Build your creative and technical skill set while making a compelling documentary
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NOTE: In 2020 The 4-Week Documentary Film School will be held online. View Here
Trip and Overnight stay on Monhegan Island
Full Pass to the Camden International Film Festival
Launch your documentary film career. Or embark on creating your independent movie. In this workshop you establish your foundation as a complete filmmaker. You are the director, cinematographer and editor. You’ll learn and develop these skills under the guidance of a National Geographic filmmaker. The experience culminates with your own creation: a skillfully produced documentary, ideal for your professional portfolio.
The Monhegan Expedition
It all starts with a camera boot camp. You’ll use professional cameras. Field exercises ingrain best practices for capturing clean audio and conducting interviews. And documentary screenings along with class discussions will inspire your first story.
Our sights are set on Monhegan Island, ten nautical miles off the coast of Maine. This is a top tourist destination, but we come here as filmmakers – not tourists. The tiny island is our intimate classroom for two days. Our base camp is The Trailing Yew, a B&B where we reconnoiter throughout the day and spend the night (r/t ferry and single room with breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the tuition). By the end of our stay, you’ll return to the mainland with an abundance of your own footage to cut and learn to edit with.
Back in Rockport, you will be introduced to 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 fluid in its use through the organic process of assembling your Monhegan story. The project is manageable with a runtime of only a minute and a half. Yet, these mere 90 seconds contain all the essentials of an edit: from structuring to working with audio; from creating sequences to pacing. This hands-on overview gives a new understanding of the filmmaker’s craft.
The Advanced Project
Well before the Documentary Film School starts, you’ll be asked to imagine themes for your culminating project. Mid-coast Maine offers intriguing stories to explore and charismatic characters to follow. Classmates pitch ideas and projects are chosen as we form teams. These partnerships are an important resource that cannot be overstated. They provide physical, creative and moral support. Each afternoon is dedicated to shooting and developing the story. The following morning your progress is reviewed in class. All the while you’ll be introduced to cutting edge techniques on drones, gimbaled stabilizers, sliders, wireless audio systems, LED light panels, etc.
For the final week the edit rooms stay open late as this is our laboratory for creativity and storytelling. We’ll have milestone screenings as we advance towards the “Picture Lock”. Fellow classmates give valuable insight to 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. In-depth instruction with color correction will give you the tools to bring out the best look for your camerawork. All has the urgency of a deadline. The final Friday, your project screens in front of the entire Maine Media student body with your invited guests.
The final weekend of our workshop culminates with the Camden International Film Festival. CIFF is considered one of the top ten documentary film festivals in the United States. It’s a perfect learning environment for the new filmmaker. A Full Festival Pass (included with the tuition) gives you a front-row view of where the art and the industry are headed. As a class we’ll attend talks by the directors, cinematographers and editors who create these works. We’ll watch budding artists pitch their ideas to network executives a la Shark Tank. You’ll find an intimacy and sense of community as artists, industry leaders and cinephiles take over the neighboring town of Camden. Nightly industry parties attended by the artists and representatives from buyers like PBS, HBO, Showtime and Netflix offer networking opportunities. You will attend the festival not only as a spectator, but as a filmmaker having completed a newly finished film.
Note: Housing for the Saturday night of CIFF (Oct. 3rd) is not included in the weekly MMW lodging plan. Students will need to procure housing for that night if they plan to take full advantage of all that CIFF offers. MMW lodging may be available for that night for an extra fee. Tuition also covers $15 toward the purchase of lunch on Monhegan Island.
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. And, for anyone considering a career in documentary filmmaking, this intensive workshop is a launching pad. Rarely will someone in the film industry ask to see an advanced diploma. What they do want to see is what you’ve done. At the end of the four weeks you will have a professional quality documentary to show. Past students’ projects have been invited to screen at film festivals and have aired on PBS.
Image Credits: Alexis Mpaka, Devin Altobello, Header: Aidan Bliss
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 vignettes. Tom’s approach to filmmaking is holistic: He produces, shoots, writes and edits his own works. This will be Tom’s ninth year teaching a “soup to nuts” approach to filmmaking during the 4-Week Documentary Film School. Tom also leads our Travel Workshops in Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico and Argentina