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JOHN CABOT UNIVERSITY

COURSE CODE: "DMA 331"
COURSE NAME: "Documentary Workshop"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2021
SYLLABUS

INSTRUCTOR: Jenn Lindsay
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: W 6:30 PM 9:15 PM
TOTAL NO. OF CONTACT HOURS: 45
CREDITS: 3
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: COM 230
OFFICE HOURS:

COURSE DESCRIPTION:
In this production workshop, students will investigate different approaches to documentary cinema as well as the various techniques available for telling a story in documentary form. Students will apply the acquired theoretical notions in three practical exercises: a location sketch, an interview and a personal essay film. At the end of the workshop, students will have three short films and a deeper understanding of the conceptual, aesthetic as well as ethical issues involved in documentary filmmaking.
SUMMARY OF COURSE CONTENT:

This course will provide the students with deeper familiarity with documentary film techniques through screenings, discussion and shooting exercises. 

LEARNING OUTCOMES:

Upon completion of this course, students should be able to: 

1.     Develop an understanding of documentary techniques and their relationship to the filmmaker’s intentionality when telling a story in documentary form. Recognize and analyze different types and modes of documentary filmmaking. 

2.     Master the process of making a documentary short, from initial conceptualization to the final postproduction completion. 

3.     Screen three short projects that they have completed in this course, and integrate peer feedback into their creative process.

4.     Understand how to communicate with the subjects of their documentary.

5.     Be aware of the ethical issues involved in documentary filmmaking. 

6.     Demonstrate the ability to relate the importance of research and planning, and critical thought to the success of documentary motion pictures. 

7.     Demonstrate the ability to pitch creative ideas, critique their own and their colleagues’ work, manage their time carefully, engage fundamental film production and post-production skills, and justify their creative choices every step of the way.

TEXTBOOK:
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Making Documentary Films and Videos: A Practical Guide to Planning, Filming, and Editing DocumentariesBarry HampeHolt Paperbacks080508181X  
Filmmaking for Change: Make Films that Transform the World, 2nd editionJon FitzgeraldMichael Wiese Productions1615932771  
The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide: A Down & Dirty DV Production, 2nd EditionAnthony Q. ArtisRoutledge0240824156  
REQUIRED RESERVED READING:
NONE

RECOMMENDED RESERVED READING:
NONE
GRADING POLICY
-ASSESSMENT METHODS:
AssignmentGuidelinesWeight
Attendance and class participation Show up on time, ready to talk about screenings and readings. Give feedback to your peers on their screenings and pitches. Your three project pitches must contain a visual element and a logline. 20
Weekly readings journalSubmit cumulative journals document with most recent entry at the top. Requirements: __length 250+ words __few to no typos __reflect on 1-2 readings and one video shown in class __evidence of personal reflection and critical thinking The goal here is NOT to summarize the readings/films but to interact with and respond to them. I am looking for genuine personal engagement: show me you are listening and thinking critically. The journals will not be graded individually, but they will each be read carefully and will be graded as a whole. Think of this as a weekly written check-in with me, your course instructor. Tell me what you're thinking about in class, tell me how the reading struck you. Did anything make you angry, or comfort you? What topic this week are you still curious about? Weekly submissions can be written in a casual tone, but grammar and writing quality count! 10
Location Sketch Exercise (15%)Due Weeks 4/5. A 2/3-minute visual/aural portrait of a setting, capturing the mood, the feeling, thus the identity of this location. You will screen rough and fine cuts in as polished a form as possible, but with no music and no voiceover!15
Interview Exercise Due Weeks 8/9. The students schedule, prepare and shoot an interview with a subject of their choice. They will edit and show a 3/5-minute segment of this interview – the segment must have a unity and feel like a completed piece!15
Personal Essay Exercise Due Week 13. Students choose a topic and personal approach (direct cinema? Voiceover narration? Subjective POV/on-camera presence of the filmmaker? Commentary on found footage?). The goal of this project is to express the director’s sensibility and approach to the subject, hence the name “personal essay.” The word “personal” defines the approach, but it can also be a broader socially/politically themed documentary (see Italy Love it or Leave it and This is Not a Film). Required length 4/5 minutes. Better make a short but controlled film! Like the two previous exercises, it must feel like a finished and coherent piece, and not just an incomplete segment!15
Composite Documentary Project Due Weeks 14/FINALS WEEK. Students will cut and finish a composite film that weaves together their Location, Interview, and Personal Essay assignments. The final product will be coherent and all parts well-integrated. 25

-ASSESSMENT CRITERIA:
AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

-ATTENDANCE REQUIREMENTS:

ATTENDANCE REQUIREMENTS

This class is a WORKSHOP -- Attendance and participation constitute 20% of your final grade. More than 1 unexcused absence will result in a full letter grade drop per class missed. More than 3 unexcused absences will result in failing the course. If unexcused, a tardy of more than 15 minutes will be counted as an absence. Leaving class early will also affect your grade. 

No late assignments (pitches and exercises) will be accepted. Only students who pitch their ideas will be able to show their work in class. Students enrolled in this class are required to have their own external hard drive where they can save and store their editing projects.
On the last session, every student is required to provide the instructor with his/her four pieces; linked online, or on a DVD or USB key. 

 

ACADEMIC HONESTY
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
STUDENTS WITH LEARNING OR OTHER DISABILITIES
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.

SCHEDULE

COURSE SCHEDULE (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

--WEEKLY READING ASSIGNMENTS POSTED ON MOODLE--

DATE/THEME

TOPICS

WEEK 1, 20 January: Introduction

 

Intro to class, requirements, deadline, exercises.

What is a documentary?

What are the 6 types of documentary?
Where to look for ideas for a documentary?

Starting to work on a documentary: how much do you need to know?
The filmmaker’s point of view: Having your thesis vs discovering your topics.

Writing: narrative vs documentary filmmaking.
In documentary, the actual writing happens in the editing room. The importance of research!

How to PITCH YOUR IDEAS in this class.

Introduction of the LOCATION SKETCH assignment.

 

WEEK 2, 27 January:Observing Locations

 

The Observational documentary.
Screening:Grey Gardens, Maysles Brothers

Students pitch their LOCATION SKETCH exercise ideas.

SHOOTING WORKSHOP: Reviewing camera/lighting operations.

 

WEEK 3, 3 February:Documentary Filmmaking Technique

 

Documentary approaches and techniques:

-Interviews
-B-roll
-Voiceover narration

-Found/Archival/Public Domain footage

-Re-enactments

-Director’s presence through voice.

-Director featured in documentary

-Paper Edits

-Fair Use

Reviewing and discussing various documentary film clips.

 

 

WEEK 4, 10 February: Location Sketch Rough Cuts Screening / Workshop

 

LOCATION SKETCH (2/3 mins) ROUGH CUTS DUE TODAY. Screening and feedback.

 

WEEK 5, 17 February:Location Sketch Fine Cuts Screening

 

LOCATION SKETCH (2/3 mins) FINE CUTS DUE TODAY.

Lecture: The paramount importance of sound in documentary.

 

WEEK 6, 24 February:Making a documentary with talking heads.

 

Introduce the INTERVIEW ASSIGNMENT.

Review and discuss various documentary film clips; screenThe Thin Blue Line, Errol Morris

 

WEEK 7, 3 March: Interviewing Techniques

 

Interviewing Principles and Workshop:
Choosing your subject.
It’s a matter of trust: how to earn the subject’s trust.
When to start the camera.
Pros and cons of documentaries which heavily rely on interviews.

Review and discussing various documentary film clips.

Students pitch their idea for the INTERVIEW ASSIGNMENT.

QUIZ 1:On the films and readings assigned from Weeks 1-7.

 

 

 

SPRING BREAK, March 8-12

 

WEEK 8, March 17: Interview Assignment Rough Cuts Screening

 

INTERVIEW ASSIGNMENT ROUGH CUTS DUE TODAY. Screening and feedback.

 

WEEK 9, March 24: Interview Assignment Fine Cuts Screening

 

INTERVIEW ASSIGNMENT FINE CUTS DUE TODAY. Screening and feedback.

 

WEEK 10, March 31:The Personal Essay Film

 

Introduction of PERSONAL ESSAY FILM assignment.

Review and discussing various documentary film clips.

 

WEEK 11, April 7:The Personal Essay Film, continued.

 

Proposals for final PERSONAL ESSAY FILMS are due today! All directors pitch and receive feedback on their ideas.

-Documentary mode: the filmmakeristhe subject of the documentary. Screening:Italy Love it or Leave it, by Luca Ragazzi & Gustav Hofer

 

WEEK 12, April 14:Guest Speaker: Documentary Editing

 

GUEST SPEAKER:


Conversation with film editor Sarah McTeigue.

 

WEEK 13, April 21:Personal Essay Film Rough Cuts Screening

 

Screening of PERSONAL ESSAY FILM ROUGH CUTS and feedback.

 

WEEK 14, April 28:Putting it all together…the composite Documentary Project

 

How to get to a final cut of your composite film that weaves together your Location, Interview, and Personal Essay work?

 

FINAL EXAM PERIOD, May 3-7

 

Screening of completed DOCUMENTARY FILMS and feedback.


QUIZ 2: on films/reading we explored between Weeks 8-13.