Doco leads to doctorate

23 Mar 2016

Life is often stranger than fiction, just ask Dr Bruce Redman.

The film and television industry veteran received his PhD at a recent UQ graduation ceremony for research exploring the mechanics of “guerrilla” documentaries. Dr Redman wrote, directed, shot and produced the one-hour feature Family First – A Federal Crusade for ABC’s Compass program in 2005.

Dr Redman said the story was a “potent mix of religion and politics” and captured the controversial Family First party’s attempt to secure Senate seats during the 2004 Federal Election.

“I made the film in classic ‘guerrilla doc’ style with just myself, a camera and the participants,” Dr Redman said.

“It was started without broadcaster interest or funding body finance. This approach meant that I could get close to the action and the people involved and effectively record a significant chapter of Australian political history.”

While on the campaign trail, the filmmaker had his share of unexpected experiences.

“On election night, I was filming in Adelaide as the party faithful watched the amazing vote count which no one expected (the party missed the balance of power in the Senate by about 40 Tasmanian votes),” Dr Redman said.

“Perhaps the most exciting moment for me was about two weeks out from the election when a party member made a notable gaffe and controversy exploded within the media about the Family First party. I was there to capture the entire thing and I knew at that moment that I had a worthwhile project.”

Dr Redman had originally intended to pursue a drama film project for his PhD, but investigating Family First inspired him to change course. The accompanying research helps fill gaps in the academic literature about the modern guerrilla documentary movement.

“Although guerrilla documentary is a commonly used film industry term, it does not appear extensively within media studies literature. The main idea of the thesis was to track the history of the emergence of guerrilla documentaries, and show that they have been determined by both technology and also markets,” he said.

Dr Redman, who has travelled the world as a journalist, filmmaker and advertising creative, is currently writing a memoir about his experiences in addition to teaching within UQ’s School of Journalism and Communication. Two new documentaries are currently in the works, although the details remain under wraps… for now.