How Documentaries Make You Want to Change the World

BCM310 Research Project



For the final BCM310 project I chose to do the digital artefact format of video. I believed at the beginning of this project that this would enable me the best use of the medium that I was researching; documentaries. I still hold this belief at the end of this project, as it enabled me to provide obvious examples to the research points and conclusions that I was making.

The purpose of this project began very differently to how it ended. My original idea was to ‘research how media changes society’, with specific examples from documentaries, and how they created social change.

Upon review of my project proposal this was deemed ‘too broad’, and as I began to research the topic, I realised this assessment to be only too true. I then had to narrow down my focus into something more manageable. Thus I began to investigate ‘how documentaries make people want to change the world’. This narrowed down my focus remarkably, as now I only had to research what aspects of documentaries can be attributed to inspiring people to want to make change.

I further narrowed my scope by only looking at ocean-based documentaries, as I was warned that to do another form of documentary may be jarring to the audience of the project. Furthermore this research within a single genre of documentary allowed me to more easily discover the patterns of production present in each film.

As such I discovered through secondary research and content analysis of the documentaries; Blackfish, The Cove, and A Plastic Ocean, that the three most obvious aspects of documentaries that are meant to create change by the audience are; empathy for animals, human fear for self, and confronting facts.

It is my understanding from this research, that upon seeing these three factors present in a documentary, certain people within an audience may feel inspired to create a change that helps rectify the issue presented. The issue of what change, or whether the audience acts on this change is irrelevant, only that they are inspired/motivated/want to.

From this research I put together a video that reveals this conclusion through clear examples from three ocean, oceanic-animal, documentaries.

The only con to this format was cutting down the extensive research I had done to a six minute video. I felt that I could have researched further, or explained more with more time, but I made my research as succinct as possible due to the constraints.

Other than that I feel that the format of video worked very well for this project, as the audience can feel the emotion present in the documentaries, and clearly understand the examples that back up my research.

Overall I enjoyed researching this topic, and creating the project. As I have experience with each other format made available to this task, I felt that this project enabled me to only further my video creation skills, which will certainly prove a valuable asset to my portfolio as I search for employment as a media producer.



Brown, M. (n.d.). What, Who and Why Should we Care?. [online] Environmental Activists. Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2017].
Bush, M. (2017). A Plastic Ocean – The Film – Plastic Oceans. [online] Plastic Oceans. Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2017].
Cowperthwaite, G. (2013). Filmmaker: Why I made ‘Blackfish’ – [online] CNN. Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2017].
Finneran, P. (2014). Documentary Impact: Social Change Through Storytelling. Hotdocs. [online] Inspirit Foundation. Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2017].
Gomez, P. (2010). Dolphin and Whales: The Cove and the Grind. [online] Ian Somerhalder Foundation. Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2017].
Shelton, M. and Rogers, R. (1981). Fear-Arousing and Empathy-Arousing Appeals to Help: The Pathos of Persuasion.  Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 11(4), pp.366-378.


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