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Documentary Storytelling, 2nd Edition by Sheila Curran Bernard

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14

Writing Narration and Voice-Over

Narration is not the worst thing to happen to a documentary, but bad narration might be, which might explain why so many filmmakers want to avoid it at all costs. We’ve all seen films that were talky, preachy, hyperventilated, and dull. But there’s also narration—including extensive voice-over commentary, such as that spoken by one of the film’s subjects or by the filmmaker—that makes films funny, sarcastic, spare, poetic, and elegant. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Super Size Me, Grizzly Man, and Born into Brothels, among many recent films, have effective narration. Enron’s narration is the most traditional, in that it’s spoken by an unseen person, the actor Peter Coyote, who has no identity in the ...

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