DOCUMENTARY FILM | umwdocumentary.slack.com

An antique film projector

Here’s what we’ll spend our time doing this term (and space for us to fill together). This schedule will evolve as we proceed. Watch for more details, readings and short films, small assignments, and stuff that moves around as our conversation does.

[/] WEEK 1: May 18 - May 24

First read and 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 #open-forum channel and start getting your bearings. (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, go to the #who-are-we channel, click the little + next to the message box, select the video file you created, add a message, then hit the upload button.

3) 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.

4) 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.

[/] WEEK 2: May 25 - May 31

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 day from May 25 – May 31, publish one photo tagged #digdoc to your Instagram, Facebook, or wherever. Tell us where online we can follow you and your work in the #who-are-we channel in Slack.

2) At the end of the week, publish a post that documents your process, responds to Stories We Tell, and gathers together your own 7 images. Share a link. Think about the questions: How do we construct selves online? How do images tell stories? What makes a story true?

3) We'll be holding optional synchronous sessions throughout the term, starting with a collaborative viewing of Cameraperson next week. Fill out this Doodle Poll to let me know what days/times work best for these, next week and beyond.

[/] WEEK 3: June 1 - June 7

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 at 8pm on Tuesday, June 2. 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 #cameraperson 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.

[/] WEEK 4: June 8 - June 14

First watch:

13th (100 min) [Netflix] [Free on YouTube]
One Minute Documentaries: One Minute Wonder, 1MinuteDoc, 1 Minute Meal, 1 Minute Short Films

Then do some stuff:

1) 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.

2) Watch and annotate this week's film. You can watch on YouTube and then annotate, or watch directly within the tool where we will be doing our annotation. You can add annotations anywhere throughout the film, and you can reply to each other's annotations. At the very least, look specifically at this section (13 minutes and 55 seconds into the film), which I've marked with a set of questions.

You'll need to start by clicking on the link to the film and logging in via Google. You’ll have to create a quick account in the tool we’re using to collaboratively annotate. Then, you can add comments as you’re watching. If you run into trouble, click the big pink “help” button in the lower right and search “commenting on a video” or something else. (I’m experimenting with this platform to see how it works for online classes, so feel free to add feedback about the tool to the #open-forum channel on Slack).

[/] WEEK 5: June 15 - June 21

First read and watch:

The Great Hack (114 min) [Netflix]
Citizenfour (113 min) [Amazon Rental]
Browse and view interactive documentaries (I especially recommend this one)

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 on Slack at 8pm on Monday, June 15. 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.

[/] WEEK 6: June 22 - June 28

First watch one or both of these two films:

Icarus (121 min) [Netflix]
Crip Camp (108 min) [Netflix]

Then, do some stuff:

1) If you haven't already completed your Midterm Self-reflection, click here.

2) Write/record a short piece responding to either Icarus or 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 it in the #our-work channel.

3) 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.

[/] WEEK 7: June 29 - July 5

First read and watch:

Blackfish (83 min) [Netflix] [Rent via YouTube]
Grizzly Man (104 min) [Amazon Prime]

Then, do some stuff:

1) Either, Join a two-hour optional live chat of Grizzly Man in the #grizzly-man channel on Slack at 8pm on Tuesday, June 30. 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 or Grizzly Man. 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 short film, which is due on July 8.

[/] WEEK 8: July 6 - July 12

July 8: Share your final film by midnight 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.).

July 9 - 11: Comment on final films of your peers.

Join me and your classmates for an optional virtual screening at 8pm on Thursday, July 9. We'll gather in the #final-films channel in Slack. Bring popcorn. We'll pick a film to start with and 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 July 9 - 11.

July 13: Finish final self-reflection by midnight (click here)