Web Documentaries: a Brief Guide

In an age of declining traditional media and with more journalism moving online, it is becoming apparent that stories must be told in a way that stand out from the crowd.

An interactive documentary (a webdoc/an i-doc) can be a useful tool to help journalists to do this.

Here at the CIJ we are proud to be pioneering this exciting new genre to journalists. It is so new, that no internationally recognised name has been chosen for it. Known as webdocs, i-docs, interactive factuals, it is revolutionising the way stories are told online.

It combines interactivity, gaming, visual, audio and traditional storytelling in one exciting mix. 

The list below features some of the most exciting web-native projects from Canada, France, the UK and Italy. 

Canada and France are leading the way in the world of web documentaries. 

The National Film Board of Canada spends a substantial part of its multi-million dollar budget on interactive documentaries and has produced some of the world's best. 
 
Fort McMoney by David Dufresne is a game documentary that engages players with the petroleum industry. 
 
Bear 71 by Leanne Allison and Jeremy Mendes is an iconic web documentary that explores the uneasy way wildlife coexists with humans. 
 
Highrise by Katerina Cizek is a multi-media, collaborative documentary about the human experience in vertical suburbs around the world.
Kat took part in the Webdocs Weekend on 15 March (via Skype) and we will be showing her webdoc Out of my Window as a live screening. 
 
A great number of journalistic and current affairs projects have come from France. 
 
The Arab World in Revolutions is a web documentary for the French/German broadcaster Arte. It aims to capture the change in Arab countries at a unique moment in history and give the Arab people a voice. This is the first time that Arte has been involved in a long-term cross-media project.
 
Gaza/Sderot is another Arte project. It reports on life as experienced by men, women and children in Gaza (Palestine) and Sderot (Israel); it looks at their lives and their survival on a daily basis. Under difficult living conditions and the threat of air attacks and bombings, people do keep on working, loving and dreaming. Life in spite of everything.

24h Jerusalem is the latest production by French i-docs maker Alexandre Brachet. Alexandre was a keynote speaker at the WebDocs: Interactive Storytelling event on the 14 March 2015. 

 
Journey to the End of Coal is a web documentary by Samuel Bollendorff and Abel Segretin (Honkytonk Films). Based on the "choose your own adventure" principle, the interactive documentary tells the story of millions of Chinese coal miners who are risking their lives to satisfy their country’s appetite for economic growth. 
 
Other countries are catching up with the trend -
 
Pirate Fishing by Al Jazeera's Juliana Ruhfus, is as far as we know the first gamified, interactive investigation in the world! Juliana spoke at our WebDocs: Interactive Storytelling weekend on 14-15 March 2015.
Juliana wrote about 'the making of ...' https://medium.com/@julianaruhfus in which she talks about the process and thinking behind the piece.

The Shirt on Your Back is The Guardian online's investigation into the human cost of the Bangladeshi garment industry. The project's producer Lindsay Poulton will be speaking at the Webdocs: Interactive Storytelling conference on the 14 March 2015. 

 
Firestorm, an interactive documentary made for the launch of the The Guardian Australia website. It was one of the first journalistic WebDocs made in the UK.  
 
The Afghan Diaries is an interactive documentary about the Danish involvement in the war in Afghanistan, produced by Bombay Flying Club. 

The Sochi Project is a wonderful example of multi-platform storytelling, based on long hand journalism. 

 
One of Italy's first ever WebDocs was produced by Matteo Scanni. The Iron Curtain Diaries looks into what changed on both side of the former Iron Curtain 20 years after the fall of the wall. 
 
We are especially pleased to let you know about a webdocs by Glyn Thomas Dirty Money. Glyn attended the CIJ Summer School 2013, where he learned about webdocs and how to make them. He then single-handedly put together his first ever web documentary for the World Development Movement. Read Glyn's story
Further reading and watching: 

The 3 Levels on the Spectrum of Interacitive Storytelling - is an excellent report by journalism.co.uk from Sandra Gaudenzi's talk at the CIJ Summer Conference 2015. 

InteractiveStorytelling: an Introduction - Sandra Gaudenzi's talk in full, from the CIJ Summer Conference 2015. 

Telling Difficult Stories - two 'worthy' stories told effectively in an interactive way. Arctic drilling and drones. CIJ Summer Conference 2015. 

Interactive Journalism: the Future's Digital - a talk by Aron Pilhofer and Francesca Panetta at the CIJ Summer School 2013. 

NetWars - German interactive filmmaker Lena Thiele talks about her multimedia project NetWars at the CIJ Summer School 2014.