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Audience design in documentaire-interviews

By Marieke Haan


Studies on film dialogue show that actors’ interactions normally contain more information than is necessary for the characters in the film in order to understand each other. This extra information is added for the audience. Therefore these dialogues are not ‘natural’, but specifically designed for the spectators (Bubel). Also in documentaries, dialogues are designed for the audience. Since many different verbal utterances in documentaries are used (Bruzzi, Nichols), this study concentrates on documentary interviews. In terms of the ‘participation framework’ (Goffman, Clark), documentary film audiences may be seen as ‘overhearers’: looking at the interviews, but being no part of the ongoing communication. However spectators are enabled to understand the interviews in full. There are two relevant cinematographic elements studied: verbal utterances and visuals designed for the audience during the process of overhearing interviews. The question is: How is audience design in documentary interviews applied? The mutual knowledge between the interactors on the screen must be no longer mute but ‘talkative’. This is the core of the audience design, that the ‘common ground’ between the interactors on the screen, their shared knowledge, is made accessible to overhearers. Speakers act so that overhearers may profit by their utterance design: they add examples to the verbal text, make expressions concrete, paraphrase propositions etc. When interviewees are speaking often images are shown as well: images that are telling the same as the text, that show persons which are referred to, or that provide the viewers with a setting of place or time related to the verbal text etc. In such a way, the interview information is made accessible to the audience.

Year: 2009
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