Voice has a special, if contentious, place in documentary. Sometimes nothing needs to be said at all in order for us to sense the filmmaker speaking to us. At other times, the author of the film becomes only a faintly audible presence, lost beneath the voices and opinions of others. To speak or not to speak? This may be the central question in documentary. Answers to this question have shaped the movement away from documentary’s earliest and most overbearing vocal convention, voice-of-god narration, toward more democratic and reflexive vocal approaches, such the interview, subjective voice-over, and the recent return to observational filmmaking.
If you have ever questioned your own voice as a filmmaker, or agonized over how and when to use words to represent, narrate, or resurrect the stories of others, this workshop is for you! Over the course of 3 days, participants will encounter different audiovisual approaches to voice designed to provide practical advice, creative inspiration, and philosophical and historical insight. Our focus throughout will be the audiovisual place of voice (over, under, in front of, in the background, in-between) in relation to the image and soundscape. We will ask: how can the placement of voice in its many forms be used to narrate, observe, create, or recreate non-fiction worlds?
Led by writer Pooja Rangan, in partnership with UnionDocs and curator Mathilde Walker-Billaud, this conceptual and practical intensive will bring together 6 guest speakers: writers, directors, cinematographers, and producers from the film and radio industry. The speakers (Jill Godmilow, Far From Poland; What Farocki Taught; James N. Kienitz Williams, The Andre Trilogy; Jane Gillooly, Suitcase of Love and Shame; Kirsten Johnson, Cameraperson; Zac Stuart Pontier, Crimetown) will expose the participants (limited to 14) to a broad range of vocal techniques grounded in their own field-shaping and often unconventional practice. These include: direct address and reenactment, surrealist testimony and inner monologue, telling a story by editing archival voice records and film-for-hire footage, interview-based story-telling for radio and for film.
Through masterclasses, discussions, work-in-progress feedback presentations, as well as critical reading, screening, and listening exercises, the participants will develop a range of narrative techniques and learn multiple ways to use their voices to shape compelling and powerful documentary stories.