How to make news and documentaries more immersive and memorable

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David presenting at the Front Line

Millennials won’t watch traditional news, but they’ll gladly watch a 2-hour movie based on a real story. That’s a thought to hold onto.

Real life events are increasingly used for movies, but looked at the other way around, can the movies save journalism? Can cinema save journalism?

The documentary sensation this year has been “For Sama” by Syrian filmmaker Waad al-kateab. It is an example of cinema documentary. It looks like (fictional) cinema and the narration sounds like it too.

Cinema documentary is in fact as old as documentary. It was birthed from cinema as the father of documentary Grierson realised cinema was aesthetic but it wasn’t critical of reality. In the 1990s with Micheal Moore’s Roger and Me (1989) it was rejuvenated.

But did you know Waad is a videojournalist — and an unusual type of videojournalist at that, who uses styles and narratives in cinema as her schema?

She’s not alone. Oscar nominated Danfung Dennis with his amazing Afghan war film “To Hell and Back Again” is another. Channel 4’s Inigo Gilmore too and one of the most awarded videojournalists Raul Gallego Abellan who made “Pani, Women, Drugs and Kathmandu”, and shoots for AP, Channel 4 News, and there are others.

What makes them special is they elide between daily news making and documentary using cinemas’ (plural) styles to story tell. The converse is rare amongst documentary makers.

I’m an International award winning videojournalist and academic and I’ve been tracking and writing about these exceptional news and documentary makers for fifteen years. I was one of the UK’s first videojournalists twenty five years ago. I got looking at this when a judge at the International videojournalism Awards in Berlin called my work “ Cinema”.

I’ve shot near the Syrian border and knows some of Waad’s filmmaking friends. He’s filmed in China, India, and Egypt, Russia and filmed for Channel 4 News in South Africa and Ghana.

In a forthcoming presentation, filled with film clips and questions, I reveal how cinema journalism’s style is the panacea for news executives to attract younger audiences who normally eschew traditional news’ style formats.

Through a collection of films, I reveal different styles and editing that evoke strong memories in cinema journalism and how cinema journalists produce strong emotional arcs. I explain techniques employed by storytellers when using any array of different equipment: from drone, DSLRs to mobile and VR. I show how the brain is working during the process of storytelling which differs generally within different cultures. And I show where AI is being deployed.

About me: I’ve presented at Apple, SXSW and the Southbank Centre, where as a newsmaker he was an Artist in Resident. My PhD in Cinema and Artistic videojournalism is from University College Dublin. Several experts, and delegates have spoken about my work.

Contact David at

Written by

Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.

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