Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday Talkback: Do found footage films need to develop their cameraman?

In yesterday's comments about found footage films, this question came up:

And finally, do we even NEED to setup the cameraman as a character for a film like this to work? Is it possible to just not explain why there is a camera rolling or who it is? I watch shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation, and there is an implied camera crew around at all times, but never explained, and I never question it as a viewer.

My feeling - in films it is rather necessary because the movie is documenting a particular moment or incident.  Cloverfield wouldn't work if the cameraman was handled in the same way as The Office.  On the other hand, Christopher Guest movies rarely make an issue of their cameraman.  Of course, there's a reason for that.

The difference is that The Office isn't "found footage."  It's presented in edited, documentary form.  The conceit isn't that we're seeing things as they happen, which is the case in Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project.  There, the idea is "here is this raw footage presented in unedited form, showing this inexplicable event unfold right before your eyes.

But what say you? Does the cameraman need to be a character in the film?


  1. I think there should be SOME explanation on why the camera is shaking so much or why someone would keep on filming while all the s*&t is going down.

    The significant difference between Cloverfield and Office is the camerapeople's involvement in the story. In the latter case, we as viewers do not care/notice about what happens to those who film it. In Paranormal activity, the camerapeople are the main characters are camerapeople.

    Imagine if MTV's Real World was filmed by fellow roommates and not a dispassionate crew.

  2. I think there should be more discussion of Cannibal Holocaust in the world of Found Footage. I don't know if it was the beginning of the genre, but it's a candidate. It establishes a film crew making a documentary as the "camera", and then has a second, dramatic set-up to comment on the found set-up. A lot of people are disturbed by the gruesome and unapologetic nature of the found footage, but the blow is softened by the dramatic section. Put together, you end up with a much more satisfying film experience, with fewer logic holes, than your average found footage flick.

  3. If you guys haven't seen it, check out Troll Hunter. It's on Netflix on-demand, and it's easily the best found footage film I've seen in the last ten years.

    I think it handles the cameraman issue in a pretty fun way.