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Good Schools for Documentary Filmaking...


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#1 Annie

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Posted 28 October 2005 - 10:14 AM

Hi,
I'm currently a senior in high school and I want to make documentary films. I want to double major in political science and film, so I can't just go to a film school.

Does anyone know of any schools, that are liberal arts schools, that are known for their documentary filmmaking? And preferably not on the west coast.

I've heard American University has a decent documentary film program, does anyone know anything about that?

Thank you very much.

Anne
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#2 Morgan Peline

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Posted 30 October 2005 - 07:05 PM

I always heard Stanford had a good Masters in documentary.
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#3 Christopher Heston

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Posted 03 November 2005 - 12:20 AM

Hi,
I'm currently a senior in high school and I want to make documentary films. I want to double major in political science and film, so I can't just go to a film school.

Does anyone know of any schools, that are liberal arts schools, that are known for their documentary filmmaking? And preferably not on the west coast.

I've heard American University has a decent documentary film program, does anyone know anything about that?

Thank you very much.

Anne




Hell yeah!. Go to UCSC (University of California in Santa Cruz) and apply for the social documentation program. The department is greatand the instructors are amazing!

Plus the campus is probably one of the most beautiful places on earth.

UCSC!!!

-Chris
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#4 jasarsenault

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Posted 03 November 2005 - 01:29 PM

I had the same questions a few years ago. I had an interest in politics and film. I am now finishing up my Political Studies Ba, and working on my second documentary. I guess my point is, you can work on both, regardless of which you are studying in school. The two go so well together, and each has helped me in the other study.
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#5 John Schlater II

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Posted 16 November 2005 - 02:50 PM

Check out Emerson College in Boston, MA

Awesome school for Doc work...

Good luck.

JSII
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#6 Alex Borowicz

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Posted 28 November 2005 - 06:44 PM

The College of Santa Fe has a documentary program. Not sure of the quality, but it's there.
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#7 Charlie Seper

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Posted 19 December 2005 - 01:13 PM

They aren't a big school, but a good, small private school that has both a Liberal Arts program as well as a dynamite film school program is Webster University in St. Louis. I'm not big on film schools/programs but this one has a great department and most of the students that have come out of there that are working steady shooting films are mostly making documentaries. There's also a St. Louis film festival that's starting to really take off. There are four Landmark Theatres (the biggest chain in the world that specializes in independant films) in St. Louis too. And right nearby are two of the best medical and law schools in the country. Washington University is almost always ranked in the top 3 or 4 med schools and St. Louis University is always ranked high in both medicine and law. Both are less than 5-miles from Webster U. so there's potential for extra course work in the area at great schools.

Chicago has some similar schools and situations to offer but I couldn't tell you much about those.

Webster U.
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#8 Scott Fritzshall

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Posted 19 December 2005 - 03:27 PM

Columbia College Chicago has a pretty big Documentary department. I don't know too much about it because I'm not part of that department, but it's worth checking out.
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#9 steve hyde

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Posted 19 December 2005 - 04:45 PM

....well any good liberal arts college will be a good starting point. I think it is helpful to think of filmmaking as having two components. First an intellectual component made of ideas that always, always have a political motivation. Some filmmakers want to conform to popular ideas because marketing experts have their little spread sheets that show what ideas sell and don't sell and they conform to that so that they can advance rather than ruin their filmmaking careers. This is how capitalism kills art....or as many wil surely argue, this is how capitalism advances art. You will decide for yourself.

Film critic A.O. Scott just published an interesting argument on this in the New York Times yesterday. He argued that spectacularly bad films aren't being made anymore. Then he added spectacularly good films are not being made either. Instead we are seeing a lot of films made with big safety nets. Nothing outrageous, nothing courageous, just a lot more of the same samey sameness that distributors know will sell. There is a politics to filmmaking and filmmakers have to fight to get their ideas to the screen uncensored.

Women filmmakers have historically been silenced before even given a chance to put their ideas on the screen. Director Lina Wurtmuller, who crewed on many Fellini films, was an exception back in the 1970 and 1980s with remarkably courageous films like "Love and Anarchy", "Swept Away" and "Seven Beauties", all are politically charged narrative films with Fellini influences that run pretty deep. (just recommending them to you) Documentary filmmaker Barbara Koppel's "Harlan County USA" is a must see for any aspiring documentary filmmaker as is Stephanie Black's more contemporary "Life and Debt." Now a documentary filmmaking rennaisannce is underway and many women are leading the way with really interesting ideas.

The second component of filmmaking is all of the technical stuff that requires commitment to artistry and craft. If your ambition is to write and direct your own films you will need only a well infomed overview of the film production process and a good understanding of how the process works. This is what I would call the more vocational side of filmmaking. Course work in film production will serve this purpose as will volunteering and or interning for film productions. You will also want to develop skills in project management. Business Schools tend to have some of the best courses in this area (all universities have business schools) A director is a project manager.

Perhaps an intersection between the intellectual and vocational aspects of filmmaking is in the field of Visual Communications and Visual Design. You may want to investigate course work at your universitie's Communications School. I personally think a strong back ground in Journalism serves filmmakers well. Unlike novels - filmmaking is about telling stories economically under space constraints - like screenwriting.

...I see my post is beginning to sprawl so let me sum up by suggesting this:

Go get a solid liberal arts education at Columbia or Dartmouth if you are rich or just go to a Community College and read the same books if you are not. Then pursue an MFA in filmmaking or maybe a Ph.D in Communications....Just take it one year at a time and make at least one short film every year.

have fun,

Steve
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