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.

Oct 2, 2023 - Oct 27, 2023

Levels: Beginner, Intermediate,
Workshop Fee: $3895
Workshop Duration: 4-weeks, Monday-Friday
Workshop Location: On-campus
Class Size: 12

This workshop, for beginner and intermediate filmmakers, provides you the opportunity to produce, shoot and edit your own documentary under the guidance of Tom Donohue, an award-winning broadcast filmmaker. The experience culminates with your own creation: a skillfully produced documentary, ideal for your professional portfolio or to propel you to tell your own stories on YouTube.

The Solo Project

It all starts with a camera boot camp. Using professional cameras, and field exercises ingrain best practices for capturing clean audio and conducting interviews. Documentary screenings along with class discussions will help inspire your first story.

You will tackle your first story as a solo camera crew. With a running time of only a minute and a half, the project is manageable. Yet, these mere 90 seconds contain all the essentials for crafting a documentary: from shot planning to mixing audio; from creating sequences to incorporating pacing. This hands-on overview gives a new understanding of the filmmaker’s craft.

In particular, you’ll learn the crucial role editing plays in documentary filmmaking. Tom’s own formation as a filmmaker started in the editing rooms of National Geographic. This was a firm foundation on which to build his career as a producer and shooter for the channel. We’ll edit on Adobe Premiere Pro, 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 and creatively telling your short story.

The Advanced Project

While creating your short documentary, you’ll be asked to imagine themes for your culminating project. The Advanced Project is a 10 to 15-minute documentary film in which you will showcase your newly developed skills as a filmmaker. Midcoast Maine offers intriguing stories to explore and charismatic characters to follow. You and your classmates “pitch ideas” which will ultimately serve as the inspiration for the final project. You’ll work as a crew. 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. 

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 the essential practices and equipment from storyboarding and story structure to wireless audio systems and 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 toward the “Picture Lock.” Fellow classmates give valuable 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. In-depth instruction with color correction will give you the tools to bring out the best look for your camerawork. All have the urgency of a deadline. On the final Friday night, your project screens in front of the Maine Media student body with 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. 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

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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 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.