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Skidmore College
MDOCs title

Documentary Studies - Spring 2020 Courses


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

Course Descriptions

DS 119A - Viewing Documentary in AR/VR
Adam Tinkle
Wed, 10:10am-12pm, 1/2 semester (1 cr)

Through this series of curated viewing experience, students will be exposed to the creative possibilities available to nonfiction artists in emerging interactive, immersive, and locative technologies. We will experience some widely-circulated examples of 360 cinematic VR filmmaking, explore a game-like journey through hallucinatory world comprised of WWI-era photographs, and take a look under the hood at the process by which the instructor developed some AR/VR documentary projects here at Skidmore, including Listening through the Land, a geolocative augmented reality experience built for a nearby historic house and farm, and How to Tell a True Immigrant Story, 360 film that shows Saratoga through the eyes of its Latinx community, as they experience labor, daily life and a climate of increasing surveillance and intimidation. We will read about how AR/VR are getting theorized by its first critics, write about the works we experience, and create pitches and proposals that imagine our own such projects. Note: class meets for the first half of the semester only, and while we may do some light exploration in production environments, we will focus on experiencing, digesting and debating documentary work in emerging media -- not making it. This is not a media production course.

DS 119A - 16mm Filmmaking
Ron Taylor
Mon, 4:20-6:20pm, 1/2 semester (1 cr)

This is a 1–credit, 7–week 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 & Social Justice
Liv McKee
Fri, 12:20-2:10pm (2 cr)

When have you been moved by a story? Was it a story told to you by a writer, performer, or cultural figure? Teacher? Family member? How did that story affect your life, your goals, or your community? Using spoken word poetry, we will explore the ways true storytelling acts as a source of change, healing, and community building. Drawing on personal lineage as well as histories of oral tradition, radical story sharing, and the Black arts movement that birthed present-day spoken word, students will both create and analyze poetry/performance.

DS 251B - Intro to Documentary Studies
Sarah Friedland
Tue, 9:10-11am (2 cr)

This course introduces students to the historical, theoretical, practical, and ethical traditions of creative non-fiction storytelling. Through a variety of mediums –– photography, sound, performance, film, etc. –– we will study how makers and scholars have approached the representation of reality on a global level. We will: interrogate extractive and colonialist practices in documentary; think about the ever blurring line between fact and fiction; and consider personal, collaborative and collective methodologies of storytelling.

DS 251C - Filmmaking: Civic Life
Catherine Tatge
M/W, 2:30-4:20pm (3 cr)

Civic Life Project at Skidmore will explore the role of documentary filmmaking in public life, the way in which new digital media is reshaping communities and civic life, and the potential of media as a medium of democratic engagement. On the one hand, it is a media course investigating the use of documentary films in advocacy and activism. On the other hand, it is a laboratory for community-based storytelling, in which students work in teams on documentary projects with community partners. The term will be divided into three phases: a beginning immersion in learning about the Saratoga Springs and Albany areas, the selection of topics, working with local mentors, writing a treatment; second phase technical skill building and filming; third phase editing the 6 to 8-minute videos. The end game will be public presentations and screenings of the documentaries in the Saratoga Springs community and Skidmore College. In addition to the regular class hours there will be optional technical labs to allow students additional time to practice technical skills.

DS 251C - Multi-Media/Literary Archive
Marc Woodworth
Tu/Th, 12:40-2pm (3 cr)

Interested in developing fresh multi-media content while working creatively with archival materials and contemporary writers, artists, critics and thinkers? You might find yourself conducting an interview with a leading fiction writer and editing the session into a podcast-ready piece. Or exploring the world of 1960s left-wing politics by making a short film including archival audio, video and original correspondence. As a workshop collective, we'll invent, compose and create fresh content in a variety of media (from audio and video to digital and text) as part of a rich and immersive opportunity to work creatively, drawing on a deep archive of material (including correspondence, images, audio, video, and manuscripts). This hands-on makers workshop is ideal for anyone who loves media, storytelling, art, literature, politics, ideas and cultural analysis. For students interested in the fields of publishing and marketing, the class will offer the opportunity to gain skills essential in today's arts and business worlds while developing original multi-media content. The best of the projects we realize will be featured in the real-world context of Salmagundi Magazine's new website -designed by NYC's Linked by Air –and other social media platforms. Both students new to multi-media production and those who already have experience are very welcome to join us.

DS 251D - Documentary Storytelling
Julie Casper-Roth
Tue, 5-9pm (4 cr)

Documentary Storytelling- 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 351B - Documentary Practices in Photography
Daesha Devón Harris
Wed, 5-8pm, (2 cr)

Students will examine how the tradition of documentary photography and the documentary aesthetic in image making has evolved over the last century. Considering the various ways in which 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. They will 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 among others. Students will develop their documentary practice in the Saratoga community by taking part in adventures and field trips on and off campus to build a portfolio of work.

DS 351B - Storytellers' Institute Prep
Sarah Friedland
Th, 9:10-11am, (2 cr)

For students accepted to summer 2019 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 found here.

DS 351D - Doc Film Prod'n: Form/Content
Sarah Friedland
Tu/Th, 3:40-5:30pm, (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.

HI 354P - Archival Storytelling
Jordana Dym
Tu/Th, 12:40-2pm

Introduction to organizing and inventorying archival materials and the legal and ethical considerations of collections-based research and presentation.  Working hands-on and collectively with an institutional or individual collection, students will develop an understanding of a collection’s origins and character, contribute to the collection’s finding aids or organizations, and identify story ideas and materials. By the end of the semester, students will present proposals for stories that could be told from the collection, through exhibition, media, or a multi-media project. A spring 2020 project will work with the archives of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC).