Julia on Film

Semiotics could be seen as the study of signs that construct the way we represent reality.  This can be through the use of language or other media.  There are two founding schools of thought in semiotics, Saussure and Pierce.  Semiotics could be seen as the language that interprets all other systems.  What particularly interests me in television practise is the semiotic interaction between makers and tests and users are encoded and decoded by the positioning of readers.  Chandler comments on the notion that in TV grammar it has been assumed that the person addressing the camera and therefore the audience directly and as individuals has more power and that power is reserved for the news presenters and weather reporters or by extension any presenter ‘representing the authority’ of the TV station.  To me it explains to some extent why a TV audience often fails to empathise with real situations where people may put their point, but that is away from the direct point of view of the camera and therefore the audience or reader. With this realisation I have to reflect on the different editing decisions I have made while working for broadcasters and working on material that is not directly made for television.  The decisions to allow direct representation to the camera are very much based on the nature of the broadcast as gatekeeper.  John Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’ reflects the nature of how men and women view themselves in society, it further adds to who’s view can be heard and expects to be heard, where the condition for men is to be heard, the condition for women is to be the object to be seen, this basic construction of reality continues in the practise of television production.


About Julia Guest

Documentary filmaker
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3 Responses to Julia on Film

  1. Pingback: waeving week 2 posts « thinking practices

  2. Alexa says:

    Hi Julia, I like the way you have linked the theory of semiotics back to your own documentary practice and indeed broadcast media. It is amazing how passive we can become when watching the television, and like you say when watching a news presenter, for instance on BBC news, it is easy to take, listen and believe in their authoritative ‘performance’ without questioning whose view we are watching. I think as you have identified, semiotics could be very useful in deconstructing codes and systems in this way. Will you be looking to do this in your documentary practice? and if so how will you approach it?

  3. Julia Guest says:

    Hi Alexa, sorry this took a while.
    My current project, is an personal reflection on the very nature of women to be seen to act, as themselves, avoiding self censoring or mis representing themselves. as Nancy Spero once said “The work of a successful woman artist is usually less esteemed. Her achievements do not inspire the same confidence as a man’s would – she is viewed with suspicion and the utmost caution. – Yet the standards of success in our society: power, wealth, and acquisition. force an assertive woman into emulation of the male role. To succeed the woman is forced to imitate male chauvinist aggressions.”
    Codex Spero
    Arkesteijn, Roel, editor Codex Spero, Nancy Spero – selected writings and interviews 1950 – 2008, © Spero/Akesteijn Roma publications and De Appel publications. (The liberation of women’ 1971) page 51

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