Ten years in, NITV captures hearts with largest doc series yet
Once broadcasters realised that audiences love intimate true life stories, the small world of observational documentary came under tremendous pressure. The networks wanted cliffhangers, heroes and villains, always called ‘strong, compelling stories’. Producers were told to set the action up, to contrive, to turn people into parodies of themselves.
Many crews are confident they can nudge the action around and stay true to an honest vision of people and situations. The lines can be pretty blurred, and the deep history of documentary is based on recreation and repetition. But other, more indy creators don’t like this slippery slope at all.
Series Producer Gillian Moody is a Wodi Wodi woman from Wreck Bay on the South Coast of NSW, who has been working with Indigenous filmmakers through SBS, NITV and Screen Australia for over twenty years. She was inspired originally by Uncle Lester Bostock and a program at the Australian Film Television and Radio School.
When she came onto the proposal to make six half hours about the Indigenous Rule family in Western Australia, she knew she was walking on a fragile land. It would be easy to create a caricature, to get tangled up in White ignorance, to pander to prejudice.
Moody had no doubt about where she stands. ‘I don’t like the term reality TV,’ she said. ‘We call it a deep access observational series rather than reality TV. The daily lives of the family actually drove our stories and the episodes, and we were trying not to be really constructed.’