Professor Nichols is perhaps best known for his pioneering work as founder of the contemporary study of documentary film. His 1991 book, Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary, applied modern film theory to the study of documentary film for the first time. It has been followed by scores of books by others and by additional books and essays by Nichols. The first volume of his two-volume anthology Movies and Methods (1976, 1985) helped to establish film studies as an academic discipline.
Professor Nichols has lectured in numerous countries, served on film festival juries on different continents, consults regularly on a variety of filmmaking projects, and has published over 100 articles. He is former President of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, a former advisor to the American Film Institute and has served as Department Chair in Canada and the United States. The Encyclopedia of Documentary Film describes his place within film studies as "the most significant documentary scholar in the world." His early work shared with other film scholars a degree of difficulty as it tried to apply elaborate theories to popular films but, as with the field generally, the intensity of theoretical investigation diminishes in his later work as the emotional impact of specific works takes on greater importance. Not a film historian in the traditional sense, Nichols has offered fresh views of historical assumptions but his main contribution has been to offer a conceptual framework for the study and production of documentary film.
Ph.D., Theater Arts (Film), UCLA
M.A., Theater Arts (Film), UCLA
Stanford Medical School (Completed one year before changing career plans.)
B.A., Chemistry, Duke University
Selected Publications & Filmography:
Newsreel: Documentary Filmmaking on the American Left. New York: Arno Press, 1980
Ideology and the Image: Social Representation as a Semiotic Process. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981.
Blurred Boundaries: Questions of Meaning in Contemporary Culture. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.
Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.
Introduction to Documentary, 2nd edition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.
Engaging Cinema: An Introduction to Film Studies. W. W. Norton & Company, 2010.
Cinema's Alchemist: The Films of Péter Forgács (Co-editor Michael Renov). University of Minnesota Press, 2011.
Movies and Methods: An Anthology. University of California Press, 1985. Volume 1 and Volume 2
Maya Deren and the American Avant-Garde. University of California Press, 2001.