DFP: Developing the Documentary Outline.

This unit talks the Meaning and Functions of a Documentary Outline.It also talks about Questions that Guide the Development of the Documentary Outline

A documentary outline according to Nworgu (2010) and Owuamalam (2007) could be described as the presentation of the documentary story in a straight forward simple story format without the technical jargons, like light and camera movements. The scriptwriter presents the dramatic element of the story in a coherent manner and usually in present tense. Documentary outline brings out all the unity of the whole story and also the main points. However, documentary outline is not the final working script but the scriptwriter’s script containing the storyline. It is like a proposal, which tell us what the documentary is all about. It is a simple presentation made to potential producer or sponsor. After the presentation of this script or outline, the producer or director now prepares a script for the production.

Production script, on the other hand, should then have technical jargons like instructions for lighting and camera movements. The director’s or producer’s script contains conceptualization, visualization and pictorization of the ideas for either radio or television document production. This means that the director adds life or images to the ideas presented in the outline by the script writer.

The functions of the outline given by Nworgu (2010) are as follows:

  • Makes clear the direction of the script
  • Gives the story some flesh and
  • Adds some emotions to the story, thereby injecting excitement which the audience will likely experience after watching the film.

Question that Guide the Development of the Documentary Outline

Kogah (1999) maintains that the first step in creating an outline is to write down the ideas of the programme in a list without giving any particular thought to order or arrangement. The list should then be guided by the following questions:

  • What are the main ideas to be explored in the documentary?
  • What is the subordinate point?
  • What is clearly the supporting material?

The responses to these questions will guide the writer in setting down the outline. For instance, a documentary “Exodus from Africa” on CNN, shows the inexplicable desperation of African youths, in passing through avoidable difficulties, simply because they desire and seek euphoria of “paradise” in the western world, which in real terms may not be the case. The documentary shows political instability, joblessness and a craven quest for affluence, as the factors that have contributed to the mass exodus of African youths from their countries. It shows the harrowing experience which the youths pass through to achieve their desires, which in most cases come with death, misery and penury in squalor and sordid living conditions. The illegal immigrants most times are repatriated from the countries, where they arrived illegally. The documentary sought to ask the youths in particular, whether the risk involved is worth the trouble (Owuamalam, 2007).

From this short outline of what the documentary “Exodus from African” is all about, you can ascertain whether the three guiding questions in the development of a documentary outline have been answered. There are certain patterns that are followed while developing an outline. The writer, according to Kogah (1999 :45) may discover that his/her material fits into one of the following patterns of organization of an outline:

  • Write the outline in complete sentence because incomplete or single words mask muddy thinking and fail to reveal, that some ideas which seem to be related are not really related after all.
  • Make certain that the ideas of the programme are set down in such a way as to reveal their tone relationships. Use a consistent set of symbols to reveal which ideas are the main prints, which are subordinate, and which are equal to one another.
  • Restrict the number of main points to a reasonable number. Most programmes should have no fewer than two main points and no more than five.
  • Be sure that the outline does not omit an essential step in the development of the main idea. The writer should also make certain that he/she has enough supporting material to establish his/her main prints adequately.
  • Avoid the use of compound or multiple idea sentences. There should be only one simple sentence after each symbol in the outline.
  • Express points as positive statements and not as questions. When a point is introduced in the actual programme, it may be worded as a question. It has already been pointed out that such questions in outlines may hide juzzy thinking or faulty structure. source:National Open University of Nigeria
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