Launch your documentary film career. Become the complete filmmaker with the skillset to effectively tell a story, be it one of documentary journalism or personal expression.

Sep 2, 2024 - Sep 27, 2024

Levels: Beginner, Intermediate,
Workshop Fee: $4195
Workshop Duration: 4-weeks, Monday-Friday
Workshop Location: On-campus
Class Size: 12

Dive into your documentary filmmaking passion for a month as you expand your storytelling skills with like-minded filmmakers under the guidance of award-winning, broadcast filmmaker Tom Donohue. The experience culminates with your own creation: a skillfully produced documentary for your professional portfolio or as a launching pad to your documentary career.

The Solo Project

It all starts with the camera boot camp. A week’s worth of morning lectures followed by afternoon field-exercises prepares you with the best practices for capturing video and audio. On our first Friday together we “set sail” for Monhegan island, a nature reserve seven miles off the coast of Maine. Monhegan has been an artist retreat since the 1860s and continues as one of Maine’s top tourist attractions. But we come as filmmakers, not as tourists. Tiny Monhegan offers the perfect day trip for creating your first story. Tom is never far away to give assistance.

The second week launches an in-depth exploration of the editing process as you assemble and craft your raw footage from Monhegan into a complete documentary short. The project size is manageable; the running time is only a minute and a half. Yet these mere 90 seconds contain all the essentials for crafting a documentary: from shot planning to mixing audio; from creating sequences to incorporating breath and pacing. Our editing platform is Adobe Premiere Pro. This is the industry-standard editing platform for most documentaries and a “must-learn” for anyone considering a career in editing. You will become fluent in its use. With your first film “in the can” you will have a complete overview of the documentary filmmaking process. You are ready to undertake the Advanced Project.

But first… 

You will experience The Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) September 12th-15th, 2024. CIFF is one of the most acclaimed “exclusively documentary” film festivals in North America. Much of it takes place within walking distance of our campus. The 4-week Documentary Film School is scheduled to coincide with this incredible resource. You will receive a Full Access Pass (included in the tuition), that will allow you to view the latest documentaries and participate in festival workshops. Your pass also includes entry to the after-hours mixers where distributors and filmmakers meet.

The Advanced Project

Midcoast Maine is filled with intriguing stories and charismatic characters. Whether you uncover story possibilities through research (even before coming to Maine) or discover a story after you arrive, you’ll learn how to go into the core of your subject. The Advanced Project is a documentary, anywhere between seven to ten minutes in length, that you will produce working in teams of two or three. Collaboration is an important part of the filmmaking process that cannot be overstated. It provides the physical, creative, and moral support necessary for successful outcomes.  You and your classmates will “pitch ideas” which will ultimately serve as the inspiration for the final project. We will still meet in the mornings to review your shoots’ progress as well as delve further into essential practices and equipment such as storyboarding and story structure to wireless audio systems and LED light panels, etc. The afternoons and, if you desire, the weekends, are time for you to shoot and develop the story. 

For the final week, the edit rooms stay open late as this is your laboratory for creativity and experimentation. We’ll have milestone screenings as we advance towards the “Picture Lock.” Fellow classmates will share their insight into your cut as you, in turn, view and analyze their progress. You’ll dive deeper into the audio software as you create and mix your soundtrack. We will have a basic introduction to color correction so that you have the tools to bring out the best look for your camerawork. All has the urgency of a deadline. 

On the final Friday night, your project screens in front of the Maine Media student body and your invited guests.


Upon completion of the 4-Week Documentary Film School, you will leave as a complete filmmaker. This is a lifetime skill, opening up a world of expression for you at a time of content-hungry social media. For anyone considering a career in documentary filmmaking, this intensive workshop is a launching pad. Rarely does someone in the film industry ask for degrees in filmmaking. What they want to see is what you’ve done. At the end of the four weeks, you will have two professional-quality documentaries to show.

Past students’ projects have been invited to screen at film festivals and have aired on PBS.

Overnight Monhegan Option

While our class excursion to Monhegan Island on the Friday of Week One is only a day trip, students may elect to stay overnight on the island. It is a spectacular night’s stay once the “daytrippers” depart. If you choose this option you will not miss a class because there are no weekend classes.  By returning the following day you will gift yourself the time to practice your camera skills and delve deeper into your story. While Maine Media covers the cost of the roundtrip ferry and provides a packed lunch for the Friday day trip excursion, if you elect to stay overnight on the island, you will need to book and cover the cost of lodging and meals on your own as an overnight island stay is not included in the tuition. For students electing to return on Friday, you will make it back to campus in time for the lobster dinner and to catch the Friday night school screening of student work created that week.

Image Credits: Alexis Mpaka, Devin Altobello, Header:  Aidan Bliss

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Instructor: Tom Donohue

Tom Donohue is an award-winning, EMMY-nominated filmmaker with over 25 years of experience creating broadcast documentaries for such clients as National Geographic Television, The Discovery Channel, and PBS. His assignments have taken him from the war-torn streets of Afghanistan to Central American rainforests in search of jaguars. Recent National Geographic assignments have taken him to the North Pole to film “Land of the Polar Bear” and to the Galapagos Islands to produce environmental interstitials for Nat Geo programming. Tom’s approach to filmmaking is holistic: He produces, shoots, writes and edits his own works. This will be Tom’s ninth year teaching his “soup to nuts” approach to filmmaking during the 4-Week Documentary Film School. Tom also leads Maine Media's Destination Workshops in Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico and Argentina.