Ethical Processes

Ethics will play a huge part in my film as the subject matter is so delicate and touchy for the family at hand. It is also a lot to take for my team and I as film makers, so I can only imagine what the family are going through. In saying this there is a film to be made which has been consented for but as the director I realise that the pressure falls on my shoulders. ‘ethics commonly falls almost entirely onto the shoulders of the filmmaker and, more precisely, the filmmaker’s probity and professionalism in ensuring that they do not mislead the viewers or misrepresent their subjects’. (Wilma De Jong 2008: 193) So my goal is to understand the family, the story and ‘Afo’ to the best of my ability in order to make a film which doesn’t ‘misrepresent’ the family in any way shape or form. Like I have mentioned before, the sensitivity of ’22 Year’s later’ will either make this film amazing or make it collapse and fall on it’s face. I hope it is not the latter.

If the participants feel like thing’s are being forced up them, or the narrative of the film lacks authenticity they may be reluctant to take part in the documentary on set or prior. ‘Many people have felt misrepresented and censored and show a reserve, if not hostility, to being approached for interview, while simultaneously displaying an urge to tell their story and to be listened to.’ (Cahal McLaughlin 2011: 143) This is a situation we want to avoid while making this film. We do not want to step on anyones toes or give them any legitimate reason to pull out, we will aim to combat this potential flair up by being very open with the family about what is happening and our intentions.  Speaking regularly to the family members about what’s going on and keeping them updated will really help with the process. Skype calls and emails may be the best way to do this as Yomi has already informed us about how busy everyone is.

The use of drama and constructed scenes could be seen as unethical by many as it may come across as unauthentic and over dramatised.‘it is in the perception of the role of dramatic reconstruction and people ‘performing’ that much confusion over certain kinds of documentary resides. Documentaries ‘tell the truth’; drama and performance is ‘make believe’: to combine the two is to be ethically suspect. Yet, documentary as a mode has always used varying degrees of drama and performance to tell its stories. (Wilma De Jong 2008: 194) I do not completely agree with this this statement, there have been many successful and authentic documentaries which use a reconstruction scene and the art of performance to tell it’s true story. For example Obama’s America (2012), The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (2010) and The Arbor (2010). It is possible to combine drama and documentary, but ultimately the director has to remain in control of the film making process to make sure that the performance is merely used to bring out the truth as opposed to rewriting it.

Even though we have the families verbal consent to make the film we will carry out further ethical procedures when making this documentary. We will ‘get people to give their consent on paper with a personal release form and also on camera. Tell them to look in the camera and read something like: “I, Sue Smith, agree to be filmed in this documentary about such and such and understand it will be used for broadcast on the internet and television, without conditions‘ (Legal consent and copyright 2011). This will help to avoid any last minute jolts whilst editing, or even after we finish shooting this film.

Ethics form Here is a link to the Ethics forms that we will send to the participants.

This is a relatively long video of Gordon Quinn speaking about documentary filmmaking and the ethics involved. There are no set rules to documentary film making but we as film makers have the ability to draw the line.

To conclude I will take this entire ethics process extremely seriously as I have a duty to fulfil to the people who are participating and the late ‘Afolabi’. In the video above Mr. Quinn goes into immense detail about ethics, he went on to talk about the difference between documentary film makers and journalists. He said journalists write what they want without telling the subject, where as doc makers inform the subject. This is a key point I will carry through with me during the creation of ’22 Years later’ and beyond.


Wilma De Jong (2008). Rethinking Documentary : New Perspectives and Practices. Berkshire, GB: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing. pg 193.

Cahal McLaughlin (2011). Recording Memories from Political Violence : A Film-maker’s Journey . Bristol, GB: Intellect. pg 143.

Wilma De Jong (2008). Rethinking Documentary : New Perspectives and Practices. Berkshire, GB: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing. pg 194.

2016: Obama’s Documentary. America: Obama’s America Foundation, 2012. film.

The Rise And Fall Of Eliot Spitzer. America: Alex Gibney, 2010. film.

The Arbor. America: Clio Barnard, 2010. film.

Editor of Desktop documentaries. (2011). Legal, Consent and Copyright Issues For Documentary Filmmaking. Available: Last accessed 20th Feb 2016.

Chicago Humanities Festival. (2013). Gordon Quinn: Ethics of Documentary Filmmaking. Available: Last accessed 20th Feb 2016.







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