Thursday, December 31, 2015

Visible Evidence CFP: Sound Design in the Feature Documentary

I am pulling together a panel on sound design for Visible Evidence XXIII, to take place in Bozeman, MT , August 11-14, 2016. I encourage anyone interested to let me know!

Panel Proposal/Call for Papers

Sound Design in the Feature Documentary

One of the focus themes for the 2016 Visible Evidence Conference is “Sonic Frontiers,” acknowledging the increasing (and long overdue) critical attention to documentary sound. In this move, documentary studies is responding to sonic experiments in contemporary documentary. By substituting source sound with electronic scoring (Rebecca Baron) or foley sound (Loznitsa, Ujica, Voignier, and Mansky), and by exploring the aesthetics of silence, contemporary nonfiction filmmakers challenge the notion of sound as a transparent conduit of information. Similarly, the boom in scholarship on the essay film has underscored the importance of the sound track as a crucial aesthetic and intellectual component of the nonfiction film.

As important as essay films and more experimental documentary soundtracks are, though, the critical attention on anti-realist practice obscures a parallel revolution in sound design among more mainstream documentaries. Enabled by affordable digital technologies and inspired by developments in fiction film sound, feature documentaries are developing richer soundtracks. 

This proposed panel will explore the sonic aesthetics of contemporary documentary. Theoretical papers, close readings, or historical case studies are welcome on any aspect of sound practice, including recording, sound mixing, and foley sound. While the panel will be open to a range of canonical and noncanonical documentary—from theatrical feature to public broadcast television to the creative documentary—the emphasis will be on documentary in its less experimental, more hegemonic forms.

Conference submission deadline is Jan 15. Please email me by Jan. 10 if you are interested in participating:

Monday, December 21, 2015

CFP: Rethinking Popular Documentary (anthology)


Rethinking Popular Documentary

The renewal of documentary over the past two decades has taken place across significant social, environmental, cultural, technological and geopolitical climate changes.  More than ever, in a time of proliferating voices, documentary may be said to function as a global commodity, its distribution enabled by the rise of digital and video technologies, the dramatic increase in “specialty” cable channel programming (Discovery/History/Biography Channel, Animal Planet, etc.), social media and, of course, the Internet.  Apart from a few notable exceptions, critical attention to “popular” documentary is relatively underdeveloped in the burgeoning field of documentary studies.  When media studies, film studies and cultural studies have expanded their objects of analyses so widely and productively, why have documentary studies scholars tended to ignore popular documentary in favor of films that are (arguably) more formally innovative, ideologically/politically complex and/or intellectually engaging? Does this lacuna relate to the relative lack of coordinated attention to spectatorial pleasure and reception in documentary film scholarship?  What does the florescence of certain popular subject areas or subgenres in documentary (e.g. wildlife, “charismatic mega-fauna”, food, water, oil and other ecodocumentaries) tell us about contemporary culture? How does the explosion of popular documentary trouble or enliven existing theories and critical methodologies for understanding and evaluating documentary?

Possible topics might include:

  • The relationship between documentary and entertainment
  • Popular documentary and/as genre
  • Interrogation of the popular in documentary
  • Popular documentary and popular music, or the documentary soundtrack
  • Social media, networked distribution, and/or web docs
  • The convergence of popular documentary and fiction techniques
  • Popular documentary and emotion (or affect)
  • Humor, irony or satire in popular documentary
  • Witness and intervention in popular documentary
  • Performativity, performance and/or reenactment
  • The documentary auteur and cult of personality
  • Popular documentary and the docu film festival circuit
  • Made-for-television documentaries: formats, constraints, ideologies
  • Netflix and other digital documentary databases
  • Neoliberalism and popular “committed” documentary
  • Popular documentary and the public sphere
  • New technology, delivery and production systems and their relationship to popular documentary
Please submit proposals to by February 1, 2016. Submissions should consist of an abstract (350-500 words), a bibliography (4-6 sources) and brief bio (100 words). If accepted, we will then request a 7,000-8,000 word essay.  Date: TBA.