Digital Documentary Storytelling: Development and Process
This yearlong course explores the art of documentary storytelling. Synthesizing theory and practice, the class introduces the palette of documentary production styles and approaches illustrated in the works of leading documentary directors, including the Maysles brothers, Barbara Kopple, Spike Lee, Sam Pollard, Jonathan Demme, Errol Morris, Werner Herzog, Nick Broomfield, Jennifer Fox, and the Newsreel Collective. The workshop also presents and deconstructs big box office documentaries by celebrity filmmakers—Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) and John Chu (Never Say Never). Each student is encouraged to experience theory as a means of discovering her own individual voice and establishing his own production process/practice. The course is designed to work both as seminar and practicum. In weekly sessions, students consider stylistic, ideological, ethical, and political implications of documentary content and examine the relationship between documentary films and social change. Over the course of a full year, students develop, research, write treatments, pitch, produce, direct, and edit short 8- to 15-minute documentaries. Technical labs in shooting and editing are scheduled throughout the fall and spring terms to strengthen technical production and editing skill sets and to expose students to state-of-the art equipment and software; e.g., Adobe After Effects, Pro Tools, and high-end, high-definition recording equipment. Production and editing exercises, as well as conceptual writing assignments, prepare students for the tasks of writing treatments and putting together pitch samples and trailers for their conference film productions. Ultimately, students are encouraged to explore the aesthetics and practices of documentary filmmaking as a gateway to self-expression and an opportunity to create that short documentary they’ve always imagined.