Scope2016 - page 22

Another high point
was MDOCS’s second Story-
tellers’ Institute, this time with an inaugural “Festosium”
component. The institute is an intensive, month-long
summer workshop to help students, faculty, and commu-
nity members tell important stories through documentary
arts such as film, sound, multimedia, and exhibition. The
2016 program included guest artists known for testing
the aesthetic and ethical boundaries of fact and fiction:
Iranian American filmmaker Aggie Ebrahimi Bazaz, exhi-
bition director Courtney Reid-Eaton from North Carolina,
and interdisciplinary artists Amanda Dawn Christie from
Canada and Brooklyn-based Jake Nussbaum. They worked
alongside professors Rik Scarce (sociology) and Erika
Schielke (biology) as well as eight students majoring in
American studies, anthropology, art, dance, English, and
social work. The institute’s Festosium offered a weekend
of public events with acclaimed documentary artists span-
ning audio, photography, virtual reality, film, and curation.
Having added video to his last book project, about
sustainability efforts in the Hudson River region, Rik
Scarce used the Storytellers’ Institute to advance his
next documentary film: a study of barefoot running as a
lifestyle movement. His 50-plus video interviews needed
to be shaped into a compelling and informative package,
and he says consulting with the institute’s “brilliant fel-
lows, expert documentarians, and creative students was a
challenge and a gift.” A biologist with a public-radio back-
ground, Schielke got advice for her on-location podcasts
with rattlesnake surveyors, moose trackers, and other
field researchers in the Adirondacks. The arc of a riveting
story, the technology and tricks of presenting it, and the
insights that a narrative can awaken in its audience—all
stock-in-trade of the Storyteller’s Institute.
Both professors saw how the skills honed in the insti-
tute could be used to help students in their classrooms.
And the students’ own projects included reflections on
the personal (accounts of first-time sex, a family history
in film, a kaleidoscopic animation of hallucination) and
the societal (a podcast on a civil-rights moment, a film on
dance and gender in Spain).
As one arm of Project VIS,
which also includes
Skidmore’s new minor in media and film studies, MDOCS
prides itself on reaching out to aspiring documentarians
in all disciplines. For Dym, “It’s fascinating how people
are incorporating documentary and bringing research
projects to life in such different ways. One terrific divi-
dend is to have a range of faculty and staff sitting in on
MDOCS classes. I really like that holistic, communitywide
scope.” MDOCS courses range from one to four credits,
with titles like “Principles of Documentary,” “Production
Fundamentals” and “Storytelling Radio,” as well as art his-
tory’s “Museum Worlds” and music’s “Interviewing Musi-
cians” (all cross-listed with the media and film minor).
VIS- and MDOCS-sponsored events are just as pan-
oramic. During the academic year, Graham Roberts, a
senior graphics editor at the
New York Times,
visual journalism in the form of multimedia tours, data
visualization, motion graphics, and more. Filmmaker Iva
Radivojevic screened her award-winning
Evaporating Bor-
which has been called “a sweeping visual essay” on
xenophobia and belonging. A networking night, organized
with the arts administration program, included a recep-
tion with employers that put some students into intern-
ships. As Skidmore’s Carr Distinguished Interdisciplinary
Lecturer, Jocelyn Arem ’04, who compiled an acclaimed
multimedia history of Saratoga’s famed Caffè Lena folk-
music venue, led workshops on archival research, oral
histories, and other skills. And MDOCS mounted a New
York City road trip for over 30 Skidmorites when it was
learned that English and film professor Cecilia Aldaron-
Memories of a Penitent Heart
was to be screened at the
prestigious TriBeCa Film Festival.
Still in its early days,
MDOCS has already fostered
some remarkable outcomes. Last year Lisa Fierstein ’16
documented an art student’s project to paint portraits
of local dementia patients, and the video won entry into
a San Francisco film festival on aging. Fierstein is now
at a National Public Radio station in Michigan, produc-
ing both audio and video documentaries. Evian Pan ’17
worked on an oral history of Saratoga’s Chinese popula-
tion during last year’s Storytellers’ Institute and had a
paper published by the New York Folklore Society. This
year as a Tang Museum intern, she created an exhibi-
tion that opened at the Festosium. Noah Throop ’14, who
studied with English professor and documentary maker
Tom Lewis and also made videos for Skidmore’s commu-
nications office, now works at the online news and media
company Mashable. Jake DeNicola ’16 attended last year’s
institute to work with Eleuterio Ramirez ’18 and sociology
professor Bernardo Rios on their video about Saratoga’s
Triqui Mexican population, and now a spinoff focusing
on Ramirez’s experience as a Triqui Saratogian is on track
for the February entry deadline in 2017’s international
Oaxaca Film Fest.
Next for MDOCS?
New courses this term include
a four-credit English workshop for creating archive-
based media stories inspired by Skidmore’s
magazine, celebrating 50 years of publishing work by the
foremost writers, critics, and thinkers. The class is co-
taught by
editor and English faculty member
Marc Woodworth ’84 along with media-services staffer
and MDOCS instructor Ron Taylor. The Memory Project
will keep expanding its accounts of college and county.
And another wide array of public screenings, talks, and
workshops will pepper the events calendar all year.
“The trajectory,” asserts Dym, “is distinctly upward
and outward.”
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