Digital Documentary Storytelling: Development and Production

This is a course from a previous year. View the current courses

Synthesizing theory and practice, this yearlong course explores the existential import of the art of documentary storytelling. Students are introduced to the eclectic palette of documentary production styles and approaches used in the genre. These are illustrated in screenings of seminal works by eminent directors: Maysles brothers, Newsreel Collective, Barbara Kopple, Spike Lee, Sam Pollard, Errol Morris, Werner Herzog, and Jennifer Fox. The workshop also analyzes and deconstructs the works of successful box office producers: Michael Moore, Charles Ferguson (Inside Job), and Michael Rapaport (Beat, Rhymes, and Life). Workshoppers are encouraged to experience theory as a means of empowering their own production practices. The yearlong experience is designed to work both as seminar and hands-on workshop. In weekly seminar sessions, participants consider the ideological, ethical, and political implications of documentary production and examine the relationship between documentary films and social change. In workshop sessions, students are given the opportunity to create the short documentary they’ve always imagined: personal/autobiographical profiles, road movies, social-issue productions, anecdotal portrayals, and city symphonies. Over the course of the full year, students develop, research, write a treatment for, pitch, produce, direct, and edit a 10-minute documentary. Technical workshops in shooting and editing, scheduled during fall and spring terms, strengthen students’ skill-sets. In the full year plan of study, production and editing exercises and conceptual writing assignments provide experiences and resources for critical reflection and creation of documentary pitch samples and trailers. As participants produce their own short documentaries for conference, they also function as crew for other students’ productions. Ultimately, students are encouraged to explore the aesthetics and practices of documentary filmmaking as an avenue of self-expression.