Film and the illusion of experience

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Arts & Architecture


Documentary filmmakers, especially those in the science and natural history genre, commonly rely on film's capacity to communicate information, but there is also the possibility of utilizing film's ability to communicate experience. As a subjective medium rather than a representation of objective reality, film creates a convincing illusion of experience that can translate into an opportunity for vicarious learning. I examine four documentaries by directors that demonstrate an uncanny ability to communicate an experience through film, and I apply their techniques and methods to my own film on field research on tundra swans in northwestern Alaska. Filming in an empathic mode, embracing subjectivity, and giving precedence to how the film subjects' perceive their world offer the filmmaker the ability to harness the illusion of experience that film can provide.


Chasing birds in Beringia is a film that is part of the student's thesis project.



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