Documentary Filmmaking for the Social Sciences and Humanities

A documentary filmmaking course by Jeremy Braverman designed to fit the interests and needs of CEU students across a variety of departments.

With the proliferation of platforms for moving images in both public and private spaces, the ability to communicate through moving images is a basic skill that is becoming ever more important in all fields, and moreover, an increasingly important basic form of literacy in contemporary society.

The course provides students a grounding in the craft of video production, and the creation of moving images, instructing them in basic skills that they can apply to projects and research in their respective disciplines, and beyond. These skills cover all phases of the documentary production process, from idea development, through pre-production and preparation, cinematography, sound and editing. Through learning to create moving images, in concert with formal analysis of documentary examples, students gain valuable, versatile skills, and gain literacy in this increasingly important mode of communication.

Class sessions will combine lecture on relevant concepts, viewing and analysis of documentary examples, technical instruction on equipment, hands-on exercises, and critique of class projects and films at each stage of completion. Outside of class, students will complete 2 short, video-based exercises exploring and developing individual production skills, and one larger, final project, a 5-8 minute, short documentary film. The assigned final project will be a character study of a single subject, though students are encouraged to submit an alternate proposal, which may entail addressing subject matter relevant to their discipline.

Learning Outcomes:
Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Apply a deliberate structure, theme, point of view, and style to a short, documentary film.
  • Refine a documentary idea down to an engaging short, verbal pitch, and execute that pitch.
  • Work with basic technical proficiency in a range of areas of video production: operate a video camera and tripod, an audio recorder and microphone, and the Adobe Premiere editing system, controlling all technical functions, to produce a short documentary film.
  • Apply aesthetic concepts of cinematography, editing, and sound design to support a deliberate concept and vision in a short, documentary film.
  • Refine a short documentary film through a series of progressively more refined versions, to a finished work.
  • Identify major modes of documentary form, and the basic elements of documentary films, and critique their use.
  • Articulate basic issues in documentary ethics.