Explore the camera’s role in the storytelling process for documentary filmmaking.

SonyToday's audience has become very sophisticated in their appreciation of the visual art of filmmaking. Expectations by audiences are for a high level production quality in all visual forms of storytelling, including documentary filmmaking. This workshop provides students with an understanding of how photography and cinematography tools and skills are adapted to address the unique demand of non-fiction filmmaking.

This one-week course is for emerging and professional documentary filmmakers and cinematographers who want to explore the technical and creative role that the camera plays in documentary production. Through screenings, analysis of documentaries, examination of camera style, and a close look at technical and storytelling solutions, students will become experts at defining what makes a convincing documentary. Throughout the week the class will examine the importance of anticipating technical and logistical choices before the shoot. The workshop covers storytelling, shot design, sequencing and continuity, blocking and camera moves, composition, POV, and lens selection.

The mornings are spent in the classroom for discussion, critiques, and screenings. The afternoons are dedicated to research and fieldwork as the students find and shoot a short documentary, and gain practical experience handling the camera in a variety of situations. Scenes are edited for review and critique.


"I came away knowing 500% more than I knew coming in"
- Matthew Johnson, Washington, DC

"Documentary camera was both humbling and empowering as a whole new way of 'seeing' & perspective opened with regards to filming and as we were given unusual opportunities to practice new skills with encouraging feedback"
- L. Stager, Searsmont, ME

"It's not just a workshop, it's an experience."


Bestor Cram

Bestor Cram is an award winning director, producer and cinematographer for television documentaries and museum environments. In 1982, Bestor founded Northern Light Productions, a Boston-based production company which produces long format projects for PBS, History Channel, and Discovery as well as a wide range of museum media exhibits for art, science and history interpretive visitor centers like the Smithsonian Institution and International Spy Museum. As a lighting cameraman,

Bestor's shooting forte lies in 16mm and 35mm film as well as extensive use of the DV and HD formats. He studied and lectured with Richard Leacock at MIT, has taught film at Tufts University and the Art Institute of Boston. His 2005 completed feature documentary The Special, about the bluegrass anthem, premiered at the Nashville Film Festival and was selected for AFI's Silver Docs. His independent documentary, Unfinished Symphony: Democracy and Dissent, premiered in competition at Sundance and won top honors at festivals home and abroad.

Bestor released Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison in the fall of 2008 and it continues to play festivals and television world wide.  In 2009, his ITVS supported film, Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968,was released and had its PBS broadcast in February, 2010.


Stephen McCarthy

Stephen McCarthy is a director of photography with thirty years of experience in non-fiction filmmaking. His work appears regularly in prime time documentary series including PBS's American Experience, American Masters, Frontline, Nova, Nova: Science Now and P.O.V.

Stephen has served as Director of Photography on numerous prime time documentary series including the Peabody- and Emmy-award-winning "The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross", two seasons of HBO Family's Emmy-nominated "Masterclass” and PBS’s series "Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr," and “Your Inner Fish with Neil Shubin”.  Mr. McCarthy's photography has been featured in “Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger" as well as both "War of the Worlds” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” for PBS’s The American Experience.  Forthcoming projects include "Mass Extinction: Life at the Brink” for the Smithsonian Channel and a PBS series based on "The Emperor of All Maladies" by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

Stephen is a visiting lecturer on cinematography at Boston University, Rhode Island School of Design, The Maine Media Workshops and MIT's graduate program in science writing. He lives in Boston.

© Mark Dawson

Course Dates

Jul 2 to Jul 8
Sep 24 to Sep 30



Class Size


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