460 Cross-Cultural Filmmaking

Cross-Cultural Filmmaking

Educational Films for Diverse Audiences

Previously offered as:

“Visual Anthropology and Scientific Documentary with Digital Video” 

(Summer 2008)

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Film/Art/Anth 463

A.  Instructor:

Maya Salganek, Assistant Professor

109B Fine Arts. (907) 474-5950.

Office Hours: TBD


Required Reading:

Cross-Cultural Filmmaking: A Handbook for making documentary and ethnographic films and videos by Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Taylor.

ISBN 0520087607

Suggested Reading:

Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts. Latour and Woolgar. ISBN 069102832X

        The Anthropology of Media. Richard R. Wilk. ISBN 0631220941

  1. Course description:

The use of film as a documentary tool, for describing and understanding scientific and cultural phenomenon has led to the education of generations. Understanding the implications of our film work with a theoretical base for cultural understanding, scientific need, and educational potentials will strengthen the films integrity and outcome. Film students will learn about pre-production, production, and post-production methods in creating video documents useful as a scientific/cultural record.  Pre-production will include research of archival visual media, oral histories, and print materials; analysis of educational  and scientific funding and distribution options; and preliminary interviews, location scouting, and film treatment. Production will include time on location with small film crews, media logging, and record keeping. Post-production will include basic editing of sequences for distribution.

  1. Goals:

       Students will refine proficiencies in camera work, video production management, non-linear digital editing, and general field research techniques, with emphasis on the conceptual/cultural ramifications of video practices.

  1. Student Learning Outcomes:

Each student will participate in a live documentary field shoot, including pre-production and post-production.  In addition students will be responsible for camera equipment, production management, and field logistics.  Understanding the theoretical and practical applications of video research as it applies to cross-cultural issues, scientific records, and audience interpretations will also be discussed.

  1. Instructional methods:

All students will meet for hands-on lectures and seminars weekly. Course materials will be available via Blackboard (http://www.classes.uaf.edu) and all students are responsible for posted Blackboard material prior to class.

  1. Course policies:
    1. 1.    Attendance:

       Attendance is mandatory.  Students receive three points for every class attended; two points for each class arrived to less than 5 minutes late, one point for arriving more than 5 minutes late, and zero points for not attending. Class participation and preparation is essential for this course.  Your classmates are counting on you!

Take responsibility for getting assignments or handouts from classmates.  If you miss class for any reason, it’s your responsibility to arrange for a classmate to collect copies of any handouts, or to provide you with information on any assignments, activities, lecture materials, or dates changed. Studies have shown that students who attend class regularly and participate fully, find assignments and exams much easier and more meaningful, and (surprise!) tend to get better grades than those who do not attend class regularly.

Be in class to earn a grade for an in-class activity or exercise. Students will be responsible for presenting and critiquing video material in class, should you miss this portion, you will take a zero for the day. In-class activities and exercises may not be made up at a later date.  In rare instances, students may have to miss class for a valid, university-sanctioned reason (In general, an absence is considered “official” when the student is: (A) participating in an approved field trip or other official UAF activity [e.g., athletics, music, theater arts]; (B) confirmed under doctor’s orders; or (C) granted a leave of absence from UAF for reasonable cause by an academic dean or director).  Except for medical emergencies, which require documentation, absences must be approved by the instructor prior to the class session that will be missed.  Alternate assignments to make up for any in-class points will be given only for instructor-approved absences.

  1. 2.  Blackboard/Assignments:
      • The “Course Documents” folder includes a copy of this syllabus, research materials, software, a link to schedule editing time, and instructional videos.
      • Assignments are posted in the Assignments folder, and organized by Week.  You are responsible for all the assignments listed there. This syllabus is just an outline for class assignments and developments.
      • Staff Information includes my complete calendar so you can be proactive and  make an appointment.
  1. 3.  Cell Phones:

       Cell Phones are helpful tools in film production, but should your cell phone ring during a shoot you will be asked to leave for the day and will receive zero points. If it happened on a working set, you would be fired! Texting is prohibited during class.

  1. 4.  Equipment:

Each student crew is responsible for checking out and returning equipment (video cameras, tripods, microphones, etc.). As instructor, I reserve the right to remove you from any group or restrict you from working with any equipment should there be abuse, misuse, or damage done.  You will be billed for any equipment damaged.

  1. 5.  Editing Labs:

The Alaska Media Center computer lab (Music 305) has four MacPros loaded with Final Cut Pro 7 (Studio 3) for you to use. You will need your polar express card to access the lab. Each entrance to the Lab is recorded, so should there be a problem we know who was in the lab when.  Please sign-in and out when you use the computers (so I know how often you were really there editing). You can sign up for no more than 3 hours of editing time per day. Should no one be using the computers, then you can continue to work. Sign up for your time online: http://filmuaf.genbook.com

If you are more than 15 minutes late, you loose your time to the first person waiting in line.

Class Participation/Attendance:             10%

              Seminar Discussions/Postings:          10%

Preproduction Notebook:                    20%

Fieldwork Production Raw Footage:   20%

Critiques:                                        15%

Final Project:                               15%

Final Paper:                                    10%

All work will be evaluated using a +/- grading system as follows:

 A+ = 4.0   100-97%

A = 4.0     96-93%

A- = 3.7    92-90%

B+ = 3.3   89-87%

B = 3.0     86-83%

B- = 2.7    82-80%

C+ = 2.3   79-77%

C = 2.0     76-73%

C- = 1.7      72-70%

D+ = 1.3     69-67%

D = 1.0       66-63%

D- = 0.7   62-0%



Disability Services:  The Office of Disability Services implements the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and insures that UAF students have equal access to the campus and course materials. State that you will work with the Office of Disabilities Services (203 WHIT, 474-7043) to provide reasonable accommodation to students with disabilities.”



Course calendar:

Readings are due prior to class meeting.  This is a tentative schedule and will alter as needed.
Week 1:  Role of the Filmmaker in the Cultural Record

  • Introduction to theoretical concerns of using video in fieldwork. Particular attention paid to ethnographic documentaries and scientific video data.


  • Cross-cultural Filmmaking, pp 1-33

Week 2: Framing the Subject: Observing and Directing

  • How perception and interpretation shape our understanding of an event/ place/ people. Nanook of the North. The Ax Fight.

Have Read:

  • Cross-cultural Filmmaking, pp 1-33

Week 3:  Community Service and Collaboration

  • Working for communities – finding a need. Listening.
  • Translating, literally and metaphorically

Have Read:

  • Cross-cultural Filmmaking, pp 94-212.

Week 4: Research of the Cultural Record through Film and Media

  • Archival Video, Audio, and Print media sources

Have Read:

  • Cross-cultural Filmmaking, pp 34-93.

Week 5:  Support Structures

  • Funding, Educational Standards, Outreach. Screening of Inuk.

Have Read:

  • Cross-cultural Filmmaking, pp 213-279

Week 6:  Production Preparations

  • Permissions, rights, and waiversthe implications and applications of video footage
  • Equipment checklist and packing for transportation

Have Read:

  • Cross-cultural Filmmaking, pp 280-324 & 485-488


Have Read:

Cross-cultural Filmmaking, pp 325-369


Week 9:  Review of Raw Footage Highlights

Have Read:

Cross-cultural Filmmaking, pp 369-450.

Week 10:  The cut. Editing in and out

  • Reactions to Edits from around the world

Week 11:  Translations, Subtitles, and Meaning

  • Who is the audience? Example of Atanajarut.

Week 12: Rough Cut Critiques

  • Rough Cuts due of Film

Week 13: Community Responses

  • Public Feedback: Invite the public to critique

Week 14:  Distribution Outlets

Have Read:

Cross-cultural Filmmaking, pp 460-485

FINAL EXAM: Public Screening will take place during exam time. Final Papers Due.