Bill Nichols

Bill Nichols (born 1942) is an American film critic and theoretician best known for his pioneering work as founder of the contemporary study of documentary film.[1] 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. Nichols is Professor Emeritus in the Cinema Department at San Francisco State University and Chair of the Documentary Film Institute advisory board.

See also Bill Nichols (disambiguation).
Bill Nichols
Nichols at a film seminar, the Central European University in Budapest, June 2013
Notable work
Introduction to documentary (2010)

Engaging Cinema (2010)

The Cinema's Alchemist: The Films of Peter Forgacs (2011)

Nichols has lectured in numerous countries,[2] served on film festival juries[3] on different continents, consults regularly on a variety of filmmaking projects, and has published over 100 articles.[4]

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. Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film describes his place within film studies as "the most significant documentary scholar in the world".[5] 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.



  • Newsreel: Documentary Filmmaking on the American Left, New York : Arno Press, 1980.
  • Ideology and the Image: Social Representation in the Cinema and Other Media, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981. ISBN 978-0-253-18287-6
  • Blurred Boundaries: Questions of Meaning in Contemporary Culture, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994. ISBN 978-0-253-20900-9
  • Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991. ISBN 978-0-253-20681-7
  • Introduction to Documentary, 2nd edition. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-253-33954-6
  • Engaging Cinema: An Introduction to Film Studies. W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. ISBN 978-0-393-93491-5
  • The Cinema’s Alchemist: The Films of Péter Forgács (co-editor Michael Renov). University of Minnesota Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-8166-4875-7


  • Movies and Methods: An Anthology, University of California Press, 1985. Vol. 1 ISBN 978-0-520-03151-7, Vol 2 ISBN 978-0-520-05409-7
  • Maya Deren and the American Avant-Garde, University of California Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0-520-22732-3

See also


  1. "Documentary Modes". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  2. Ventura, Nancy. "La Producción Documental". EICTV. Archived from the original on 2008-05-15.
  3. "International Jury". It's All True Documentary Festival. Archived from the original on 31 December 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  4. "Interview with Bill Nichols". Tomás Crowder-Taraborrelli. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  5. Aitken, Ian (Editor) (2005). Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film. Routledge. p. 1968. ISBN 1-57958-445-4.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
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