Become the complete nature documentarian

NOTE: 2020 Dates for this course have been postponed due to COVID-19. Tom Donohue will be offering an online course Aug 10-21, 2020.

 

Maine Media Workshops+College is excited to collaborate with American University’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking to offer an immersive learning experience. 

Sea kayak the Maine Island Trail in search of story. This wilderness learning experience culminates with a week of editing your material into a finished film. Leave Maine with a documentary short, skills in sea kayaking/camping and the thrill of a wilderness adventure.

 

Week One: The Expedition (Muscongus Bay, Maine)

A cinewright is one who creatively handles every aspect of the filmmaking process. From first shot to final edit, you will create a 90-second documentary about an aspect of Maine’s natural coastal beauty. 

During the expedition you will develop your story-acquisition skills. In-field exercises will refine your camera technique. Our mode of transportation is paddle-power for access to remote island stories. The week is a combination of nature cinematography and wilderness training. No previous kayaking or camping experience is necessary. You’ll learn the basics from a licensed nature guide.

Four nights sleeping under the stars will be split in half with two nights at the Maine Island Lodge. This off-the-grid facility was built specifically for workshops like ours. It is a luxurious respite in the middle of our camping experience: comfortable beds, warm showers, proper toilets, kitchen-cooked-meals, etc. This is our classroom as we practice and review our work. We then paddle to a remote island for the final shoot. You will work in pairs assisting each other, but the final project is yours to produce, shoot and edit.

 

Week Two: Editing the Nature Documentary – Maine Media (Rockport Campus)

Return to civilization at MMW’s editing facilities. You will learn both the basics and advanced techniques of editing on the industry standard platform – Adobe Premiere Pro. More importantly, you will dive into story structure and pacing as you create a documentary short appropriate for the web. Our work will premiere at the Friday Night Show after a traditional Lobster dinner. Note: Students are not required to participate in the Sea Kayaking Expedition to enjoy the benefits of the editing class. They Make opt to take the 2nd Week only.

If your goal is to learn to edit, this workshop will take you through the complete process. Whether working with one’s own footage or that of a client, approaching an edit demands an open mind to the material. Often it is easier to see the elements of a story as an editor who is unattached to the original concept.

Editing is both a technical and an artistic endeavor. By “workshopping” a film, you’ll learn the tools  of post-production through the creative process of assembling a documentary. Concepts like “three-point editing” or “pyramid timelines” are easier to understand when they are serving a story. Our stories are fresh out of the field. 

Technique: 

You will start with the basics of Non-Linear Editing on the industry standard Adobe Premiere Pro. This is a must-know for anyone with the goal of working as an editor. Systematically you will build your technical skills as you construct your story. You will be led through the entire process starting with the basic selection of shots on to the more complex finishing stages of color correction and sound mix. 

Artistry: 

This course provides strong foundation in today’s editing software but it goes well beyond that. How does one approach an edit creatively? Ideally, one should allow the story to evolve organically. This means working with unexpected treasures found in the material. At other times, a firm-handed approach is necessary. We will watch examples of both types of edits. We will also learn from each other as we see different results our fellow classmates achieve with the same footage.

Our final goal is a documentary short appropriate for the internet or a work reel. This short contains all the elements of a longer piece, from story to structure to pacing. Not only will you leave Maine Media with the technical skills to edit a longer works, you will have a new approach to your editing process. 

Coordinator/Teacher: Tom Donohue

Tom has twenty five years’ experience creating broadcast documentaries for National Geographic Television and The Discovery Channel. Recent Geographic assignments include the Arctic and the Galapagos Islands. His work has been recognized with an EMMY nomination for “Outstanding Artistic & Cultural Achievement”. Tom has been a MMW faculty member since 2002. He leads the Travel Workshops to Cuba, Mexico and Argentina.


Bring your own camera. Whether it is a DSLR or traditional camcorder, the important thing is to know your equipment. You may even create your project on a smart phone. 

For those without a camera, a complete package can be rented for about $300 a week and delivered to you at our first campsite. The recommended package is a Panasonic GH5, on-board and wireless microphones, extra battery, lens and two SD cards. You may opt for top-of-the-line gear. No matter what, insurance “plus” is strongly recommended.

 

Maine Sport in Rockport is the expedition outfitter. They have been leading expeditions for over forty years. Their wilderness leaders are trained and licensed guides and sea kayak instructors. Registration and all matters concerning the Expedition Week will be handled directly through them at https://go.theflybook.com/book/766/EntityConfig/11171  or with Tom personally [email protected]

American University Students, please contact Larry Engel with any questions:

Larry Engel
Associate Professor/School of Communication
Associate Director/Center for Environmental Filmmaking
[email protected]
Mobile: 646.226.9244

Register

Week 1 Sea Kayaking
Register at https://go.theflybook.com/book/766/EntityConfig/11171
or with Tom personally [email protected].
Price: TBD (Includes 6 days of lodging, meals, and sea kayaking gear.)

Week 2 Editing the Nature Documentary
Register Here.
Tuition: TBD
Maine Media lodging options available Click here.

For those wishing to make their own arrangements, we suggest the Rockport,
Camden, Rockland area, however the meal plan is still required of all students.

 

Image Credits: Amanda Piela, Peter Stumpf, Jordan-Heinrichs, Aidan Bliss

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About Tom Donohue

Tom has twenty five years’ experience creating broadcast documentaries for National Geographic Television and The Discovery Channel. Recent Geographic assignments include the Arctic and the Galapagos Islands. His work has been recognized with an EMMY nomination for “Outstanding Artistic & Cultural Achievement”. Tom has been a MMW faculty member since 2002. He leads the Travel Workshops to Cuba, Mexico and Argentina.