FALL CLASS: Watching and Making Documentaries

Under the umbrella of the “Special Topics in Film and Video” class this semester, I’m offering a class I haven’t taught before; I’ve been going over it this summer and I’m pretty excited about it. It’s the sort of thing I’ll only be able to offer once every four years or so — just wanted to post about it since it’s new, and I didn’t get the chance to talk it up at the end of last semester. The pics below are from some of the documentaries I’m intending to screen.

DOCUMENTARY CLASS: WATCHING AND MAKING DOCUMENTARIES

Spec Topics:Documentary – DART 480 1
CRN: 80087
Class 10:00 am – 12:45 pm MW

Filmmakers have created documentaries for a wide variety of reasons: to expose injustices, to explore history – or sometimes simply to tell an irresistible story. Most documentaries exert the fascination of the “real,” demonstrating the adage that truth is stranger than fiction.


In this class, we’ll watch several contemporary and historic documentaries, applying various documentary techniques to the production of short, student-directed documentaries. FinalCut Pro will be the primary software used. Methods and topics will include:

1. Using narration to shape what people see and understand.


2. Cinema Verite – the movement to abandon narration, to let footage “speak for itself,” without imposing a meaning through interviews or narration.


3. Using photos and recreations to give visual dimension to events that weren’t captured on film or video.

4. Documentary and propaganda – examining how documentaries have been used to shape opinion, focusing on the Nazis’ use of documentary (and how documentaries exposed the truth behind the propaganda).


5. Nature documentaries – exploring how documentaries about animals often impose human values on their activities.


6. The “found footage” documentary – using public domain and stock footage to tell a story – sometimes even a story that is directly opposed to the intentions behind the original footage.


7. Experimental documentaries – using reality toward poetic ends.


If you want to see a draft of the syllabus (I’m still tweaking it), drop me a line at clanier [at] sierranevada [dot] edu, and I’ll send it along.

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