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Continuing Education

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Continuing Education

Documentary Filmmaking

Do you have a story you want to tell? Learn how to find your voice as a documentary filmmaker!

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Documentary Filmmaking

Tuesdays, October 17th to December 5th, 2017, 7:00 - 9:00 pm.

Location: Wallis Hall Room 128, Traill College.

Cost: $20 per class (+ HST).

Register online at https://www.regonline.com/documentaryfilmmaking or in person with cash or cheque at Scott House Room 102.4, 300 London Street, Traill College.

What is a documentary film and how do you produce one? Most definitions emphasize that a documentary film is a nonfictional work that is meant to instruct or inform spectators on specific historical moments or subjects. This course will challenge the rigidity of those definitions and provide you with a wealth of options of how to make your own documentary films and how many different kinds of documentary films there are to choose from. You will learn the practical components of producing a documentary: funding options, budgeting, scheduling, interviewing techniques, stylistic techniques, ethical considerations, promotion, and exhibition.

Bill Nichols, Professor of Cinema at San Francisco State University, stresses that a documentary film guarantees “no absolute separation between fiction and documentary.” We will be drawing on his book Introduction to Documentary in the course, as well as various other sources, though you are not required to read them. A documentary film is not merely an unbiased recording and presenting of a moment or subject; just like any fictional film, documentary films tell stories, and as such, are always shaped by the choices of their storytellers. What is being emphasized by the storytellers in their presentations of their documentary films’ subjects? What is being excluded? And why? In exploring these questions throughout the course, you will develop your voice as a documentary storyteller. Participants from a variety of backgrounds are welcome whether or not you have prior experience in producing documentaries, or have experience in creative writing.

Tuesday 17 October - The Beginnings of Documentary Film (1890s – 1930s)

How did the first documentary films come about, and in what contexts? We will explore the beginnings of Documentary films, from the early French “actualities” of Auguste and Louis Lumière in the 1890s to the documentaries of the British Documentary Film Movements in the 1930s to those made under Canada’s National Film Board beginning in 1939. We will see that early documentaries were already significantly fictionalized and staged, and examine some of the choices early documentary storytellers made in order to communicate the subjects of their works to audiences, and how those choices are still made today.

Tuesday 24 October - Methods of Persuasion in Documentary Films

How do you make arguments through documentary films? We will explore the different ways a documentary filmmaker can use cinematic rhetoric to persuade an audience, and the challenges for documentary filmmakers in presenting arguments. In particular, we will focus on several stylistic options available, such as the way your documentary is edited or how it is shot, and how these stylistic options can help or hinder persuasion depending on the subject of the documentary.

Tuesday 31 October - The Basics of Shot Composition, Lighting, and Sound Recording

The first half of the class will be devoted to covering the basics of standard shot composition, conventional ways to record interviews, methods of lighting your documentary, and will cover some options on recording sound for your documentary. The latter half of the class will give students the chance to practice shot composition and lighting in group activities.

Tuesday 7 November - Documentary Ethics

What are the ethical considerations of representing the subjects of your documentaries? We will consider the ethics of documentary filmmaking by examining the choices certain storytellers make in representing their subjects in various contexts, and the effects or results of those choices. We will also cover the various principles commonly discussed in relation to documentary ethics, such as “informed consent.” Ethical considerations are crucial when representing the subjects of documentary films.

Tuesday 14 November - Types of Documentary Films: Expository and Poetic

What kind of documentary film do you want to make, and what is the best type of documentary for your subject? We will first attempt to distinguish between documentary films and nonfiction non-documentary films, but also examine how those two kinds of films overlap. We will then look at the differences between expository documentaries, which tend to emphasize direct address to the viewer via voiceover, and poetic documentaries, which use more explicitly formal devices, such as dynamic editing and experimental narrative structure, to convey meaning. To conclude this class, you will have the opportunity to practice certain stylistic devices of expository and poetic documentaries using cameras in group activities.

Tuesday 21 November - Types of Documentary Films: Observational, Participatory, Reflexive, and Performative

This workshop is a continuation of the previous week’s that still seeks to ask what kind of documentary film you want to produce. You will not be required to have taken the previous week’s workshop. We will be looking at the following types of documentary films that began roughly in the 1960s with the rise of consumer-grade film cameras and audio recording: observational (the spontaneous recording of lived experience), participatory (documentarians participating in the lived experiences of their films’ subjects), reflexive (considerations of how the world is represented), and performative (emphasizes the subjectivity, rather than objectivity, of knowledge itself). To conclude this class, you will have the opportunity to practice certain stylistic devices of observational, participatory, reflexive, and performative documentaries using cameras in group activities.

Tuesday 28 November - The Basics of Picture and Sound Editing

How do you organize all the footage shot for your documentary into a coherent whole? This class will explore the basics of creating a narrative for your documentary through picture and sound editing. We shall also discuss options for selecting and using editing software that best complement the means available to you in making your documentary.

Tuesday 5 December - Funding, Budgeting, and Exhibiting Your Documentary

You want to make a documentary—what are some effective ways to find funding for your documentary, to budget your documentary, and to have it seen? We will consider those different practical elements of producing your film. Crucially, we will participate in writing exercises to give you experience in creating grant applications, which are a significant component in securing funding.

About the Instructor:

David Hollands is a Ph.D. candidate in Cultural Studies and filmmaker. He holds a B.A. in Film Studies from York University and an M.A. in Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto. In his work, David focuses broadly on the intersections and tensions of film theory and practice. He offers his students a firm understanding of why knowledge of theory is important and how one can make use of theory in interesting and practical ways.

Online registration is provided through RegOnline, a third-party registration service. An additional charge will be applied by RegOnline in addition to the course fee.

Avoid additional charges by registering in person with cash or a cheque.