umwdocumentary.slack.com | jstommel@umw.edu

An antique film projector
"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

Here’s what we’ll spend our time doing this term. 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 17 - May 23

First read and watch:

Stories We Tell (109 min) [YouTube Rental] [iTunes Rental]
Cameraperson (102 min) [Amazon Prime]
Michael Koreski, “I Am a Camera”
Angie Kordic, “Documentary Photography: Art as Life”

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 via hyperlinks.

4) Get started by writing (or recording) a brief response of any length to one or both 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 24 - May 30

First read and watch:

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

1) 7 days. 7 B&W photos of your life. No people. No explanation. Each day from May 24 – May 30, publish one photo tagged #digdoc to your Instagram, Facebook, or wherever. Share your images or tell us where we can follow you and your work in the #our-work channel in Slack.

2) Join an optional live chat of this week's film in the #13th channel on Slack at 8pm Eastern on Thursday, May 27. We'll all hit play at the same time, and chat via text as we watch. The film is available free on YouTube and also on Netflix.

3) Write/record a short piece responding to 13th 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 in Slack.

4) 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.

[/] WEEK 3: May 31 - June 6

First read and watch:

Amanda Knox (92 min) [Netflix]
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.

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. If you need technical assistance, you can make an appointment with the Digital Knowledge Center at dkc.umw.edu.

2) Go to the #our-work channel in Slack and respond to the work of your peers.

3) Click here to complete your Midterm Self-reflection

Optional: 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 it in the #our-work channel.

Looking Forward:

The final project for this class will be a short documentary film due on June 15. Begin considering your subject matter and deciding what shape your film will take. You can expand on the work you did for the one-minute documentary, or go off in another direction entirely.

[/] WEEK 4: June 7 - June 13

First watch:

Coded Bias (85 min) [Netflix]
Citizenfour (113 min) [Amazon Rental]
Browse and view interactive documentaries (I especially recommend this one)

Then do some stuff:

1) Join an optional live chat of Coded Bias in the #coded-bias channel on Slack at 8pm Eastern on Tuesday, June 8. We'll all hit play at the same time, and chat via text as we watch. The film is available on Netflix.

2) Write/record a short piece responding to Coded Bias, 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.

3) Continue working on your final documentary. The guidelines are simple, giving you lots of wiggle room. Your final film should be 3-7 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, 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 continuing 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, short introduction, analysis, or narrative of your process.

[/] WEEK 5: June 14 - June 17

First watch one or both of these two films:

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

Then, do some stuff:

Optional: 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.

June 15: 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.).

June 16: Join me and your peers for an optional virtual screening at 8pm Eastern on Wednesday, June 16. 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 on June 16 or June 17.

June 17: Finish final self-reflection by midnight (click here)