Build your creative and technical skill set while making a compelling documentary

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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. As a class, we’ll explore the current trends of the documentary world as we participate in one of America’s top film festivals. 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 be introduced to the industry standard Canon C300 camera. 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 destinations. But we come here as filmmakers, not tourists. The tiny island is our intimate classroom for two days. Our base camp is Monhegan House, a B&B where we reconnoiter throughout the day and spend the night (r/t ferry plus bed and breakfast included in the tuition). By the end of our stay, you’ll return to the mainland with an abundance of your own footage with which to cut and learn to edit.

Back in Rockport, you will be introduced to Adobe Premiere Pro. This is the most popular software of the industry 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. It comes just in time as we prepare to binge-watch the latest offerings of documentaries from around the world.

(Sept 12th-15th)

CIFF is considered one of the top ten documentary film festivals in the United States. Here you’ll find an intimacy and sense of community as artists, industry leaders and cinephiles take over the neighboring town of Camden.  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. Nightly industry parties attended by the artists and representatives from PBS, HBO and Netflick offer networking opportunities. But above all this is a weekend of inspiration. These films give us reference points from which to discuss and develop our own ideas as we prepare for the final stage.

The Advanced Project

It’s this stage where it all comes together.  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 mornings, 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.


Upon completion of the 4 Week Doc 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 even aired on PBS.

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

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Instructor: Tom Donohue

Tom Donohue is an EMMY-nominated filmmaker with over 30 years of experience in filmmaking including 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. Tom’s approach to filmmaking is holistic: He produces, shoots, writes and edits his own films. Not only does this method provide an intimacy with the subject, but each step of the filmmaking process informs and complements the others.