If you’ve got a beginning, but you don’t have an end, then you’re mistaken. You don’t have the right beginning.
This slogan reminds us the importance of beginning in producing media content. What kind of end that directors should bring to their audiences? A “close ending” or an “open ending”? Open ending is gradually common in filmmaking nowadays. Open ending does not provide all of the details and leave audiences wondering how the story will end.
In my personal opinion, open-endings are sometimes more real and convincing than close endings.
I still remember the open ending that left in the Life of Pi. An Lee left the audiences with two choices, one crucial story between human, and one fairy tale with tiger. It provides audiences freedom to choose their favorite one, it elevates the theme to a higher level, it’s exploration about human nature also makes the film more real and convincing.
Open endings are also very common among Christopher Nolan’s film. In his iconic film “Memento”, Nolan left the audiences questioning whether the protagonist really has amnesia. Another significant open ending is in his “Inception”, the top totem did not stop spinning even when the film ends, which makes audiences cannot help but keep asking whether it is in dream or not.
An open ending is also good for producing sequels in the future. The film “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” ended with Caesar’s back figure, which makes audiences guess what would happen in the future. Now “The Planet of the Apes” serial is back in cinema with new stories, which echoes well with that open ending in the previous film.
In my personal opinion, open ending will become more and more popular in the future, for today’s audiences are not satisfied with one fixed story, they are hope that film can reflect their own choices. Similar thing has been happening in electronic game industry for years, as those Sandbox Games (games which have no fixed main story and plot, and allow players to explore world and do whatever they like) like Minecraft and Elder Scrolls are quite popular.
Let’s back to the slogan. I think it should be modified into this: “If you’ve got a beginning, but you don’t have a proper end, then you’re mistaken. You don’t have the right beginning.” I suppose films with open-ending will become more and more popular in the future.
Pawel Pawlikowski claimed in Imagining Reality (1996) that at his time (Mid 1990s), documentary needed TV for its survival, though TV was also the major factor killing documentary. In fact, he took TV as the future of documentary.
This seems interesting nowadays, as only after 20 years TV documentary phenomenon has become the past. With online streaming service developing, today’s documentary makers no longer need TV channels to present their products to viewers, and audiences can simply choose whatever they would like to watch on the Internet rather than sitting in front of TV and wait for content passively. This has made documentary more accessible and popular.
A Bit of China, a Chinese documentary series about the history of food, eating, and cooking has achieved great success online. When it was first shown on Internet this year, it was watched altogether 1.4 hundred million times in first two months. This is generally an incredible record for documentary in the past.
Being media practitioners we have to stay alert and keep ourselves updated to the latest technology development. Internet as a carrier format has been proved successful, apart from that, record techniques of documentary have also changed a lot during past decades and they are expanding the borders of documentaries: virtual-reality tech can bring sense and smell to viewers, while equipment like Google Glasses can record real POV materials. We should definitely make full use of conveniences brought by technology.
With the help of cutting-edge technology documentary industry has changed a lot. However, there is one thing that documentary makers should not forget: audiences watch our works for what we record, not what we record with. As Pawel Pawlikowski claimed, the most successful documentaries are “human stories” which requires lots of time to polish.