umwdocumentary.slack.com | jstommel@umw.edu

An antique film projector

Welcome! Here’s what we’ll spend our time doing this semester. This schedule will evolve as we proceed. Watch regularly for more details, added activities, and stuff might change or move around as our conversation does.

[/] January 25 - 31: Introduction

First, watch:

Pandemic, Episode 1: "It Hunts Us" (52 min) [Netflix]
Coronavirus Explained, Episode 1: "This Pandemic" (26 min) [Netflix]
In the Shadow of Ebola (27 min) [online]

Then, do some stuff:

1)  Sign up for our Slack channel by clicking here, say hello in the #random channel, perhaps with a GIF. (Note: you'll need to use your UMW e-mail address to sign up.) Make sure to add an Avatar (a picture of you or something to represent you) so that we aren't all just a bunch of circle heads.

2) Make a short (less than a minute) video introducing yourself to us. This can be super simple (shot on your phone, no editing, etc.). Share your video in the #who-are-we channel in Slack.

  • Don’t tell us your major, unless you have a story about it
  • Don’t tell us what you're doing this Summer, unless it involves giant snakes, parachuting, a unicorn, a flash flood, or it will be documented in a viral video
  • Don’t tell us where you grew up, unless you’re going to show pictures
  • Do tell us what moves you, what you care most about
  • Do tell us what you hope to get from taking this course, but only if you can do so in a limerick
  • Do tell us where you are
  • Do give us random facts we can come to know you by
  • Do click here and answer the first would you rather question that catches your eye

To share a video in Slack, upload to YouTube (or any other site where videos live) and share with a link. Or click the little paperclip at the bottom of the message box in Slack, select a video file you created, and add a title/subject before you hit the upload button.

[/] February 1 - 7: What is Documentary For?

First, watch:

American Factory (110 min) [Netflix]

Then, do some stuff:

1) You'll need a space online to share your work for this course. A couple options: (a) Install Wordpress on your personal domain, which you can sign up for at umw.domains. (You can find steps for signing up here.) If you already have a domain, feel free to publish there, or use a subdomain for our class; (b) Sign up for Medium (all you need is a free account); (c) Prepare to publish anywhere else (YouTube, Instagram, Soundcloud, etc.), as long as you can post regularly and share your work for the class via hyperlinks.

2) Get started by writing (or recording) a brief response of any length to one or more of the films assigned for this week. This can be informal, and the shape your response takes is up to you, blog post, podcast, short video. Share a link in the #our-work channel in Slack.

Note: If you run into trouble with these or any of your digital work this term, you can make an appointment with the Digital Knowledge Center at dkc.umw.edu.

[/] February 8 - 14: Digital Storytelling

First, read and watch:

Stories We Tell (109 min) [YouTube Rental] [iTunes Rental]
StoryCorps [browse and listen to a handful of stories]
Angie Kordic, “Documentary Photography: Art as Life”

Then, do some stuff:

1) 7 days. 7 B&W photos of your life. No people. No explanation. Each this week, publish one photo tagged #digdoc to your Instagram, Facebook, or wherever.

2) Share the images in the #our-work channel in Slack, or share a link there to let us know where online we can follow you.

[/] February 15 - 21: The Camera

First, read and watch:

Cameraperson (102 min) [Amazon Prime]
Michael Koreski, “I Am a Camera”
Richard Brody, “Cameraperson and the Conventions of Documentary Filmmaking”

Is there a relation between “things and their filmed projections, which is to say between the originals now absent from us (by screening) and the new originals now present to us (in photogenesis) — a relation to be thought of as something’s becoming something (say as a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, or as a prisoner becomes a count, or as an emotion becomes conscious, or as after a long night it becomes light)?” ~ Stanley Cavell

Then, do some stuff:

1) Look ahead and begin work on your one-minute documentary, which will be due at the end of next week. There are a bunch of examples linked there. And a deceptively simple prompt. One of the goals is to get you thinking about how editing works, how it can be used to tell stories. Even the simplest footage can make meaning through the ways one shot is juxtaposed against another.

2) Either, Join a two-hour optional live chat of this week's film in the #cameraperson channel on Slack (Wednesday, February 17, at 6pm Eastern). We'll all hit play at the same time, and chat via text as we watch. You can rent the film for just a few dollars on Amazon or YouTube. It is probably my favorite of the documentaries I've assigned this term, but it's an odd film, so I highly recommend reading one or both of the short articles I included above, which offer some context for the film.

Or, Write/record a short piece responding to Cameraperson and publish it wherever you are doing your work for the class. As before, your response can be text, audio, video, multimedia. Share your work in the #our-work channel. The director of the film tells stories through editing but also in the way that she composes shots. Choose at least one frame (a single static image) from the film that moves you or captures your imagination. Respond to it. Describe what you're seeing? What does it do in the film? What can you say about its shape, geometry, colors, lighting, etc.? Incorporate more shots or frames in your response, if you want, and feel free to bring in thoughts from either of the readings for this week or anything else you find or learn about the film.

Note: You only need to do one of the two, but feel free to do both, if it's useful or if you missed one of the other assignments thus far.

[/] February 22 - 28: Human Subjects

First, watch:

Amanda Knox (92 min) [Netflix]

Then, do some stuff:

1) Write/record a short piece responding to Amanda Knox and publish it wherever you are doing your work for the class. As before, your response can be text, audio, video, multimedia. Share your work in the #our-work channel.

2) Look ahead to next week's activity, the one-minute documentary, because you might want to spend a bit more time thinking about it.

[/] March 1 - 7: One Minute Documentaries

First, read and watch:

One Minute Wonder, 1MinuteDoc, 1 Minute Meal, 1 Minute Short Films
Overview: How Does Cinematography Impact Tone?
Use Your Camera to Control Audience Perspective
Using Sound in Your Film
Film Lighting Basics

Then, do some stuff:

One-minute documentary. A single voice. 20 cuts. Upload to Instagram, YouTube, or elsewhere and tag with #digdoc. Share a link to your short film in the #our-work channel on Slack.

Note: Feel free to use any editing software, including iMovie, Final Cut Pro, OpenShot, Premiere, etc. There are even some pretty good video editing tools for iPhone and Android, but you may want to experiment with one of the others, in order to help you develop skills you'll find useful for the final project. Remember, if you need technical assistance, you can make an appointment with the Digital Knowledge Center at dkc.umw.edu.

[/] March 8 - 14: Politics

First, watch:

13th (100 min) [Netflix] [Free on YouTube]

Then, do some stuff:

1) Write/record a short piece responding to Amanda Knox and publish it wherever you are doing your work for the class. As before, your response can be text, audio, video, multimedia. Share your work in the #our-work channel.

2) Look ahead to next week's activity, the Midterm Self-reflection, because you might want to spend a bit more time thinking about it.

[/] March 15 - 21: Structure

First, watch:

The Great Hack (114 min) [Netflix]

Then, do some stuff:

1) Click here to complete your Midterm Self-reflection

2) Either, Join a two-hour optional live chat of The Great Hack in the #great-hack channel (Thursday, March 18, at 8pm Eastern). We'll all hit play at the same time, and chat via text as we watch. The film is available on Netflix.

Or, Write/record a short piece responding to The Great Hack, Citizenfour, and/or any of the interactive documentaries. Publish it wherever you are doing your work for the class. As before, your response can be text, audio, video, multimedia. Share your work in the #our-work channel.

Looking Forward:

The final project for this class will be a short documentary film. Begin considering your subject matter and deciding what shape your film will take.

[/] March 22 - 28: Activism

First, watch:

Citizenfour (113 min) [Amazon Rental]

Then, do some stuff:

1) Write/record a short piece responding to Icarus and publish it wherever you are doing your work for the class. As before, your response can be text, audio, video, multimedia. Share it in the #our-work channel.

2) Begin work on your final documentary, if you haven't already. The guidelines are simple, giving you lots of wiggle room. Your final film should be 3-10 minutes. I would encourage you to work toward the shorter end of this, using careful editing. Think of this as a way to practice at filmmaking and, perhaps, to create a portfolio piece.

You can use archival footage, images, voiceover, interviews. You can use footage you've already shot and/or new footage. Feel free to be as creative as you'd like with subject matter and approach. (You could even create a mockumentary, which is an amazing genre worthy of a whole other course.) Given the current restrictions related to COVID-19, you may need to get creative about how you approach filming for this project. Feel free to use yourself as a subject, record voiceover on your smart phone, record a conversation via video chat. Along with your film, you'll write an artist statement, a short introduction, analysis, or narrative of your process.

[/] March 29 - April 4: Narrative

First, watch:

Icarus (121 min) [Netflix]

Then, do some stuff:

1) Write/record a short piece responding to Icarus and publish it wherever you are doing your work for the class. As before, your response can be text, audio, video, multimedia. Share your work in the #our-work channel. And respond to the work of your peers.

2) For the rest of the term, the most important "project" is for you to work on your final films. Look at last week's activities for details.

[/] April 5 - 11: Identity

First, watch:

Crip Camp (108 min) [Netflix]

Then, do some stuff:

1) Write/record a short piece responding to Crip Camp and publish it wherever you are doing your work for the class. As before, your response can be text, audio, video, multimedia. Share your work in the #our-work channel. And respond to the work of your peers.

2) Continue working on your final film.

[/] April 12 - 18: Rhetoric

First, watch:

Blackfish (83 min) [Netflix] [Rent via YouTube]

Then, do some stuff:

1) Either, Join an optional live chat of Blackfish in the #blackfish channel on Slack (Sunday, April 18 at 8pm Eastern). We'll all hit play at the same time, and chat via text as we watch.

Or, Write/record a short piece responding to Blackfish. Publish it wherever you are doing your work for the class. As before, your response can be text, audio, video, multimedia. Share your work in the #our-work channel.

2) Continue working on your final film.

[/] April 19 - 25: The Digital

First, watch:

The Social Dilemma (104 min) [Amazon Prime]

Then, do some stuff:

1) (Optional): Write/record a short piece responding to The Social Dilemma and publish it wherever you are doing your work for the class. As before, your response can be text, audio, video, multimedia. Share your work in the #our-work channel. And respond to the work of your peers.

2) Feel free to just focus on working on your final film this week. No need to write/record a post this week, unless you want to make up for one or more missed posts earlier in the term.

[/] April 26 - May 2: Interactivity

First, watch:

“Hollow” [online]
“Bear 71” [online]
Watch at least one more from the National Film Board of Canada
[Browse and view more interactive documentaries]

Then, do some stuff:

Share your final film by midnight on May 2 in the #final-films channel in Slack. Remember, your final film should be 3-10 minutes, and include a 1-3 paragraph artist statement or narrative of your process wherever you "publish" your film (in the YouTube description, in a blog post with the video embedded, etc.).

[/] May 3 - 7: Final Film Screening

Do some stuff:

1) Comment on final films of your peers.

2) Join me and your classmates for an optional virtual screening. We'll gather in the #final-films channel in Slack (Monday, May 10 at 8pm Eastern). Bring popcorn. We'll pick a film to start with, hit play together, and then chat about each of your work as we watch. If you are not able to make it to this virtual screening, you can watch and comment on each other's films asynchronously anytime between May 3 - 10.

3) Submit your final self-reflection by midnight on May 7 (click here)