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Skidmore College
MDOCs title

Spring 2018 Classes
Documentary Studies

Production Fundamentals

Documentary Studies 


and related campus offerings in:

  • HI 363D - Public History -- with a media editing project
  • ID 351D - Video Ethnography in Saratoga County
  • EN 363   - Testing the Limits of Documentary Practice
  • AN 251D - Visual Ethnography
  • AN 352B - Archival Collection and Curation
  • AN 352D - Heritage and Communities

NOTE:  All courses listed as DS count towards Skidmore College's Media and Film Studies Minor

Production Fundamentals

DS 116A 001 - Storytelling: Map Design and Spatial Visualization 
Thomas Hart

Presentation of geographic spatial information begins with maps made following good design. What makes a good map design in terms of color composition, scale, and density of information? How does one present multiple scales and time series? Good design is only the beginning. Once content is mapped, how and with what media can the visual information be best presented? This course will explore map design and appropriate use of increasingly complex presentation strategies starting with powerpoint, followed by Google map engines and embedded internet applications and culminating with ArcGIS Online driven story mapping. Students with prior GIS experience will be able to create their own map data, while those uninitiated in GIS will be able to use existing data sets to achieve powerful and appropriate visualizations. The seven week course design allows for those with significant presentations at the end of the semester, such as capstone projects, to apply visualization and presentation methods gained in this course in those projects. The course would be offered under  Documentary Studies with Environmental Studies and Science cross-listing to appeal to a broad range of students.

DS 116B - 360 Degree Audio Video with Photogrammetry -- NEW!!
Paul Hembree
Mon, 10 - 11:50 am

Students will learn how to shoot 360 video, record binaural and ambisonic spatial audio, and produce photogrammetry of stationary objects. The intended platform will be web=based 360 video players, Google Cardboard, Gear VR, and HTC Vive.  If time permits, we will also attempt motion capture for use in animating projects.



DS 202A Digital Access Incubator Project: the Meeting App  -  NEW!!
Jasmyn Story, '15, and Noah Kernis, '15
Feb. 16 & 17 and Mar. 2 & 3

Fri,  12:2pam - 4:00pm
Sat, 10:00am - 2:00pm

Join Skidmore alumni, directing members of the Coalition for the Dignity and Rights of Colored People (The People's Coalition), for an incubator project to build the Saratoga Springs segment of their web and mobile applications. The app is a centralized hub that provides access to and communicates key information and resources to lower the impact of structural violence experienced by marginalized groups. The information is broken up into three categories: Mind (schools, summer camps, youth programs, trainings), Body (food, EBT accepting food markets), and Soul (lodges, religious centers, YMCA). In this incubator, we will focus on understanding the goals of the app and developing a community-sustained approach. We will spend time researching and gathering information about the Capital Region, Saratoga Springs, and Skidmore College as if we were launching our beta locally. While working in partnership with the incubator, participants will learn to communicate based on restorative practices, deepening their understanding of the social capital present in both the campus and the greater community. Participants will also learn the basics of web technologies like API’s. This opportunity will shift the way students are able to connect and collaborate with community members as well as alumni. Though this interdisciplinary endeavor, we will foster an environment that encourages creativity and equity.

The People’s Coalition was founded by Jasmyn Elise Story in 2015  and officially established as a non-profit organization on January 22nd, 2017.

  • Jasmyn Elise Story (Skidmore ‘15) is a Restorative Justice Facilitator and a dedicated human rights activist with 8 years of experience  working in the voluntary sector. Formally the Director of Restorative Justice Programming at the JAGS Foundation, Jasmyn completed her MA in Human Rights at the University College London.
  • Noah Kernis (Skidmore ‘15) works as a Junior DevOps Engineer for Mentat Advisers. He recently graduated from the Flatiron School where he studied full-stack web development. Noah previously worked in television and radio for Amazon, StoryCorps, and WNYC.


DS 302A 001 Video Projects
Ron Taylor
M, 4:30-6:20, 1 credit (1/22-3/5)

In ClassThis course is for students interested in developing a documentary project based on existing or in-progress research in any discipline. Proposed projects may employ video, photography, and/or other media. Students will workshop an individual short project from proposal through in-class presentations with individual and group critiques. Students will focus on finding an approach to form that suits both subject matter and their personal academic and creative goals. Students will also be exposed to screenings of works by others using various styles.



Documentary Studies

DS 201: Principles of Documentary Studies
Jordana Dym
Tu/Th 9:40-11, 3 credits

The gateway to the Documentary Studies Collaborative. This course introduces local, national and global documentary traditions in film, sound, photography, exhibition and multi-media, through readings, screenings, classroom discussion, and engagement with practitioners. Students will engage with theoretical and practical issues related to documentary work, including critical analysis of existing work and of the distinct ethical and aesthetic concerns associated with developing and telling stories that matter. The course emphasizes how the narrative, analytical, and structural frames of audio, visual and written media shape the work, its audience and impact. Rather than focusing on the production of a documentary in any one form, students get a hands-on experience of various media, and an overview of technical aspects, to help them prepare for extended work in one or more documentary media.

DS 251C  - Participatory Documentary, Socially Engaged Art and Community Media  -- NEW!!
Adam Tinkle
W/F, 8:40 - 10 am, 3 credits

This course locates the emerging field of “participatory documentary” within the wider landscape of the arts as used towards popular education, social justice, and community building. Beginning with the long history of socially engaged art, the course will focus in especially on participatory approaches to performance, community-based media, media literacy, and media justice. These traditions critique the exclusivity and elitism afflicting all the arts, and ask questions like: What is, or should be, the place of creativity in the lives of individuals and societies? Who is, or gets to be, an artist? Why should a rarefied class of makers be telling everyone else’s stories? Could a more inclusive approach help create social bonds, empower the objectified, and bring truer, less distorted representations into our public discourse? Participatory approaches to documentary storytelling cast the documentarian as a facilitator of a process in which non-professionals take an active role in telling their own stories. True to this idea, this course will ask students to learn about and then ultimately work as facilitators of the nascent Upstate Youth Radio and Podcast project.  Note that this fieldwork component may require time spent off campus with community partner organizations, and demands the utmost in responsibility and engagement. While the field component works in radio, the course nonetheless welcomes students regardless of technical background. No sound/radio experience or hands-on media experience is required.

DS-251C - Documenting the Makers: Writing and Filming an Artist Profile
Marc Woodworth
Tu/Th, 2:10-3:30 pm, 3 credits

Working with an accomplished artist in our area —a writer, visual artist, musician, actor, dancer or ‘other’—you’ll produce a written profile and a documentary film about a creative life from your perspective. You'll meet and work directly with the subject of your film, conducting an interview, researching the work, visiting your subject’s workplace or studio, writing prose and a script, defining the story you want to tell about the artist and the work. We’ll focus on interviewing, shooting video, developing a narrative, writing and revising, producing and editing our projects. We’ll discuss the complexities of representing others, their lives and work, and the need to find a particular and perhaps a personal approach when producing a profile. How can you tell a compelling and truthful story using the elements you discover and generate? How can you offer a distinctive voice on the page and on screen that will tell a fitting story about the life of an artist? How can writing and working with film complement one another? We'll operate as a workshop, discussing together not only examples from accomplished writers and film-makers from the straight-forward to the decidedly experimental, but also your own work, in an engaged, responsive and supportive context so that we can fully realize our projects by the end of the semester.

DS 251D -  Documentary Film Production: Form and Content
Sarah Friedland
Tu/Th, 3:40-5:30, 4 credits

An introduction to the tools, skills and practices used in documentary film production. Through the frameworks of documentary aesthetics and ethics, students will learn about style and craft in non-fiction film and apply this knowledge to their own documentary production work. Over the course of the semester, students will work in groups and individually to create multiple short documentary films in varying styles. All skill levels are welcome. Central to this course is the close observation and understanding of the world around us. Students will learn how to be respectful and acute observers in order to focus their lenses on the immediate and personal stories surrounding them.

DS 351B - Documentary Practice in Photography  -- NEW!!
Daesha Devón Harris
Wed, 5 - 8  pm, March 21 - April 25; April 30 (Mon) (7 weeks), 2 credits

The tradition of documentary photography and the documentary aesthetic in image making have evolved over the last century. Considering how this style of photography has been executed (scientific evidence, reportage, fine art and a tool for social change) students will explore ways to apply these approaches in the local community.   Students will develop an appreciation of the medium's potential to be document, art or both and question the role of the documentary photographer's power in shaping what we see. Students will also look and learn from work of photographers past and present (such as Gordon Parks, Sally Mann, Wendy Red Star, Mara Sanchez Renero and William Eggleston) and develop their documentary practice in the Saratoga Springs community by taking part in adventures and field trips on and off campus to build a portfolio of work.

DS 302D From Story to Screen: Film Crew Production
Nicole Coady and Vickie Riley
Tu, 4:30-6:30; Th, 4:30-6, 4 credits

Crew-based filmingCrew based production.  Take a film project from story to script to screen as you develop production skills, work across areas of study for an interdisciplinary experience, and create a films of the caliber to build a professional portfolio. Over a semester, you will collaborate in a small (3-4 person) crew to create a 5 -7 minute film based in research. The film  might be a narrative film based on a true story, a story that requires research, or a documentary film.  You will be involved in pre-production, production and post-production in one of three areas: script/direction, cinematography/editing or sound/soundtrack and producer. While writers prepare scripts, production crew will learn more advanced audio and video techniques.  The crews will work together on production and post-production.  Each student will contribute research relevant to their area of specialization (i.e. learning about historical or subject area, creating an appropriate lighting or sound effect, selecting from styles in existing media), present their findings in class, and participate in crew-based video production. Critical film analysis from the perspective of your role on the crew will hone your skills in and appreciation for the craft of filmmaking.

There will be 4 teams of 4 people each.  There will be up to 2 team(s) producing a documentary film and up to 2 team(s) producing a narrative film. You will find out which team you are on in class.

Prerequisites:  Permission of the Instructor. 

Recommended preparation might include:
Section 1: Writer Director   —   DS 251B: Storytelling for the Screen and/or a documentary film production class
Section 2: Cinematographer —  DS 113B Video Storytelling, DS 251D Doc Production or AR 229 Beginning Photography
Section 3: Sound Designers —   DS 210 Intro to Audio documentary
Section 4: Producers -- Project management or other administrative experience preferred.  Arts Admin or MB background welcome.

PORTFOLIOS: Submit links to online portfolio (script/outline, photography, video, or sound)  or upload examples of work (10-15 photos, and/or 3 short videos, or up to 3 short clips) to or dropbox, email link to to with DS-302D portfolio in subject line.

DS 351C: Creative Research, Multimedia Storytelling
Adam TInkle
W/F, 10:10-11:30, 3 credits

 In this project-based advanced seminar, we will explore the shared fabric and interdisciplinary connections between research and hands-on creative making. We will begin by interrogating disciplinary norms around how knowledge is produced, authenticated, and communicated--what are the claims that artistic, humanistic, and scientific disciplines  make on truth and representation, and why/how might we disrupt these?  Each student will then identify a major project of contentful inquiry that they will undertake over the course of the term. This might mean doing documentary fieldwork (especially for students  who have already taken MDOCS courses in audio or video), but for students from across the disciplines, this could instead mean dealing with found-footage, going into an archive, conducting an ethnography, or continuing to probe some research topic investigated  in some other past or concurrent course.
Then, working from the results of their personal inquiry, students  will employ a range of expressive media (presumably working largely with whatever media they are already most comfortable) to produce 3 creative projects, in 3 distinct modalities: an object (e.g. a poster, broadsheet, pamphlet, zine, assemblage, or display  cabinet), a spatial work (e.g. a gallery installation, a virtual reality space, a site-specific intervention, or an augmented reality mobile experience), and a time-based work (e.g. a film, podcast, or performance).

DS 351 - Storytellers' Institute Prep
Sarah Friedland
Tu/Th, 11:10-12:30, 3 credits

For students accepted to summer 2018 Storytellers' Institute. This course will give students the tools they need to prepare for a successful June fellowship. Time will be divided between: preparation of projects, skill-building, introduction to the annual theme, and programming the student festival component to the annual Storytellers’ Institute Festival Symposium.By permission of the instructor only. By permission of the instructors only.  Application information, click here.


EN 228 -  The Photo Essay
Martha Wiseman
WF 12:20-1:40

In this course, students will study a number of significant photo essays, contemplating, first, the distinction between a collection or exhibition of photographs by a single artist and one artist’s set of photographs treating a single subject (whether broadly or narrowly conceived) and chosen specifically to work in concert. Students will also consider the essays within historical (and sometimes biographical) contexts. The course will blend careful looking with reading and writing; it will also help students understand how looking can become reading, how looking-as-reading becomes intellectually and emotionally resonant, and how creating a photo essay becomes a form of writing.  Photo essays studied may include Robert Frank’s iconic The Americans; Walker Evans’s American Photographs; Sally Mann’s Immediate Family; Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency; W. Eugene Smith’s Dream Street or A Country Doctor; Nicholas Nixon’s Family Pictures; Carrie Mae Weems’s The Kitchen Table Series; Sophie Calle’s The Address Book; Gordon Parks’s A Harlem Family; one of Danny Lyon’s photo essays, and various shorter essays available online. Readings about the photographers and their work will supplement our looking and reflecting.

Students will write several short papers and as a final project develop their own photo essays or write a substantial paper about one of the photo essays we’ve studied.

MF 351C - Law and Ethics for Media: An Interdisciplinary Study of Legal and Ethical Issues in Media Production
Scott Mulligan
Tu/Th 3:40 0 5:00 pm, 3 credits

How do filmmakers and documentarians, authors and artists, musicians and storytellers protect their ideas, expressive works and creative endeavors from being copied or stolen by others, especially in the digital age?  What legal and ethical issues do these individuals confront as they produce their creative projects, especially ones which incorporate other media content?  How should media/content producers and consumers respond to issues of “fake news” and “alternative facts”?  This course offers an interdisciplinary exploration of the various legal, ethical and practical issues involved in varying media production forms (video/film, photography, music/audio, documentary, web and exhibit-based narratives etc.) for fiction and non-fiction storytelling.  Students in the course will consider and analyze issues related to and best practices for intellectual property (copyright, trademark, right-of-publicity, droit moral), privacy, defamation, contracts, permissions and clearances for content, as well as ethical concerns regarding truth-telling, accuracy, fairness, deception/manipulation, plagiarism, conflicts of interest, source-shielding/privilege, independence and credibility/accountability.  Students will learn to develop approaches regarding underlying policies and to challenge assumptions at the intersection of storytelling, business, art, law and creative expression.  Some documentary films will be shown on a few evenings during the semester.  Fulfills the Arts Administration Program’s Focused Elective requirement.

Prerequisites:  None
Note:  This course is cross-listed in the Arts Administration (satisfying the Focused Elective requirement) and MDOCS/Documentary Studies Programs.


HI 363D - Public History
Jordana Dym
Tu Th 3:40 - 5:00 pm, 4 credits

Most people encounter the past every day without setting foot in a history classroom, whether through reading a placard in a historic city center, updating a family recipe, or watching “History Detectives” on TV. Much of this past is mediated by public historians, people who apply the historian’s skills of writing, research, and presentation to engage a popular audience. This course considers the distinctive practices of history “on the hoof” both within Saratoga Springs, as well as in national and international settings. We will read relevant literature and discuss how public historians craft different versions of the past; how governments and institutions construct and dissemi-nate historic narratives; portrayals of the past in popular culture, in-cluding newspapers, television and film; and how private groups, in-cluding families and museums, preserve individual and collective her-itage and memory. Students will evaluate museum exhibits, historic sites, events, and archives.

In addition, students in this course will work on a larger public history project developed with the Media Burn Archive in Chicago, IL. Students will work with video interviews made for the documentary film You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train (2004) to identify stories not told in the feature-length film about activist and historian Howard Zinn.  They will prepare edited versions of the interviews for the archive’s website.   Interviewees include Alice Walker, Marian Wright Edelman, and Tom Hayden. The film cover issues including the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam War.  No previous experience in film making or editing is needed.

ID 351D - Video Ethnography in the Saratoga Springs Community
Rik Scarce
Tu Th 9:10-11 am, 4 credits
Film may not be able to change the world, but it can change a community. Social science and film students will work with social movement activists in the Saratoga area to create a documentary film examining issues pertinent to a movement. By permission of the instructor.

EN 363 - Testing the Limits of Documentary Practice
Cecilia Aldarondo
Th, 6-9 pm; F 10-2, 3 cr

Testing the Limits of Documentary Practice - Interested students should email the course instructor for further details. Part workshop, part visiting artist series, this 5-session experimental course explores boundary-pushing documentary practice in the United States, through a series of immersive exchanges between Skidmore students and prominent leaders in the field of documentary arts. The US documentary film landscape is in many ways more formally conservative than ever, with funders, festival programmers, and distributors alike favoring highly conventional films. At the same time, many documentarians are exploiting documentary’s supposed limits and diving headlong into experimentation, cross-pollination, and innovation. This course invites students to study the minefields of contemporary documentary film arts, in order to provoke powerful debates around the tensions between documentary form and the genre’s most cherished political and social imperatives. Each session (exact dates TBD) involves (1) a Thursday night public presentation by the visitor and (2) a six-hour Friday workshop. (Counts toward the Media and Film Studies minor.)