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Skidmore College
MDOCs title

Documentary Studies - Fall 2020 Courses


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

Course Descriptions

DS 119A - 16mm Filmmaking
Ron Taylor
Mon, 5:10-7:10pm, 1/2 semester (1 cr)

This is a 1–credit, half semester project course for students interested working in the medium of 16mm Movie Film. Students may enter the course at any level of production experience, as basic instruction in all equipment and materials will be covered. Technical skills will be developed through a series of directed exercises done in class. This is a great opportunity to develop a unique project for your portfolio! Proposed projects may employ shooting and editing movie film, working directly on film emulsion, converting to video, combining audio and/or any other media. Students will develop their projects through screenings, and individual & class critiques. Students will focus on finding an approach to form that suits both subject matter and their personal creative goals. Students will also engage in critiques of each others work, screenings and discussions. Exposure to a variety of creative production styles will help each student begin to develop their own unique approach.

DS 119B - Spoken Word, Storytelling & Social Justice
Olivia McKee
Fri, 1-3pm, (2 cr)

What does it mean to tell our own stories? How do racism, xenophobia, ableism, and heterosexism affect whose stories get told? Where are the lines between amplification, exploitation, and appropriation? Drawing on personal lineage as well as histories of oral tradition and the Black arts movement that birthed the present-day slam scene, students will examine the ways poetry can be a source of activism. Students can expect to create and analyze poetry and performance while developing their understandings of poetic, literary, and performance devices. We will aim for an accessible, reflective, creative space, drawing on content from numerous emerging slam poets as well as established writers like Fatimah Asghar, Porsha Olayiwola, Toni Morrison, Dominique Christina, Javon Johnson, adrienne maree brown, Olivia Gatwood, Lucille Clifton, and more.

DS 119B - Explorations in Documentary Photography
Emily Vallee
Wed, 1-3pm (2 cr)

This course will introduce students to the practice of documentary photography. The history, theory and politics of non-fiction storytelling will be examined and discussed through readings, lectures, the work of past and present photographers and class field trips. Students will experiment with a variety of different documentary styles and begin to develop their own personal documentary practice. By the end of the semester, students will produce a coherent documentary body of work, considering both the use of imagery and text. In addition, students will also learn to question how the contemporary documentary photograph can often create alternative ways of seeing, recording and understanding events that shape the world in which we live.

DS 210 - Intro Audio
Adam Tinkle
Tu/Th, 9:50-11:10am (3 cr)

A practice-based immersion in the theory and craft of audio production and documentary storytelling for podcast and radio. In the course of learning the tools and techniques of the audio recordist/editor, sound designer/mixer, and radio writer/performer, we will produce a substantial portfolio of creative audio works, which we will extensively and repeatedly revise. Meanwhile, we will engage with the history and breadth of documentary approaches to sound and become fluent with key aesthetic and practical issues as they relate to the burgeoning business and still-nascent art of contemporary sound storytelling.

DS 251D - Documentary Film Editing
Julie Casper-Roth
Wed, 6-9pm (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? Podcast? Feature? Interactive project? Does it require archival research? Interviews? • How to ethically obtain access to 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 documentary film, learning basic editing techniques with Adobe Premiere.

DS 351C - Creative Research/Multimedia Expression
Angus McCullough
Tu/Th, 2:50-4:10pm (3 cr)

In this project-based advanced seminar, we will explore the shared fabric uniting the practices of research and hands-on creative making, specifically multidisciplinary or multi-modal practices. Early on, each student will identify a major project that they will pursue over the course of the term. Ideally, this should continue some research topic investigated in a past or concurrent course, or other independent inquiry - and one that does not fit into categories easily available to us. Upon that foundation of self-motivation, I will provide rigorous markers to help guide progress, and provide a context of communal sharing while you are exploring and developing your project. My hope is that we will each spend the semester thinking about what we are pulled most profoundly to think about, and help each other further each unique process of research and advancement. As you explore your project research, class time will serve as a place for sharing process, gathering valuable feedback from me and your classmates, and broadening your knowledge of the world of multidisciplinary work. We will research how others research using traditional and experimental methods from many different worlds including art, architecture, writing, ethnography, internet culture, science, philosophy, etc. To interrogate these case studies, we will use our own thoughts and skills, and draw on influential theories to interrogate how knowledge is produced, authenticated, and communicated. We will explore and discuss many questions, primarily: How can art-making be a practice of research? And when we research, what kinds of production are we taking part in? One semester is not enough to touch on the many fields of inquiry, so the coursework and case studies will respond to your project’s needs, and serve as a threshold for your own ongoing inquiries. In more specific terms, this course will require engagement with primary materials, whether through documentary fieldwork in audio or video, studio-based practices, or by dealing with documents and archives of some sort - or perhaps in some new practice that allows you to link concepts and materials in a meaningful and specific way. In the first half of the semester, your main deliverables will be a multimodal research notebook and participation in a “design charrette” presentation of your research. In the second half of the semester, working from the results of these first drafts and explorations, you will work towards the production of 3 creative projects, in 3 distinct modes or mediums. Categories may be fluid, but some basic guidelines for modes will be: an object, a spatial work, and a time-based work. There is undeniably some overlap between these definitions to begin with, but the three distinct project modes will push you to explore different methods to express your research project, and help you to understand how medium and message are often interdependent. I see this class a working group, to expand your skills and test your thinking, and hope that through the lessons learned this semester you will be given the tools to navigate between modes of expression in response to research in all your future projects. Evening screenings will be required.

HI 251D - Oral History
Jordana Dym
W/F, 1-2:20pm (4 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.

PHDS 217 - Film Truth
William Lewis
Tu/Th, 9:50-11:10am, (4 cr)

An interdisciplinary investigation of the possibility of truth and objectivity in documentary film. Students will examine the history of documentary practice and theory, including topics such as mimetic theory, narrative realism, scientific truth, juridical truth, institutional truth, film truth, direct cinema, self-reflexive cinema, and constructivism. The course will integrate methods from philosophy, aesthetics, and film studies. (Fulfills humanities requirement).

AS 251C - Pandemic Bardo
Ben Bogin, Adam Tinkle & Tom Yoshikami
Tu/Th, 11:30am-12:50pm (3 cr)

Students in this course will contribute to the creation and production of an original six-episode podcast that explores the COVID-19 pandemic through the lens of the Tibetan Buddhist concept of the bardo. Through remote online instruction and collaboration, students will study the philosophical, ritual, literary, and artistic expressions of the classical bardo tradition and explore the strange history of its interpretation in the United States. Students will also develop skills in engaging in critical dialogue and discussion in online settings, digital audio editing and production, collaborative design and social media publishing. This course fulfills the all-college Non-Western Cultures and Humanities requirements.

AHDS 324 - The Artist Interview
Ian Berry
W, 6-8:45pm (3 cr)

An exploration of the artist interview as a form of original art historical research.  Students will learn how oral histories can function in a museum collection archive. Working in teams, students will closely examine and research artworks in the Tang Museum collection, prepare questions for the artists, and create videotaped interviews. Students will learn different methodological approaches to the interview and consider such questions as: how does editing play a role in making meaning; who defines the meaning of an artwork; and is the artist always the best source about his or her own work? Prerequisites/Corequisite: one art history course.