MDOCS is many things: a creative community, a collaborative production entity, a programmer, presenter, and funder of nonfiction. But firstly, it’s an interdisciplinary academic program that offers courses in documentary studies and practice at Skidmore College.
DS 251 Intro to Documentary Filmmmaking Prof. Nicole Van Slyke | Mon 6:10-7:10pm/Wed 6:10-9:00pm (4 cr)
The world is full of stories waiting to be told, but what makes a story worth telling, who should tell it, and how one should tell it, are some 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 development, in order to acquire a robust set of practices from which to tell the stories of the world around us. Nicole Van Slyke is a Digital Artist who specializes in Documentary Production and is a Producer/Editor at WMHT-PBS where she specializes in creating unique and moving productions.
DS 251 Multimedia Non-Fiction Storytelling Prof. Maura Jasper | WF 12:20-2:10pm (4 cr)
This class is an exploration of form, and the ways that we can use different mediums in our storytelling practice. We will look at how artists have used different narrative forms to communicate their intention, and how each medium was able to do that differently. This ‘process’ class is a space where students can workshop their ideas — imagining and reimagining them in different forms/genres/mediums/intentions. You will learn narrative grammar—How do film, prose, soundscape, photography, and gesture perform as language? Understanding each medium as language will give you the tools you need to build narrative phrases that might begin as prose, continue as images, and end in audio/soundscape. We will focus on foundational principles for telling stories with each medium, with the goal of bringing these languages — visual, audio, prose, etc — into conversation. We will examine the ethical questions around the creation of a narrative, especially when using the material of another person’s life as a starting point.
DS 251 Storytelling & Social Change w/ Harm Reduction Works Angela Beallor-Press | TR 11:10-12:30pm (3 cr)
Storytelling and Social Change with Harm Reduction Works: This course is a part of the Co-Creation Initiative and will collaborate with members and participants of Harm Reduction Works, a mutual aid community providing peer-to-peer non-judgmental support in relation to drug and alcohol use. This course aims to create a space for critical media analysis (films, articles, news broadcasts, etc) with a focus on the themes of substance use, addiction, and harm reduction. How have these topics been discussed in mainstream media? How does this relate to personal experiences? Students in this course will work to co-develop an analysis of power and a strategy for storytelling with members of Harm Reduction Works. This will ultimately lead to pre-production and production of videos capturing persuasive personal stories from Harm Reduction Works participants. Skills in video and audio are helpful but not necessary to join the course.
DS 351 Experimental Filmmaking Prof. Sarah Friedland | WF 10:10-12pm (4 cr)
This course aims to introduce students to the history and artistic practices of less non-traditional documentary filmmaking. Focusing on ways of making that play with aesthetic norms and challenge the boundaries of reality, students will get hands on experience with 16mm filmmaking, digital video and sound design. As well as an opportunity to explore essay filmmaking, speculative documentary, hybrid fiction/documentary form and other outside of the box narrative structures. Aimed to give students time to develop polished work that they are passionate about, over the course of the semester students will focus on making 1-2 short films from pre-to post production. This is class is open to students who already have a basis in documentary filmmaking and have already taken either Documentary Form and Content, Intro to Documentary Filmmaking, 16mm Filmmaking, or Storytelling Toolkit. If you consider yourself a serious maker who likes breaking the rules, this is the course for you!
DS 351 Narrative Filmmaking w/ North Country Underground Railroad Sarah Friedland | W 4-6pm (2 cr)
This course is part of the MDOCS Co-Creation Initiative and will be run in collaboration with members of the North Country Underground Railroad Association (NCUGRHA), an organization dedicated to “research, preservation and interpretation of the history of the Underground Railroad, slavery and abolition along the Upper Hudson River-Champlain and Canal-Lake Champlain corridor of northeast New York.” Through the MDOCS Co-Creation Initiative, journalist and artist Robin Caudell, who is also a member of NCUGRHA, is currently developing a film called Witness Tree At Union Road, a speculative documentary of an American family’s transformational journey from enslavers to abolitionism to Union Army soldier over seven generations from the Dutch West India Company to the Adirondacks. This course will be modelled after a professional production studio and will give students the opportunity to work on the trailer for this film with Robin Caudell. In the process students will learn best practices for professional client-based documentary work, pre-production, budgeting and digital video production skills. From Robin and other members of NCUGHRA, students will also learn about the history of enslavement, abolition and liberation in the Adirondacks. In order to make this collaboration possible, this course will have an unorthodox structure that students should be aware of agree to before registering. The course will only meet every other week but will have three mandatory weekend trips to the Adirondacks for research and production. Students who register for this course must be available to travel for to the Adirondacks on the weekends of Feb 2-4th, April 5th-7th and April 12th-14th. All travel will be paid for and arranged by MDOCS. Students will not be responsible for travel costs.
MF 351 Film Curation w/ The Flaherty Seminar Adam Tinkle | Tue 9:10-11am (2 cr)
Curating/Watching/Discussing Film with The Flaherty - This course introduces and historicizes cinema exhibition and curation through the lens of Skidmore's partner, The Flaherty Film Seminar, an almost 70-year old gathering of filmmakers, curators and audiences, “revered as one of the most significant convenings around non-fiction cinema in the world. Each year filmmakers, scholars, students, curators, critics, archivists, and cinephiles gather for an immersive, week-long program of film screenings, in-depth discussions, artist talks, installations, and/or performances around a theme.” This course is ideal for those who want to watch and discuss challenging films, learn how this important segment of the film world works, and prepare to participate (if you choose) in the Flaherty Seminar in June 2024.