New Course Tackles Documentary in Detail

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As the latest course to roll out of the multimedia production sequence, COMM 4941 hit the ground running this Fall with a lot of ground to cover.

Nonfiction Digital Video Production keeps its focus squarely on documentary media and the various techniques and approaches that make such work successful. Taught by Steve Stifano, the course walks students through the creation of two production projects – one 2:00 nonfiction short piece, completed in pairs, and a larger semester-long documentary short film completed in teams.

“Our goal is to focus on storytelling and pairing the right words with the right sounds and visuals,” Stifano said, “you need all three to craft an effective documentary film.”

The course takes students deep into the realm of nonfiction media, with regular screenings of successful short-subject documentaries, assignments and activities meant to improve students’ research skills and technical considerations, and extensive discussion to help each team collaborate and offer feedback to one another. “We teach it in a seminar style, because that promotes all of us pulling together to create the best possible works,” Stifano explains. “Honesty is so important in multimedia work, and there’s no better way to get to honesty than to make every student feel like their opinions matter, their voices are heard, and that we’ve all got each others backs to create strong work.”

As with all courses in the production sequence, the very best projects from the course will be eligible to be screened in the annual Commotion Pictures Screening, held each spring in Hartford, CT. Preliminary decisions will be made on some films toward the end of the semester, with final invitations offered to the best projects from all production courses in the springtime. The multimedia production program has made a priority of getting more students working on high-caliber projects and screening those projects for wide audiences.

COMM 4941 is part of an expansion of the original “Digital Video Production” course into two distinct courses – one covering documentary, and one covering fictional narrative. The other course, Narrative Digitial Video Production, will run in Spring 2019 under the original COMM 4940 designation with an expanded syllabus geared toward fictional media.