaking

The ultimate aim of all film-makers is to connect with their target audience. That’s the same for producers of documentary films. It is to capture the essence of life as it happens and then putting it on film to be edited at the studio and then after months of laborious post production, they market these documentary masterpieces to television networks in the hope of a commercial buy-in. The way these documentaries are produced have always factored in the commercial value of content that drives television viewership.

That has since changed with social media taking center-stage and causing an upheaval on what is traditionally the turf of television stations. These television networksare realizing also the impact of new media on how television programming should be done in order to cater to a fickle video content consumer. A major bulk of television viewers have since switched to popular video sharing platforms like YouTube for their video content needs, thus signaling that the future of television programming might be channeled towards Internet TV. Viewers decide what and when they want to watch their programs and practice self-moderation and self-censorship as to the kind of content to be consumed. In a community of like-minded individuals, this marks a shift in the way film-makers direct their documentaries and content that they want to communicate to their audiences.

The beauty of new media like YouTube is that viewers decide for themselves what is popular genre. Film-makers can now upload raw footage of events as soon as it is shot on film. Viewers now replace censorship boards and their comments along with approval rates are now more important than the opinions of television stations. With this new-found freedom in documentary film-making, producers now have the liberty to choose their own topics and focus on the quality of their work rather than worry about what will please television stations. There is now an artistic integrity in the way these documentaries are produced and that is good for the film-making industry on the whole.

As such, the style with which these documentaries are shot have also taken a different direction. They are now raw angst-filled footage with film-makers opting to take a different approach to film-making techniques which appeal to a now more visually fickle audience. Viewers on social media sites are now less patient, and have shorter learning cycles. Features are now limited to less than 10 minutes segments and come in a series of parts for longer productions. Film-makers have gone back to the drawing board and redefined their own individual styles of documentary film-making while focusing on the most important issues of getting the message across to audiences.

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