A Journey to Make Documentaries that Entertain as well as Enlighten

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Peter Taylor


I am a documentary filmmaker whose films focus on ordinary people living in different circumstances, and places in the world, who are trying to overcome life's obstacles so they can reach their goals. I have always believed that these lives are rich and full of meaning. I want my documentaries to address a general audience-ordinary people that want to be entertained, while being psychologically and intellectually engaged in the experience. By presenting topics that incite curiosity for learning, I hope to generate a real desire for knowledge in my audience. I hope to help them feel that a continuous acquisition of knowledge is essential to them as individuals, both emotionally and cognitively. This paper sets a frame to support my endeavor. Understanding better how audiences structure their thoughts and make meaning of things while viewing documentaries would help me to better manage their needs and expectations, and establish more fulfilling connections with them. To this end, I explored different aspects of film theory, cognitive psychology and audience exploratory research, paying special attention to a positive role for emotions. I argue that the architecture of a documentary film does not have to be different from the architecture of a fiction film because both of them share a common goal, namely, to shift the audience's perspective of their human legacy and to inspire individuals to reflect and perhaps make changes that may improve the quality of their lives. In this sense, my future documentaries thoughts and emotions will be crucial in a process that uses different techniques and resources based on a creative and critical thinking approach. I also present a classification of documentaries and suggested titles to help the audience to identify what types of documentaries fulfill better their intellectual and emotional needs. The criteria for this classification system have been developed with four main questions in mind regarding documentary: What to tell? (that covers the topic), how to tell? (that covers the narration resources and techniques to be used), whom to tell? (that covers the type of audience to whom the documentary is addressed to), and what is the degree of subjectivity and creativity used in the manipulation of materials?


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