Re-evaluating creativity in documentary filmmaking, creative analysis and creative constraints

Sobron, Fernando (2019) Re-evaluating creativity in documentary filmmaking, creative analysis and creative constraints. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis presents an evaluation of creativity in documentary films through practice and critical theory. It argues for a more prominent consideration of the creative input in the production of documentary films, which has been neglected in the field, and often approached indirectly, coded as form, style or authorship. It employs creative practice as a mode of enquiry and explores scholarly criticism and theory from a practitioner’s perspective. Its written part is structured in three chapters: the first looks into realities and myths of creativity through the lens of the cognitive sciences, and elaborates on their findings’ usefulness to documentary film as creative analysis; the second explores the influence of documentary critical theory, expectations created of the film mode and practitioners’ approaches in the representation of reality; the third engages in documentary film as creative analysis, seeing films as creative negotiations of representational constraints.
The thesis borrows from cognitive science and psychology ideas, methods and vocabulary for a critical creative analysis. It develops the analysis with attention to creative development and the problematisation of the film mode. Central to the proposed conceptual shift is the idea of ‘creative constraints’ as a useful frame for creativity. Building on ideas proposed by Jon Elster and Thomas Elsaesser, the thesis discusses the filmmaker’s choice and acceptance of self imposed creative constraints to structure their creative challenge, giving defining character to authorial approach and film results.
The idea of creatively constraining a film and analysis of its creative development are put into practice in three experimental films, which form the practical part of the research. Each film was produced with a set of predetermined constraints in order to evaluate their consequences on the films’ forms and narrative, making practice integral to the enquiry. The first film, Mechanising the Catch, documents the arrival and processing of a fish catch at a port. The most obvious obstruction imposed on its production was to make use of social media video, specifically the one with the most extreme format impositions, Vine.co. For the second, Filling the Gaps, the most relevant creative constraint was to indirectly, through narrative development, call attention to the intervention of the spectator’s imagination in the construction of a documentary film. It explores the making of Albrecht Dürer’s 1515 rhinoceros engraving and enacts parallels to Dürer’s methods. The third, Loullabelle’s Café, explores natural constraints like access and ethics in the production of a documentary film. The film contains fictional sequences complemented with a documentary.
The thesis mobilises cognitive science’s conceptual tools for demystifying creativity, suggesting parallels in documentary whereby the creative demands of the film mode are made visible. Together with the idea of self-imposed creative constraints, this leads to a reappraisal and re-evaluation of the balance of creativity in a documentary. It is a reminder of the fundamental intervention of creative input in documentary film in two aspects, creative interpretation and creative approach. The thesis proposes looking at documentaries as creative challenges to the use of the film media to represent the real, mediation and other constraints, and suggests each director’s instantiation of a documentary handles these differently. In line with these ideas and supplementing existing definitions, the thesis offers a definition of documentary by reference to creative constraints.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0309 Consciousness. Cognition Including learning, attention, comprehension, memory, imagination, genius, intelligence, thought and thinking, psycholinguistics, mental fatigue > BF0408 Creative processes. Imagination. Invention
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion pictures > PN1995.9.A-Z Other special topics, A-Z > PN1995.9.D6 Documentary films
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 09 May 2019 13:40
Last Modified: 09 May 2019 13:46
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/83666

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