480 Documentary Filmmaking

JRN/FLM F480 F01Documentary Filmmaking

Spring 2013

Prof. Robert Prince

Office: Bunnell 105C

Office Phone: 474-6249

E-mail: rob.prince@alaska.edu


Required Reading:

Artis, Anthony Q., The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide, Focal Press 2007

ISBN-10: 0240809351  ISBN-13: 978-0240809359

Our documentary filmmaking textbook is available online through our library link:



Course Description:

JRN F480       Documentary Filmmaking (h)
3 Credits         Offered Spring

Basics of hands-on documentary filmmaking techniques, including preproduction, production and postproduction. Different documentary filmmaking directing styles and the process of distributing a documentary. Each student will produce a short documentary as the capstone of the course. Special fees apply. Prerequisites: Basic experience in shooting and editing video or permission of instructor. Cross-listed with: FLM F480. (3+0)


Course Goals:

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be expected to have a working knowledge of how to effectively produce, direct, and edit a short documentary.

Student Learning Outcomes:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will:

1)      Know how to write a budget and treatment

2)      Know how to film a good story and acquire the necessary content

3)      Know how to organize the edit of their film and distribute it

Instructional Methods:

This course will be taught through lectures, class activities, and production work.


Expectations of Students:

  1. Push yourself to do your best work for this class.  If you don’t do your best work now, when will you do it?  Remember who writes your recommendation letters.
  2. Arrive to class on time.  Tardiness will result in a reduced grade (see “Attendance/Tardiness” below) and may prevent you from taking quizzes.
  3. Make sure your cell phones are on silent.
  4. Laptops are allowed in class, however I reserve the right to close your laptop if I suspect you are using it for non-class-related purposes regardless of whether or not I have evidence to support that suspicion.
  5. Come to class prepared, having completed the required homework and ready to participate in class discussions.
  6. Attend every class.  Unexcused absences will results in a reduced grade (see “Attendance/Tardiness” below).
  7. Participate in every class.
  8. Check your Blackboard e-mail every weekday.
  9. Respect your peers.  Support and encourage them and offer constructive criticism of their projects.
  10. Ask questions during or after class when you do not understand something or are having a problem.  If you don’t understand something, chances are at least some of your peers don’t understand it either.
  11. Take notes.
  12. If you are having a problem outside of class that is affecting your ability to perform in this class, please let me know as soon as you can.  You do not need to disclose the details of your situation.  Although doing well in college is very important and you need to work hard, do not let the pressure overwhelm you.  Your personal health and sanity are more important than good marks.  I consider myself a very easy person to talk to and encourage you to come speak to me if you need to discuss issues course-related or otherwise.


Equipment Policies

Access to the computers and video production equipment is on a first come, first serve basis.  Access to the editing room is available virtually 24-7.  You will need permission from us to have security let you in the building during the weekend.

Cameras must be checked out and returned through Amy Simpson, the department assistant, Robert Prince or Jason Lazarus.  The Monday-Friday hours when you can do that will be announced as soon as possible.  We recommend that you reserve equipment well in advance of when you need it.  Cameras can be checked out for only one evening or the weekend. You have to sign a waiver before you can check out any equipment.  Cameras and editing equipment are also available for check out through the Rasmuson library.

The hard drives on the lab computers will be erased every Friday afternoon to prevent the buildup of excessive files on the drives.  If you need an exception from this, make sure to let Jason Lazarus or me know.

Building Access:

Access to the Journalism computer lab is virtually 24/7 with your Polar Express card.  As long as you can get into the Bunnell Building, you can access the lab.  You can remain in the lab after the building has closed.  The lab is not open to students when classes are meeting in the lab.  Those times will be posted on the lab door.  If you are in the lab when a class is about to begin, you will be asked to leave.  Note that some classes meet only occasionally in the lab and professors do their best to post those times on the door in advance of the class meeting time.

Bunnell Building hours vary.  Note that sometimes the south entrance by the Journalism Department is locked while one or both of the north entrances by the flags are open, so try the other doors if you cannot enter through the south entrance.


Final Grade Breakdown:

  • Attendance/Tardiness: 20%
  • Production Assignment—Interview:  15%
  • Synopsis, Treatment and Budget:  5%
  • Final Project: 30%
  • Midterm Examination: 25%
  • Quizzes:  5%


Expectations for grading components:

Attendance/Tardiness: 20%


“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

—Woody Allen


Each unexcused absence in this class will reduce your final grade.  If you have six or more unexcused absences, then you will automatically fail the course REGARDLESS of if your other grades were high enough to allow you to pass the course.

Excused absences will not affect your attendance grade (though you will lose the extra credit).  An excused absence is when you have notified me before class that you will not be able to make it to class for a valid reason: sick, personal emergency, etc.  “I’m too busy” or “I can’t find a ride to class” are not valid reasons for missing class.

You must notify me BEFORE class for an absence to be excused.  Telling me hours or days later why you missed class will not excuse the absence.  Treat this class like a job.  If you don’t show up to work and don’t call in, you get fired.  The only exception to this rule is that I will accept a doctor’s note up to a week after you return to class as an excuse for an absence.

Students who have zero absences (excused or unexcused) and no tardies will receive extra credit in their final grade.  Any absence or tardy for any reason will remove this extra credit, unless you have earned a free tardy which I give out on occasion.

Make sure to contact me after an absence to see what announcements or assignments you missed.  I recommend you ask a fellow student for a copy of their notes from that class to see what material we covered.


“Twenty percent of success is showing up…on time.”

—Robert Prince


Because coming late to class disrupts class, at times can force us to wait for you, and can mean missing important announcements, every three times you arrive late to class I will add one absence to your grade.  Redefine “on time” to class in your mind to mean “five minutes early.”  If you do arrive to class late, make sure to see me after class to make sure I mark you as present and let you know about any announcements I may have made that day.  If you forget to tell me you were late for class, you will receive an absence.


Here is how your absences will affect your final grade:


0 Absences (and zero tardies) = 110% for attendance (equals +2% extra credit)

Unexcused Absence = -10% from attendance grade per each

6+ Unexcused Absences = Automatically fail the course


Production Assignment—Interview:  15%

Film an approximately five minute interview with a subject that you may or may not intend to use in your final project.  Pay special attention to the composition, background, audio, focus, white balance and exposure.  A detailed description of the assignment will be handed out in class.


Synopsis, Treatment and Budget:  5%

Write a synopsis, treatment and budget for the project you intend to do for this class.  The synopsis should be a one or two sentence core description of your project.  The treatment is an approximately one-page pitch for your project including style and format of the film.  The budget should include cost estimates for the entire production as if you were actually paying for the equipment the university is providing. A detailed description of the assignment will be handed out in class.


Final Project: 30%

The capstone assignment for this course will be short documentary between 5-15 minutes long.  Students who wish to produce a half-hour film with the intention of having it broadcast can do so with special permission.  The final documentary projects will be presented in a public screening during the final exam period. A detailed description of the assignment will be handed out in class.


Midterm Examination: 25%

Covers the readings and lectures.


Quizzes:  5%

Cover material from recent lectures and exercises.  Missed quizzes can be made up only for excused absences.


Final Exam: 

There will be no final exam, however I reserve use of the final exam period for a public performance of your final projects.




Grading Guidelines:

A:  An honor grade that indicates originality and independent work, mastery of the subject and the satisfactory completion of more work than is regularly required.  To get an “A,” students in my classes need to impress me with the work they’ve done on an assignment and go well beyond what I asked for in the assignment.

94%-100% = A, 90%-93% = A-


B:  Indicates outstanding ability above the average level of performance.  To get a “B,” students in my classes need to do exactly what I asked for in the assignment and do it well.

87%-89% = B+, 84%-86% = B, 80%-83% = B-




Implications of the Grade of ‘C’ (and below) for letter-graded

undergraduate courses which are:


–Prerequisites for other courses, or

–Degree major requirements, or

–Core courses


C+ (2.3): Satisfactory to Fair: satisfactory level of performance, with some

mastery of material.

C (2.0): Average: satisfactory level of performance and level of competency

in the subject. A minimum grade of ‘C’ (2.0) is required for all

prerequisites and major courses.

C- (1.7): Barely satisfactory: Minimum grade required for all Core (X)

Courses. A grade of C- (1.7) in a class which is a prerequisite for another

class or in a class required for a student’s major will result in the

student being required to retake the class.

77%-79% = C+, 74%-76% = C, 70%-73% = C-


D+ (1.3); D (1.0); D- (0.7): Below Average: Fair to poor level of competency

in the subject matter.  A grade of D+, D or D- in a Core (X) class will

automatically require the student to retake the class to receive core

credit, starting Fall 2011.

67%-69% = D+, 64%-66% = D, 60%-63% = D-


F:  Indicates failure to meet lowest standards.  To get an “F,” students in my classes will have missed major elements of the assignment and/or the content will be all—or nearly all—poor quality.

0%-59% = F


For additional grading policy information, see the UAF Catalog.


Course Policies:

Late work or quizzes will be docked 15% plus an additional 15% for each class period it is not turned in after the due date.  Backup your work, reserve video equipment, and work ahead of deadlines so you can avoid these problems.  If you miss the midterm exam, you will need documentation proving the legitimacy of your absence to avoid the 15% grade reduction.


Projects can be redone only if there is sufficient evidence that a requirement(s) of the assignment was described in a way that a reasonable adult would find confusing or ambiguous and that unclear element of the assignment directly related to the student’s reduced grade.


All work must comply with the University of Alaska Fairbanks policies on student conduct found online at www.uaf.edu/catalog/current/academics/regs3.html.

All work must be original productions for this course and plagiarism will result in a zero for the assignment, a possible F for the class, and potentially further academic discipline.  Ignorance of what it means to plagiarize will not be an excuse from punishment.  If you have questions about plagiarism, contact me before you hand in the assignment.


I will make reasonable accommodations for individuals with documented disabilities. Notify me within the first two weeks of the semester if you have any special needs.


Journalism Lab Policies:

Welcome to the Journalism Labs!  The following is a list of tips and guidelines for lab usage to insure that your experience in any of our labs goes smoothly and is highly productive.  If you have any questions at all about the following, please either ask your instructor or our Computer Tech, Jason, available at Bunnell 102b, 474-6020 or fyjbtech@uaf.edu.


•           First note that you’re working on Macintosh computers – if you’re not used to these types of computers, have limited computing skills, or are unfamiliar with OS X (the operating system), please inform the instructor of this so that extra help can be dispensed when needed.

•           Each of the computers in our three labs are password protected with different passwords for each lab – Please request passwords from your instructor only. Do not give out these passwords to anyone.

•           Many of you will opt to save your files on Thumbdrives (USB drives).  These work great for saving and transporting your work between home and school.  But, unlike PC’s, Macs expect you to “eject” or “unmount’ your thumbdrive before you unattach it from your computer.  Do so by dragging your thumbdrive from the desktop to the trash bin (which will change to an “eject” symbol).  Not doing this can cause you to lose your information and possibly ruin the thumbdrive.

•           Save and save often!  You will be able to not only save on your computer but have several other options to save your files – always use the default (saving to your computer) as well as one of the following secondary methods to insure you don’t lose your files.  Your instructor will give you access to the Journalism file server which can be used for all your files (short of large video files and personal files).  You can also use email to send files to yourself or use thumbdrives to carry your files home with you.  Additionally, Lab 128 and 106 are fully equipped with CD/DVD burners and 126 has several CD/DVD burners as well.  At any time your computer could crash and your files could be lost – save in at least one more location!  Additionally, this insures that if someone is using “your” computer, you don’t have to wait for them to get off of it.

•           Do not abuse the computers.  DCC as well as the Journalism Department monitors computer usage and will report improper use of departmental equipment.  Treat these computers as if someone is watching your usage – because they are!  Additionally, do not damage, hit, or take your frustrations out on any of our equipment.  If you’re getting frustrated – walk away and take a break.

•           Don’t leave any personal items in the labs after class.  Once or twice a week each lab will be cleaned and all personal items will be thrown away or placed in a lost and found.

•           No food/drinks are allowed in 126 or 128.  For Lab 106, please try to limit your food to the tables.

•           We have film scanners, flatbed scanners, DV/miniDV Decks, Minidisc Recorders and DV Cameras available in our labs as well as for checkout.  Please talk to your instructor about access to any of these if you need them for a class project.  Check out will be posted in the Journalism Office.

•           Do not access highly personal items on these computers such as bank accounts and anything dealing with your social security number.  We have seen far too many people leave access to their bank accounts open on lab machines far after they’ve left the room.  Be vigilant!

•           Most of all if you’re having any problems talk to your instructor or our Computer Tech, Jason.  We’re all more than willing to help you out with any problem!  Jason is available quite a bit during normal office hours – please consult his schedule on his door.


Support Services:

I will make reasonable accommodations for individuals with documented disabilities, for example, providing an in-class note taker, providing a quiet and solitary test-taking environment, or other reasonable accommodations in line with your documented needs.  Disability services will provide you with documentary indicating what kind of assistance you need and, based on that evidence, I will implement that assistance to the best of my abilities. Notify me within the first two weeks of the semester if you have any special needs.


The departments listed below provide resources for students with disabilities, help writing papers, and help preparing for class presentations:


Disability Services

e-mail. fydso@uaf.edu

tel. 907-474-5655

tty. 907-474-1827

Whitaker Building Room 208



About Disability Services

At UAF Disability Services, our goal is to provide UAF students with access to academic classes and course materials through an interactive accommodation process.

UAF Disability Services provides accommodations to students on the Fairbanks campus as well as on the Bristol Bay, Chukchi, Interior Aleutians, Kuskokwim, Northwest, Community Technical College (CTC), Center For Distance Education (CDE), and College for Rural and Community Development (CRCD) campuses.

Students using community campuses or distance learning programs should contact Disability Services via telephone, fax, e-mail, U.S. postal mail, or in person to request and arrange for accommodations.

We enjoy supporting individuality, promoting independence and celebrating graduations.









Writing Center

Dept. Of English

801 Gruening Bldg.

(907) 474-7193



The Writing Center is a student-staffed, student-oriented service of the English Department. Our tutors, English Department teaching assistants and a few outstanding undergraduate students, can assist you in all phases of the writing process, including the following:


  • Brainstorming and generating topics
  • Organizing ideas
  • Developing research strategies
  • Use of citation styles — MLA, APA, and Chicago
  • Editing for clarity and correctness


We collaborate with each student on a one-to-one basis, and we will work with students at any phase of the writing process — planning, drafting, revising. We can also help writers discover ways of improving grammar, mechanics, and punctuation.

Tutorials. Tutorial appointments at the Writing Center are 30 minutes long, and we encourage you to call or stop by to make an appointment. Walk-in sessions are often available, but in the last half of the semester we are often booked.

Fax Tutoring. We provide a fax tutoring service for students enrolled in the College of Rural and Community Development (CRCD). Students can fax their papers to us (1-800-478-5246), and they will have a telephone tutorial with a tutor at a designated time. We offer fax tutorials Monday through Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Phone the Writing Center (907/474-5314) to make an appointment.


Speaking Center

Dept. of Communication

507 Greuning Bldg.

(907) 474-5470


What is the Speaking Center?

The Speaking Center is a student-oriented service provided to facilitate preparing public presentations. Students can recieve coaching in refining their presentation topic, in organizing their presentation effectively, and in practicing their presentation. The Center makes it possible to digitally record and to watch one’s practice presentation, receiving constructive feed back from a Speaking Center coach.


Who can use the Speaking Center?

The Speaking center is available to all students currently enrolled at UAF or at TVC.


Scheduling Procedures

Please call 474-5470 or e-mail fyspeak@gmail.com to schedule an appointment at the Speaking Center. Walk-ins are welcome, however, students can be served only if there are openings.

Individuals may schedule the Center’s practice room daily any time prior to Speaking Center hours.


About Your Professor:

I grew up in East Lansing, Michigan and graduated from Calvin College with a B.A. in Telecommunications.  After college I went to work in Chicago for Kurtis Productions, producers of the Investigative Reports series on A&E.  I then was hired as a Producer/Director for the PBS affiliate in Grand Rapids, Michigan where I directed live and pre-recorded programs for local broadcast.  In 2000 I went back to Calvin to run the video production department.  While working there I earned my M.A. from Michigan State University in Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media.

In 2005 I moved to Fairbanks to teach video production and documentary filmmaking in the Journalism Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.




Want more video classes?  Check these out:


JRN F251 Television Production

3 Credits / Offered Fall/ Prof. Prince

Television studio production, floor directing, audio, camera, staging, lighting and switching.


JRN F280 Video Storytelling (h)
3 Credits / Offered Fall / Prof. Prince

Basics of digital video production technology, composition, audio, lighting and editing as it relates to primarily non-fiction filmmaking. Students will conclude the course by producing their own short videos. Special fees apply. (Cross-listed with FLM F280.) (3+0)


JRN F290 Digital Video Editing

3 Credits / Offered As Demand Warrants / Prof. Prince

Introduction to the technical and aesthetic aspects of non-linear digital video editing. Students will go from little or no experience in non-linear editing to being comfortable with some of the advanced editing techniques. Address motion picture editing theories that are not bound to time or specific editing technology. Special fees apply. (Cross-listed with FLM F290.) (3+0)


JRN F453 Television News Reporting

3 Credits / Offered As Demand Warrants/ Prof. Prince

Electronic news gathering using videotape equipment, scriptwriting, location sound recording, interview techniques, editing, videography and other aspects of field news reporting. Prerequisites: COMM F131X or COMM F141X; JRN F451; JRN F452; or permission of the instructor. JRN F452 may be taken concurrently with JRN F453.






How do I log on to Journalism Lab Computers?

  • If you’re sitting at the logon screen, click “Other” to login.
  • If “Other” is unavailable, wait 10-15 seconds and it will pop up.
  • Use your UA Credentials (UA Username & password) to log in.
  • You will be prompted to enter your UA Credentials again to mount your Lab Shares –  you can choose to do this or “cancel”.

“UA Credentials”? What’s that?

  • Your UA Username & password are used for a variety of services at UAF, including UAF email through Gmail, Blackboard & ELMO.
  • Not sure of your UA Credentials?  At the computer logon screen, use the “JRNLABS” account to log in.  Your instructor can provide you with the password.  This is a shared account and does not provide the privacy of your individual account BUT it provides you with the exact same access to all programs.  From here, use an Internet Browser to visit  https://elmo.alaska.edu to reset your password or Blackboard / UAF Email to “check” that the password you’re using is correct.
  • DO NOT continue to “guess” the password.  You will lock yourself out of your accounts which requires OIT to reset.  In most cases when students can’t login, it’s because they’ve forgotten their password is case sensitive or they’ve forgotten the password altogether.
  • Are you logged into your UA account but it looks different than other students? Contact Jason Lazarus in Bun 114 or at 474-6020.

“Lab Shares”? What’s that?

  • All UAF students have paid a Technology Fee that gives them limited shared space that’s accessible from all OIT labs on campus – and now that same space is accessible in Journalism Labs.
  • Are your UA Credentials not working for the Lab Shares logon?  Click “Cancel” and continue – you’ll still be able to use the computer.  Contact Jason Lazarus in Bun 114 or at 474-6020 for additional assistance.
  • Lab Shares provides you with space to save files and have them accessible throughout all lab machines – saving on the desktop ONLY saves on that specific computer’s desktop.
  • When mounted, Lab Shares will be accessible from the right side of your dock.

Journalism “ASIP” Server?

  • This is where you’ll save your assignments so your instructor can grade your class projects.  This is shared Server space where anyone can see your files – so only save project material – not sensitive information!
  • Once you’re logged on and you’ve got a file you need to turn in for an assignment, your instructor will provide you with logon information for a specific folder for your class – click on “ASIP” (located on the right side of your dock) and use that login information.   Once you’ve logged on, you’ll be able to find “News-FS” (or “Photo-FS” or “Art-FS, depending on your logon info) on the left side of any finder window.
  • If you’ve got files you want to work on that are on the server, ALWAYS click-and-drag them to the desktop and THEN open them.  Once done, save & click & drag them back onto the server.  This insures you’re working LOCALLY – which is much faster and doesn’t bog down the computer.

As always, Journalism is not responsible for lost files on Lab Shares, ASIP or individual computers.  Every student is expected to back up their own data on thumbdrives, USB hard drives or CD/DVDs.

Questions?  Contact Jason Lazarus in Room 114, or 474-6020, for further assistance!


Tentative Course Schedule:





Introduction to the course


Pre-Production Chapter 1: “Pre-Production”
– CONT’D Chapter 2: “Location, Location, Location”

Documentary Project Ideas






WATCH DOCUMENTARIES  Using the CameraChapter 3: “Image Control and Camera Work”


Lighting for DocumentaryChapter 4: “Lighting”




The Hardest Part:


Recording Clear AudioChapter 5: “Sound Recording”

Assignment:  Synopsis, Treatment and Budget – CONT’D 


Getting the Shots you NeedChapter 6: “Composition & Coverage”




Conducting the InterviewChapter 7: “Interview Prep” – CONT’DChapter 8: “Conducting Interviews”


Spring Break 


Spring Break


Review Interview FootageProduction Assignment: Interview Review Interview Footage


The Cutting Room FloorChapter 9: “Post-Production”




View Raw FootageFinal Project Raw Footage View Raw Footage


Publicity, Festivals, and Distribution






View Rough ProjectsFinal Project Rough Edits


View Rough Projects






Final project public screening:

1 – 3 p.m., Thursday, May 9