The first films ever made were documentaries: simple static shots of ordinary people doing ordinary things for the newfangled gizmo, the kinetograph. Fantastical storytelling quickly eclipsed the mundane, but, for the most part, film has remained a fundamentally documentary medium, showing real people doing real things. In a sense, every movie is a document of its own construction, even when it comes entirely out of a computer. And the hallmarks of any good documentary—focus and inquiry, careful observation and perception, a sense of visual narrative, and humane engagement—are attributes of any serious fiction as well. Reality may not be as entertaining, but it is always more important: it’s where we live.
This class is a workshop in video production for documentary, with a focus on performers and performance, in any of their myriad creative expressions. During this course, I will provide you with the opportunity to learn and apply a range of conceptual and technical skills, including pre-visualizing and planning; use of cameras, sound recording equipment, and lights; and editing. In addition to several exercise shoots, you will use this technology to research and document some aspect of people crafting a performance to present to an audience.
You will be working with a classmate to design and produce a common collaborative project that is practical, relevant, and suitable for audio-visual documentation. Projects will focus on a narrowly defined group of people engaged in a compelling and specific performance activity. You should have ready and sustainable access to the people you are working with (both before and behind the camera), yet have sufficient distance to maintain an enduring curiosity and critical perspective. Mutual accountability and candor are also indispensable. Above all, your efforts should be grounded on a research question that is both cogent and open-ended: you want to learn something you don’t already know.
This is a demanding undertaking, especially over the course of a single quarter term. Be prepared to put in long hours throughout the course of the project. Not only will you have to put in significant time with your chosen subject, but you may well find you need to meet with your colleagues regularly to reevaluate and revise your approach. And editing your material into a coherent and succinct report is invariably the most time consuming effort of all. If you are unable to commit to unusual demands on your schedule, do not take this class.
In addition to hands-on activities in class, you have three individual assignments:
- Prepare and deliver a project pitch during the 2nd class meeting
- Shoot individually a simple exercise to generate material for your first editing
- Write a 2-page project report and self-evaluation at the end of the term.
other activities will involve planning, shooting, and editing your collaborative project. Grades for completed project assignments will be awarded equally to all members.
- Production Plan & Schedule
- Videotaped interview, approximately 10 minutes long
- Complete transcript of subject interview
- Paper edit of subject interview
- Video edit of subject interview
- Group midterm report, including production plans & timetables
- All “principle photography” footage complete
- All footage logged & captured
- Complete assembly edits
- Complete rough cuts
- Complete fine cuts, including polished soundtrack
- Compressed video file of finished project—H.264