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Students Filmmaking

Documentary Filmmaking Major

Course Sequence | Documentary Filmmaking Minor

Spelman "Docsters" Make Movie Moves

Spelman Documentary Film Majors Show Off at South Pitch

by Gabriela Ortega | November 21, 2021

Stephanie Crawford New Orleans Film Society WinnerStephanie Crawford and Gabrielle Morse are the first Spelman College documentary film majors to present at South Pitch, the New Orleans Film Festival’s pitch competition platform.

After a year-long hiatus, the South Pitch Student Narrative and Documentary competition returned this year as a private virtual event. Participating institutions were Spelman College, University of North Alabama, Florida State University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Loyola University, Eckerd University, Wakeforest University, and University of North Carolina School of the Arts. 

Crawford was announced as the winner in this annual competition where filmmakers from across the American South have under ten minutes to pitch their next film production. A senior documentary filmmaking major, film and visual culture minor presented her work to a panels of judges — film professionals and industry insiders — who offered constructive feedback for all participants.

Crawford's film, "Unpacked," is a documentary essay film reckoning with the colonial aspects of tourism by weaving the voices of Black travelers, agents and guides, who are building sustainable and ethical approaches to travel.

As a winner in the documentary category, Crawford received a cash prize of $500. Finalists in all pitch categories received All-Access Passes to the 2021 New Orleans Film Festival and waivers to submit future completed projects for festival consideration. 

Crawford is a Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholar and works as the General Audience Programming at PBS. She is also a freelance photographer and videographer who aspires to work in the film industry and has an interest in cinematography, directing and editing. Her goal is to use her skills as a filmmaker to center the voices and stories of underrepresented groups, especially Black women. She wants to create stories that highlight the complexity and multifaceted nature of Black women and partner with others to elevate the stories of underrepresented communities.

Spelman College's documentary filmmaking major is uniquely designed to address the needs of the 21st century student born into a digital world where moving images, storytelling and investigating social concerns have significant currency.

Why This? Why Now?

While documentary filmmaking has exploded internationally over the last twenty years, it is rare that one sees women of African descent at the helm in this field. Through its documentary film program, Spelman will develop a new, and urgently needed, generation of Black women documentary filmmakers who see the world through their histories and interests.

The major is an outgrowth of the Digital Moving Image Salon (DMIS), which was founded in 2003 by award-winning filmmaker Ayoka Chenzira, Ph.D. DMIS taught students to analyze films and use digital media tools to produce documentary films that focus on the lived experiences of women of color, the filmmaking program merged traditional documentary film strategies with emerging approaches to create new forms of storytelling; and it also explores new exhibition and distribution possibilities.

Valuable Real-World Training

The new major is guided by distinguished faculty. The major underscores the value of a liberal arts education by supporting work that is at the intersection of visual culture, humanities and new technologies and thus expands the definition of documentary film production.

With this major, you will:

  • Develop your artistic voice and produce films with a point-of-view
  • Develop a deeper understanding of visual language and filmmaking as an art form and as a form of rhetoric
  • Learn the technical aspects of production
  • Create a dynamic storytelling experience through creative writing for documentaries
  • Develop new strategies for production in the digital age
  • Learn the business of the art form, ethics, community engagement and portfolio development

Robust and Interdisciplinary Offerings

The documentary filmmaking major offers a robust production experience and includes film history, writing, and new forms of documentary production. It will prepare you for graduate school, professional industries and community engagement.

Additionally, the program will further connect itself to the local documentary film community through guest lectures, events, and an annual festival -- the culminating event for seniors in the film program.

Course Sequence

Foundational Courses (14 Credits)
AVC 122 Digital 2D Foundations (3)
AVC 124 Intro to Documentary Filmmaking (4)
AVC 125 Black Cinema: Contemporary Voices in Documentary (4)
AVC 242 The Art of Video Editing (3)

Practice (19 Credits)
AVC 205 Documentary Media Production I (4)
AVC 206 Documentary Media Production II (4)
AVC 335 Advanced Sight and Sound I (4)
AVC 336 Advanced Sight and Sound II (4)
AVC 410 Editing for Thesis Films (3)

Theory and Thinking (7 Credits)
AVC 285 Hollywood & History (4)
AVC 373Concepts, Writing and Development for Documentary Filmmaking (3)

Personal Practice and Career Building (8 Credits)
AVC 442 Internship (2)
AVC 493K Directed Studies (fall) (3)
AVC 493K Directed Studies (spring) (3)
AVC 104 Division of the Arts Freshman Seminar (0) (both semesters)
AVC 204 Division of the Arts Sophomore Seminar (0) (both semesters)

*Internships are a required part of the documentary filmmaking major.
**See the department for information on electives.