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Online Workshops and Courses in the Documentary Arts

Photograph by Sarah Stacke

Photograph by CDS instructor Sarah Stacke

The Center for Documentary Studies is offering a growing roster of online classes through our Continuing Education program. Many classes—which meet at scheduled times via video conferencing—also involve a blog or discussion forum where students can contribute, ask questions, and solicit feedback between sessions. (We’ve also instituted a distance track for the Certificate in Documentary Arts, which includes a combination of online courses and on-site workshops and summer institutes.)

Online classes with upcoming start dates include:

Interviewing for Story (Christina Cooke) 
Tuesdays, April 1–May 6, 7–9 p.m.
Interviews form the basis of most documentary projects, providing the raw material for written pieces, audio stories, and documentary films. In this course, students will learn the interviewer’s skills—how to prepare for an interview, build rapport with subjects, formulate questions that elicit interesting or thoughtful responses, and effectively structure their conversations. In addition, they will learn the more technical aspects of the craft—how to work with recording tools, transcribe and edit, and otherwise make use of the content they glean.

The Enduring Image: Defining Your Personal Style and Vision (Bryce Lankard)
Thursdays, April 10–May 29, 6:30–8:30 p.m.
An artist’s style can be expressed through subject choice, artistic technique, or other conceptual and presentational methods. By reviewing the work of established masters and emerging talents, this class delves into what makes a photographer’s work distinct and successful. Students will edit their own work and critique each other’s documentary projects; the end result will be a twelve- to twenty-image portfolio that embodies each student’s singular vision.

Documentary and the Three-Act Structure (Joshua Dasal)
Saturday, April 12, 12–5:30 p.m.
In this class, students will view and learn to dissect narrative films for the elements of traditional three-act structure, the most common storytelling format in the industry, and then apply those lessons to their own work. In melding the sensibilities and conventions of documentaries with an easily identifiable narrative structure, students will identify ways to adapt their subject matter for a story-hungry contemporary documentary audience while learning how to deliver commercially viable documentary films for today’s selective environment.

Cameras Across Cultures (Sarah Stacke)
Saturday, April 26, 12–5:30 p.m.
This one-day workshop is designed for documentarians who want to learn more about photographing and representing people of different cultures, whether in your backyard or abroad. The class will discuss culturally sensitive methods of meeting and working with individuals, as well as various approaches to presenting cross-cultural projects that engage viewers while respecting the rights and agency of those depicted.

Writing Documentary Nonfiction (Sharon D. Raynor)
Mondays, April 28–June 2, 7–9 p.m.

This six-week workshop is designed to explore strategies for composing a variety of documentary nonfiction, including journalistic pieces, photo essays, and creative nonfiction. The workshop will become a collaborative community in which participants will explore diverse writers, discuss various writing styles, discover their own literary voice, and workshop their own nonfiction essays with the goal of a completed work by the end of the course.

A list of online courses offered by CDS, as well as information about how to register, is available here. Click here for a complete list of all courses, both online and on-site.

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