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Skidmore College
MDOCs title

Documentary Studies - Spring 2023 Courses


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

Course Descriptions

DS 210 - Introduction to Audio Documentary
Christine O'Donnell
W/F, 12:20-1:40pm, (3 cr)

In this class, we will study the theory and craft of audio production, documentary storytelling, and sound design, with a strong but non-exclusive focus on narrative, voice-driven storytelling, i.e. what we hear on public radio and in podcasts. 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 critique and revise. Meanwhile, we will engage with the history and breadth of documentary approaches to sound and become fluent with theoretical and practical issues in the business and art of contemporary audio storytelling.

DS 251C - Past as Material: Exploring History, Narrative, & Memory
Angela Beallor-Press
Tu/Th, 12:40-2:00pm, (3 cr)

Walter Benjamin describes the vanishing point of history as always being the present moment. What is our sense of the past, of history, and how does it form our notions of the present? In this course, we will explore theories of history, the past, and memory. Art and media have been productive sites to explore these relationships. We will spend time with artists and documentarians who have deployed historical research and representation within their work. We will look at how artists, storytellers, media-makers have disrupted mainstream historical narratives. How do artists use tactics of re-enactment, re-imagining, re-mixing to excavate, propose, and highlight a different relationship to the past (present and future)? We will examine materials such as archives, artifacts, photographs, and film. We will take a look at the process and production of artists and documentarians including Sharon Hayes, Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Pauline Boudry + Renate Lorenz, Fred Wilson, Matthew Buckingham, Renee Greene, Dread Scott, among others. Students will propose a project based in these explorations of history and memory, producing a final creative or written work emerging from our time in the course.

DS 251C - Considering Authorship: Co-Creation Documentary Practice
Nyssa Chow
Tu/Th, 11:10am-12:30pm, (3 cr)

This class examines practices of socially-engaged, participatory, and co-creative art and media, locating these artistic expressions within a wider landscape of struggles over power and justice in the contemporary USA. Grounding this inquiry within a survey of politically-engaged art movements in the 20th century, the course will focus in especially on recent approaches in collaborative and community-based media-making and within the emerging sub-field of the visual arts known as Social Practice, which extends 20th century conceptual and performance art strategies to re-imagines art’s medium as society itself. These forms tend to tackle social injustices in their substance, but in their forms and practices, they also address the inequalities of power, privilege and access that structure art-making itself. Thus, we will examine how participatory co-creation can be used to try to redress the exclusivity and elitism of the arts, asking questions like: Who is, or gets to be, an artist? What is, or should be, the place of creativity in the lives of individuals and societies? Under what conditions should artists be able to tell someone else’s story or represent an experience not their own -- (when) should co-creation unfold across lines of difference? How do artists advocate for justice, and how does their medium (that is, the artistic process) entail and encode power relations?

DS 251D - Documentary Film Editing
Nicole Van Slyke
Mon, 6:10-7:10pm; Wed, 6:10-9:00pm (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 351B - Storytellers' Institute Prep
Jesse O'Connell
W, 2:10-4:10pm, (2 cr)

Storytellers' Institute Prep is only for students accepted to summer 2023 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, and introduction to the annual theme. Applications now closed - registration by permission of the instructor only. 

MF 351D - Advanced Documentary Arts Practice
Nyssa Chow
W, 6-9pm, (4 cr)

This advanced seminar is a space to focus on and develop a final individual artwork using documentary art practice as our starting point. How do we make art from the material of lived experience? What unique ethical questions are born from this engagement? How have other artists responded in their practices? We will draw inspiration from close study of artists and their practices. This ‘process’ class is an exploration of form, and the ways that we can use different mediums in our storytelling practice. Students will workshop their project ideas/material — imagining and reimagining them in different forms/genres/mediums/intentions. Final artworks can be short films (narrative or documentary), multimedia works, installations, or forms that defy easy categorization. Pre-requisites: One previous DS or MFS course.

DS 399 - MDOCS Internship Credit
Please write to Director Sarah Friedland for more information
1-4 credits