Newspaper video dogma08

DogmaImage by Steve Rhodes via Flickr

Mike Jones Digital basin is one of those blogs that I keep an eye on more with my video hat on rather than my journalism fedora. But I in a recent post he picked up on something I wanted to comment on.

In his post The Belgrade Manifesto – Profound or Indulgent? he discusses the recent statement by a group of filmmakers at the Belgrade Festival of Auteur Film last year. It’s aim according to Mike was:

to draw a line in the sand for filmmakers; a line that attempted to declare ‘No More’ to shallow, puerile, pointless cinema and foster a focus on quality engagement with cinema as an artform for the human experience.

Mike cites the Dogma95 ‘vow’ as a clear influence on this effort but, as you could guess from the title of the post, Mike isnt sure about the motivation or value of the statement. Dogma was a “framework and a creative ideology rather than a socio-political one”. But

I find it hard to read the Belgrade Manifesto and Not picture a whole bunch of filmmakers (no-doubt wearing black and sporting designer eye-ware) who cant find the success they believe they deserve, gathered together and looking to find someone to blame for their un-success. Complaining that there’s too much focus on ‘story’? and we need more focus on ‘Form’? You’ve got to be kidding me! That’s exactly the problem with the worst of Hollywood – all glitz and no guts; all effects and no engaging narrative.

All of which may sound like a spat in art house cinema of little interest to the ‘real’ world of hard-edged commercial journalism. But keep in mind what Mike is saying about narrative and take a look at the last paragraph of the manifesto:

We are at a crossroads where the new possibilities opened up by digital production and exhibition have real potential for the rejuvenation of cinema. But the danger is they could also work against it by swamping the market with low-quality work. As filmmakers, we have to grasp this opportunity. At last, it is now possible, because of the huge reduction in costs, to bypass existing funding channels and make high quality films WITHOUT PERMISSION. In addition, we need to adapt and develop those models of distribution and exhibition that are already being pioneered and begin to identify new sources of minimal funding. It is time to take responsibility for our own future and establish a committed, interactive community that can share ideas and work together to find viable ways to make and show our films and build audiences that will want to see them.

Now, replace cinema with journalism, filmmakers with journalists and you can see why the whole thing piqued my interest.

Video manifestos

In the move to try and define what newspaper/web video should be about a lot of people are talking about what it shouldn’t be. Not like TV. It needs to be fresh and edgy not like all that hyper-polished network stuff. It starts to sound a lot like that Manifesto railing against the ‘Hollywood’ of those demanding high quality kit (the flashy glitz?)

Without getting entrenched in the quality debate (again). The manifesto got me thinking about how we need to try and avoid the dogma as we develop video. There are many parts of industry that still do a pretty good job of the crowd who cant find the success they believe they deserve, gathered together and looking to find someone to blame for their un-success. I would hate to see that turn in to a Belgrade Manifesto.

But, a bit of dogma? Well take a look at the Dogma95 vow.

  1. Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found)
  2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot).
  3. The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. (The film must not take place where the camera is standing; shooting must take place where the film takes place).
  4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).
  5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
  6. The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
  7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)
  8. Genre movies are not acceptable.
  9. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.
  10. The director must not be credited.

You could kind of ignore the last 3 but the first 7 look pretty good.

So what do you think? What would you add to a newspaperviDogma08?

6 Replies to “Newspaper video dogma08”

  1. A newspaper/web video must inform. The rest is all about technical limitations- i would rather use different scales of shots than pans or zooms, but that’s because web video doesn’t deal well with motion, yet. The other item in newspaper/web video dogma is: there is no dogma.Except for the first rule: inform. Each story requires a different approach, and video for web has more formats than the formatted TV stories. It’s ok to be creative if you pass the information.
    Then act like a journalist (see my first item).

  2. Thanks for this very interesting article. I agree with both of you. But there is a point. We cannot keep on working for the web as we did for TV. We have to be more creative, and I personnaly think that people are fed up with the TV (too much) formated story. When I look at the work of the Washigton Post vidcast or the videos from Newsweek, I find it impressive and more creative than the old networks. For example, the voice-over has disappeared. Shouldn’t wa consider a new approach when video reportging for the web?
    Aurélien (ex-Tv reporter for french tvs…)

  3. Shouldn’t newspaper video evolve in a similar way to the art of writing and the design essence that the function requires.

    I read a newspaper and I find the design, layout, language, flow and overall structure of what I read will vary greatly depending on what bit of content I’m reading. Features have a more flowery language, in depth commentary has many an ego-burp from the writer to assert authority and so on.. All elements of writing to reflect the function of the piece, the substance is loosely coupled to that of course. Video is no different so it’s important journalists take the salient attributes from their trade, their writing and translate them into the medium, it’s the same job just in a different language….. no?

    Rules, formulae… Dogmata of all descriptions are evident hallmarks on all the rigid, formulaic and dogmatic content that’s out there, to use the language metaphor again you can always spot someone who isn’t fluent in a foreign language by the stunted formulaic way they speak. Same would be evident in video, those fluent in video would find no problem in speaking differently, using a different tone depending on the function of the piece.

  4. David Dunkley-Gyimah has an interesting perspective on the craft of Cinema in VJ’ism and I have to admit, I’m leaning towards some aspects of that paradigm as a solo video journalist.

    Too much of the pablum that is broadcast these days is truly lacking in quality content, instead opting for sensationalism. What about the notion that there is content that is entertaining, engaging and truly informative?

    Isn’t the dogma of pure journalism so rigid as to be sterile and lacking of any engaging content? In addition, the notion that journalism is unbiased or objective is in itself, a dogma that, when analyzed, cannot be attained. For all journalists have a cultural/societal perspective that will taint any journalistic piece produced by that journalist.

    Cliff Etzel – Solo Video Journalist
    bluprojekt |

  5. Isn’t Mike something – a passionate and adept deconstructor of ideas. Recommended reading for everyone seeking visual language sustenance.

    Nice tag – post Andy. Picking up Cliff’s point, it’s probably worth mentioning that cinema, for me, is just one tenant of video journalism.

    Video journalism is movie making, with a news/feature bent. And when it comes to movies it’s a blank canvas that a film maker approaches.

    I believe that much was welcomed by attendants at Camp Video Journalism in Chicago where we ( the amazing Angela Grant, Mash-up king Robb Montgomery and me) exchanged/mixed views with delegates for a couple of days.

    Here we swarmed, gonzoed, tagged and shot dirty – and there’s film I’ll upload soon to show what some of those mean.

    I’m having to be quite cautious I don’t sound like one of those.. back in the days.. but circa 1994 most of us (VJs in the UK) had, even then, a strong creative aesthetic to work.

    I have got some ROTs of the station I’ll post one day.

    Many went on to win international awards e.g. docs/ features working for mainstream broadcasters because of thieir skills.

    Yes we more than likely require a set of guidelines to aid our flight, but I don’t think we can be that prescriptive once we’re take off.

    So even me saying it’s partly cinema blah blah is pants. It’s a visual medium, a canvas and we’re painting pictures with video, with the relevant news/info as the bed.

    See you at the World Association of Newspaper 61st World Newspaper Congress in Goteborg Sweden.

    p.s I am a huge fan of Travis Fox’s work at the

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