Skip to Main Content
Skidmore College
MDOCs title

Documentary Studies - Fall 2019 Courses


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

Course Descriptions

DS 116A - Storytelling: Mapping
Thomas Hart
Mon, 2:30-4:20pm, 1/2 semester (1 cr)

Are you used to static presentations built in Power Point? Are you interesting in learning an easy, compelling alternative? In this course, we will learn how to easily create engaging websites that draw users into your story not only with maps, but with photography, videos and sound that augment a narrative story. No web programming is needed. In most, but not all cases, spatial data will be a starting point. You will learn how to use online programs to bring spatial data onto a map that can be hosted on a website as part of the larger story presentation. Developing a complete story requires narrative and flow considerations that allow the mapped information to gain meaning. Students who are uninitiated in GIS will be able to create maps using both their own and existing data sets to achieve powerful and approvpriate visualizations, while students with prior GIS experience will be able to create more complex map visualizations. The course allows for those with significant presentations at the end of the semester, such as capstone projects, to apply visualization and presentation experience in those projects. See the following example of a simple, yet compelling, presentation of what story mapping looks like (without a map in this case). 

DS 119A - Cooking with Video
Guy Mastrion
Mon, 12:20-1:40pm, (1 cr)

This course takes storytellers on a journey with food -- from sourcing ingredients to food preparation to the final presentation -- in the form of a Cooking Show. Week-to-week, beginning in week 2, student will engage with the students in the course Food For Thought, and coordinate the documentation of their studies in food. Weekly class time will be dedicated to skills development, critique and trouble-shooting.

DS 251C - 3D Interactive Storytelling
Gregory Lyons
Tu/Th, 3:40-5pm (3 cr)

Want to make a 3D virtual experience for others? Have a story to tell? Want to make interactive shorts? In this course students will learn the basics of Unity3D and develop an understanding for interactive storytelling in a digital space. Unity3D is a powerful interactive storytelling tool that can be used to bring student research or creativity to life in a variety of ways. No prior coding or gaming experience is necessary.

DS 251D - Documentary Storytelling
Julie Casper-Roth
Wed, 6:30-9:30pm (4 cr)

In many ways, documentary stories aren't so much written as discovered. Our world is already full of stories waiting to be told, but what makes a story worth telling, and how one should tell it, are two of the most crucial questions any documentarian must answer. From initial concept through to the final edit, this course will ask students to grapple with this process of documentary discovery, in order to develop a robust set of practices from which to tell the stories of the world around us. Major topics include:

  • How to develop, nurture and test a story idea: when to know it has 'legs'
  • The value of Loglines, Treatments and Pitches for conceptualizing story
  • Form and Methodology: is this story best told as a short film? Podcast? Feature film? Interactive project? Does is require archival research? Interviews?
  • How to ethically obtain a story
  • Finding the story in the footage -- the importance of the editing room

This course requires no pre-existing knowledge or experience of documentary practice or technical expertise, and will be of interest to anyone curious about telling documentary stories in a multitude of forms. Students will work with an archive of previously shot footage to craft a short documenaty film, learning basic editing techniques with Adobe Premiere.

DS 351C - Creative Research/Multimedia Expression
Angus McCullough
W/F, 10:10-11:30am (3 cr)

In this project-based advanced seminar, we will explore the shared fabric and multi-modal connections uniting the practice of research with hands-on creative making. Early on, each student will identify a major line of inquiry that they will undertake over the course of the term. Ideally, this should entail continuing  to probe some research topic investigated in some past or concurrent course, capstone, abroad experience, or deep and sustained independent inquiry. Building from a solid foundation of academic perspectives and secondary literature, this course will require engagement with primary materials, whether through ethnographic/documentary fieldwork (especially for students already comfortable with photo, audio, or video), or by dealing with physical documents and digital archives, and aim to cultivate heretofore unimagined translational practices that allow you to turn ideas into things.

DS 351D - Doc Film Production: Form and Content
Julie Casper Roth
M/W, 2:30-4:20pm (4 cr)

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.

AA 351D - Entertainment Law and the Arts
Scott Mulligan
Tu/Th, 3:40-5pm (4 cr)

Entertainment Law and the Arts -- Do you plan to work in an entertainment-related industry after college? Do you see yourself as a filmmaker, musician, writer, actor, radio/audio/podcast producer, videogame maker, storyteller, museum curator or visual artist (including photography, painting, etc.) now? If so, then you need to take this class! This course provides essential, practical information and skills that is indispensable for those working in the entertainment business, regardless of their medium. The course will use an interdisciplinary study of the connections and conflicts between the business, artistic, and legal or ethical issues that arise in the arts and entertainment arena (theatre, music, film, television, literary, and visual arts). Students will explore, from both financial and creative perspectives, the complex and often fractious relationships among stakeholders in these industries while developing a practical understanding of the particular considerations that emerge with each kind of collaboration. Topics may include: the impact of new technologies and distribution methods, social media and marketing, copyright and piracy, privacy, free speech, defamation, and celebrity publicity rights and endorsements. Fulfills the Arts Administration Program's Focused Elective requirement. Fulfills the Media & Film Studies Cluster I; Media & Culture, (C) Social Science requirement.

HI 251C - Oral History
Jordana Dym
W/F, 12:20-1:40pm, (3 cr)

This course provides students with the foundations to understand, design, execute and work with oral history interviews in research projects. The semester begins with conceptualizion and conduct and concludes with analysis and dissemination. The course introduces the theory and history of the method through reading, listening and discussion, with emphasis on power dynamics and social justice. Production skills include project design, interviewing, audio recording, transcribing, indexing, and digital archiving. Students will also become familiar with aspects of oral history storytelling (analysis and dissemination of oral histories, including audio editing, online presentation, museum exhibits, podcasts, and other public oral history genres). In the first half of the semester, students will work on one pre-selected oral history project with a class community partner, which will become part of an online, curated collection. In the second half, students working alone or collaboratively will develop and execute an independent oral history project.