Film 371: Documentary Production

This course explores digital documentary production theory and practice from the point of view of producer/writer/director.  Students study documentary development, pre-production, production, and post-production and the course culminates in the creation of one short form documentary.  Students work in groups and are required to take on various roles and responsibilities within their group so that a broad range of experience can be garnered throughout the process.  Through actual production, hands-on practice, class discussions, lectures, and assignments and readings, students acquire an understanding of the art of documentary, digital field production and practical production techniques.  Areas of study include: ethics, identity, authorship and aesthetics, issues of representation, research techniques, screen grammar, writing treatments, scripting and storyboarding, pre-production plans, field camera, lighting and audio theory and practice, editing theory and practice, interview techniques, narrative, re-enactments, and program style and structure.

EXAMPLES OF STUDENT FILMS 2018/2019 (Click on titles to view films) 

Special Hockey:  The Wildcat Story. Hockey isn’t just for tough guys… The story of one man’s quest to give his autistic son the opportunity to play hockey. (2018)

Revive:  Breast Reconstruction- My Mother and Me.  A group of women meet once a month to spread awareness and discuss the trial of breast cancer, specifically reconstructive surgery and the personal challenges and emotions surrounding this process. (2018)

Coffee is Not My Cup of Tea. A Refection When the East Meets West: Comparing the differences between coffee culture and tea culture, Purple, a Chinese international student studying in Canada, embarks on a. quest to discover why coffee just isn’t his cup of tea. (2019)

The Link. Two Worlds Connected Beyond Age and Culture: A peek into UBCO’s Age-Link community to see how these friendships have impacted the lives of both the young and the old. (2019)

Hotdogs for Breakfast. Putting the Kraft Back in Dinner: A look into how hunger and limited resources can result int eh creation of some of the most interesting dishes that you have never heard of.  (2019)

An Hour and 27 Minutes Until the Next One. Transit troubles don’t end once you get here: Kelowna’s transit system is one of the many obstacles for our new Canadian neighbours. (2019)

CLICK HERE TO VIEW “Samples of Student Documentaries from 2015″

The Process

After an introduction to the development and pre-production process of documentary production, each student is tasked with developing a pitch for a documentary project.  As is the case in real industry practice, the most developed and promising pitches are chosen.  Students then choose teams according to their interests and their talents.  With special permission (and sometimes for pedagogical reasons), some students may be allowed to work alone.  The students are evaluated according to their process, their product, critical analysis of the work, and peer review.

The 2013 course consisted of the following projects:

Student Mom- a day in the life of a student mom (Students from Visual Arts and Performance)

Student Mom takes a look at a day in the life of student mothers as they attend university and attempt to balance both books and baby bottles.

I am Peter Parker, Why Can’t I Be Spiderman (Students from Visual Arts, Social Work, and English)

This documentary explores hyper masculine constructions of black men and internalized heroes and how these internalized self perceptions can be influenced by racism and stereotypes.

Re-Mediating Nature (MFA Graduate Student)

In trying to control the natural world, we have lost the ability to connect with it on a deep level.  Re-Mediating Nature asks whether the types of tools that have alienated us from the places that we live be reimagined, repurposed to reintroduce us to those places?

Daylighting Fascieux Creek (Student from Performance)

Daylighting Fascieux Creek is a documentary about learning beyond the walls of the classroom and into the more-than-human world.  It follows the lives of a science teacher and her middle school students throughout an entire year as they fight to restore a natural wetland on their school grounds.

Trim (Students from Performance)

Trim explores the politics of hair, body hair, and the removal of body hair.

Imaginary Friends (Students from Performance and Visual Arts)

Studying the common phenomenon of the imaginary friend, this lighthearted documentary confronts those who left their friends behind.  What is next for them when we get too old for play?

The 2012 course consisted of the following projects:

The Natives are Shredding (Students from Cultural Studies-Westbank First Nations and Visual Arts)

The Natives Are Shredding followed the lives of two young snowboard riders as they struggled to establish their place in their developing community.  It explored how the First Nation Snowboard Team broke stereotypes and boundaries on and off the hill, providing hope for the future of diverse First Nation identities in contemporary cultural contexts.

Bass (Students from Performance, Cultural Studies and Creative Writing)

Bass investigated the electronic music scene in Kelowna known as dubstep.  With local DJs gaining global recognition, this innovative aspect of Okanagan culture remains misunderstood absent from local media outlets. One promotion company was profiled as they struggled to receive mainstream attention in a city biased in its promotional strategies.

Miss Constructed (Students from Cultural Studies and General Arts)

Miss Constructed is an investigation of the world of pageants through the eyes of former Miss Revelstoke.  The documentary deconstructs identity and issues of representation.  This team was particularly successful.  The bright and sophisticated Cultural Studies student, while spearheading the project, benefited greatly from the cinematic sensibilities and technical ability of a very gifted undergraduate student.

The War on Drugs (Students from Visual Arts and Creative Writing)

The War on Drugs was autobiographic in that it profiled a team member who had a phobia of drug intake images and consequently could not view drug prevention videos without fainting.  The documentary explores drug culture and its representation from this playful point-of-view.

Growing Vision (Student from Cultural Studies)

This documentary connected our back yards with international oil dependency?  It looked at what we’re doing with that space around our houses we call “the yard” and re-envisions the yard as the food-producing patch of land that it is.

Projects from previous years include a documentary produced by a PhD candidate entitled Seasons of Nsyilxcen that chronicled the daily lives of Syilx children as they attended a two-classroom school on a small reserve in British Columbia, an investigation into the origins and meaning of Vernon Mural art, ecstasy drug production and use in the Okanagan, the Woodhaven Eco-Art Project (graduate student), a poetic documentary of testimonials regarding Love Letters, and two documentaries concerning arts and culture in the Okanagan.

The Arts and Culture documentaries were screened at Kelowna City Council, both Miss Constructed  and Growing Vision  were recently screened at the Traveling World Film Festival in Kelowna, and the Woodhaven Film has been screened extensively at various venues.   The Syilx language school project, to my knowledge, continues.