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Documentary for the Small Screen by Paul Kriwaczek

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Chapter 4

Telling the Story

Documentary is a form of story-telling. It can be nothing else. The reason is time.

Unlike other forms of visual art, paintings, photographs, sculptures, comic strips, installations, a television film is inevitably a traveller in time. It unrolls at a steady speed from start to finish. Like the writing of Omar Khayyam’s moving finger: ‘nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line.’ Time is built into the film as its basic premise. Event follows event in a pauseless flow.

Any description or presentation of events over time is a narrative of sorts. Whatever a film-maker puts on the television screen can only be presented as a story. Decisions about the order in which to put the materials are unavoidable ...

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