How Cinema Can Help Millennials Get Immersed in Journalism.
Millennials won’t watch a traditionally made news story, but they’ll gladly watch a 2-hour movie based on a real story. That’s a thought to hold onto.
The dust-riddled hollowed room was hardly the plush plaza where you’d watch the latest release, but Kumasi, in Ghana, where I grew up, no matter. As a teenager I was fiendishly fanatical about cinema, particularly watching Indian films such as Sholay, The Burning Train and Seeta and Geeta.
The world of stories came to me through cinema. It would take me several years working in a real newsroom in Leicester, when I encountered a startling revelation. I’d wanted to make a news report; my supervisor hearing my idea told me sternly, this isn’t cinema, not because I was doing fiction, but the way I wanted to tell the story. Of course he was right, but he was also wrong too.
Television journalism’s construct emerged from cinema by groups who a) wanted something different b) weren’t visual and narratively equipped to do cinema c) were constrained by resources. For more you can read one of my widely circulated articles here
Then once a group within the US e.g. NBC and British TV cracked the news story form, it would become the norm; its legacy passed on down generations.
Real life events are increasingly used for movies, but looked at the other way around, can the movies save journalism? Can cinema save journalism?
If podcasts with their cinematic soundscape and cinema documentaries have emerged this decade as the “millennium gaze”, it’s because earlier story construct’s shelf-life were always in doubt.
We’ve seen it in literature, with development of the essay-novella and equitone and literary works such as Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe; the novel in Gustave Flaubert’s Madam Bovary, biographies and multilayered approach, the conscious streaming and reflections in Ulysses and poetics of excess in Marlon James’ reggae-influenced in context and language A Brief History of Seven Killings. It ends with the expression of cinema.
In Art, you can chart Renaissance, Neoclassical, Realism, Impressionism, Cubism, Expressionism, Art deco, and Pop Art as styles that foregrounded new thinking in the way of reflecting societal changes. Art without the academy’s boundary rules. Then impressionism in the 1860s broke the stranglehold of the Academy to state there’s more than one reality
The documentary sensation this year has been “For Sama” by Syrian filmmaker Waad al-kateab. It is an example of cinema documentary. It looks like (fictional) cinema and the narration sounds like it too.
In each of these cases the way we told stories atrophied. Journalism, a narrative subset of storytelling may have had its earlier forms to, but to believe they’re fixed, or that as societies and cultures evolves, journalism forms of the 1960s are the only way it to entertain myth and narrow thinking and discard the history of ideas. All systems evolve.
Cinema documentary is in fact as old as documentary. It was birthed from cinema as the father of documentary Grierson realised cinema was aesthetic but it wasn’t critical of reality. In the 1990s with Micheal Moore’s Roger and Me (1989) it was rejuvenated.
But did you know Waad is a videojournalist — and an unusual type of videojournalist at that, who uses styles and narratives in cinema as her schema?
She’s not alone. Oscar nominated Danfung Dennis with his amazing Afghan war film “To Hell and Back Again” is another. Channel 4’s Inigo Gilmore too and one of the most awarded videojournalists Emmy Award Winner Travis Fox.
What makes these journalists special is they elide between daily news making and documentary using cinemas’ (plural) styles to story tell. The converse is rare amongst documentary makers. For an idea of Cinema Journalism watch this. A note of caution it features scenes from Sichuan province following their Earthquake.
I’m an International award winning videojournalist and academic and I’ve been tracking and writing about these exceptional news and documentary makers for fifteen years. In 2005 I won an award for the news film 8 Days, which showed the UK’s first regional journalists becoming videojournalists and trying to cover a murder crime.
Working with the Press Association, I trained these journalists and went on to train the Financial Time and Chicago Tribune in videojournalism.
I was one of the UK’s first videojournalists twenty five years ago. and got to studying exceptional video journalists and some remarkable television journalists who use cinema when a an award’s judge called my work “ Cinema”.
At first it baffled me, but as I looked into what the jury meant and studied the news and movie industry it became clear.
I’ve made films near the Syrian border and knows some of Waad’s filmmaking friends. He’s filmed in China, India, and Egypt, Russia and filmed for Channel 4 News in South Africa and Ghana.
I trained at the BBC. Newsnight and BBC 2 Reportage were my first tv job in the early 90s.
I’ve presented at Apple, SXSW, CUNY’s News summit, and the Southbank Centre, where as a newsmaker I was an Artist in Resident. My PhD examining Cinema and Artistic Videojournalism and cognitive understanding is from University College Dublin. I’m currently at Cardiff University School of Journalism.
In a forthcoming presentation, filled with film clips and questions, I reveal how cinema journalism’s style is the panacea for news executives to attract younger audiences who normally eschew traditional news’ style formats.
Cinema language is one of evolving narrations, and styles, in realism, from the way something is shot, or framed, to its construct, and the parameters that constitute its narrative, from the starkness of Pier Paolo Pasolini, to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World ( which is Tik Tok personified) to 1917 which pulls on foreshadowing, blocking and the use of mobile phones for closeness.
Through a collection of films, I reveal different styles and editing that evoke strong memories in cinema journalism and TV news, how it can be taught, show how cinema journalists utilise emotional arcs judiciously. I explain techniques employed by storytellers when using any array of different equipment: from drone, DSLRs to mobile and VR to create cinema. I detail how the brain is working during the process of storytelling which differs generally within different cultures. And I show where AI is being deployed.
Several experts, and delegates have spoken about my work, such as Jon Snow Channel 4 News; award winning filmmaker and author of The Story of Film, Mark Cousins and delegates from my talk at SXSW Austin Texas..
Contact David at Gyimahd@cardiff.ac.uk