An Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning Documentary Filmmaker will help guide you with your work-in-progress.

There are no available registration dates at this time.

DOCUMENTARY MASTER CLASS  Oct 12-16  (Immediately following The Camden International Film Festival)

Students in the Documentary Master Class will also receive an All-Access Pass to The Camden International Film Festival. Details below.


The rise of both long and short form documentaries is evidenced by their increased presence in film festivals, theaters, on broadcast outlets, streaming platforms, and on the web.

This one week master class is for filmmakers and advanced students who want to sharpen their work with the mentoring of a master documentary filmmaker. The class will specifically address how to improve works-in-progress. The work-in-progress can be in a written format (proposal, treatment, script) or a film that is already in production or editing.  Projects will be discussed as a group and, as needed, in individual sessions with the instructor. In terms of past experience, participants should have completed at least one documentary (long or short form) before coming to this class.

The class will consider conceptualization, development, research, how to focus the story and structure, scripted and non-scripted storytelling, ethics, interviewing as relationship, how to balance multiple stories, and much more. You will also go deep into the dynamics of launching and financing a project: crafting a bulletproof pitch and logline, synopses, treatments, key production elements, budgeting, and identifying funding resources and distribution opportunities. Work by the instructor and other documentarians will be analyzed.

In addition to their work-in-progress, students are welcome and encouraged to bring one of their finished documentaries to screen for critique and discussion. You will also have the opportunity for one-on-one sessions with the instructor. By week’s end, participants will have re-evaluated and improved their projects, and enriched their palette with tips and guidelines from this accomplished documentary filmmaker.

The Documentary Master Class immediately follows THE CAMDEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL. This workshop was created in partnership with CIFF and will include an All-Access Pass to the 12-day hybrid virtual and in-person festival. Recognized as one of the top 12 documentary film festivals in the world, CIFF brings the finest nonfiction cinema to the coast of Maine, showcasing over 80 documentary feature and short films from around the globe each fall. This year’s CIFF and Points North Forum (October 1-12) will be the most global, and accessible festival to date, and will include a 12-day creative virtual experience with dozens of livestream events, alongside the launch of the festival’s very own drive-in movie theatre in Midcoast Maine. The Points North Documentary Forum, which runs concurrently with the festival, is dedicated to providing emerging documentarians with opportunities for professional development and creative inspiration. Programs include the Points North Pitch, workshops, panels and meetings with some of the industry’s leading funders, distributors and producers.

NOTE: This class will be held in a live, online format using the Zoom Platform. 
Class will meet 1-5 pm EDT plus one-on-one time with instructor by appointment

Header Image:  Amanda Piela

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Instructor: Elaine McMillion Sheldon

Elaine McMillion Sheldon is an Academy Award-nominated, and Emmy and Peabody-winning documentary filmmaker based in Appalachia. She is a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow. Sheldon is the director of two Netflix Original Documentaries -  "Heroin(e)" and "Recovery Boys" - that explore America's opioid crisis. "Heroin(e)" was nominated for a 2018 Academy Award and won the 2018 Emmy Award for Outstanding Short Documentary. In May 2020, she released "Tutwiler," a rare and intimate look at motherhood inside one of America's most notorious prisons. "Tutwiler,” a collaboration with The Marshall Project and PBS Frontline, raises questions about how our nation is handling the growing crisis of incarcerated pregnant women, and what happens to their newborns. In 2013, she released "Hollow," an interactive documentary that examines the future of rural America through the eyes and voices of West Virginians. Hollow received a Peabody, Emmy nomination and 3rd Prize in the World Press Photo Multimedia Awards. She was named a 2018 USA Fellow by United States Artists, one of the "25 New Faces of Independent Film" by Filmmaker Magazine, and one of "50 People Changing The South" by Southern Living Magazine. In 2016, Chicken & Egg Pictures awarded her with the inaugural "Breakthrough Filmmaker" award. She has been commissioned by Netflix, Frontline PBS, The Center for Investigative Reporting, The New York Times Op-Docs, TEDWomen, Field of Vision, and The Bitter Southerner. Sheldon has appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Anthony Bourdain's CNN Show Parts Unknown and Meet The Press with Chuck Todd. She's a co-founding member - with Darcy McKinnon - of All Y'all Southern Documentary Collective.