The Documentary Filmmaking Seminar by Thomas Lahusen, Spring term 2017

21 Apr 2017 - 00:00 / 9 Jun 2017 - 00:00

Instructor: T. Lahusen
Time: April 21 – June 9, 2017

The Centre for Comparative Literature (COL) is organizing an eight-week non-credit course for researchers and students who wish to go beyond text and get training in documentary filmmaking. The number of participants is limited to 12. Signing up for the course starts on January 5, 2017, by e-mail sent to Prof. Jill Ross, director of COL ( Preference will be given to participants who have the possibility of including a film or other media-related creative component in their graduate thesis. The course is open to students and faculty from other units if there is enough space.

The seminar is funded in part by a grant from the Centre for Comparative Literature and will be hosted by Hart House. Participants will have to purchase a Hart House “Film Board membership” ($25/year for students), which will give them access to the excellent film equipment of the Film Board.

The seminar is directed by a group of documentary filmmakers who have worked in China, Central Asia, Iran, Russia, and other countries and will share their practical and technical experience with the participants. All sessions will be held at Hart House, except the first session.

Organizer and instructor:

Prof. Thomas Lahusen, Department of History and Centre for Comparative Literature. Documentary filmmaker and co-director of Chemodan Films (www.chemodanfil, Films shot in China, Central Asia, France, Japan, Poland, and Russia.

Other instructors:

Rozette Ghadery, cinematographer and experimental filmmaker. B.A. in Cinema from the Art University in Tehran, Iran and MFA in Film Production from York University. She has shot more than 300 documentary films around the globe, including 3D films. Grants received from the Canada Council for the Arts, Telefilm Canada, and the Japan Broadcasting Corporation NHK.

Gulzat Egemberdieva, journalist and documentary filmmaker. B.A. in Journalism from the Bishkek University for the Humanities, Kyrgyzstan and M.A. from the Centre of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, University of Toronto. Grants from the Ontario Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council for a film project on gender issues in Central Asia.

Invited speakers include:

Albert Shin. B.F.A. from York University in Film and Video production. For his work on In Her Place (2014), Shin won the Scotiabank Jay Scott Prize at the Toronto Film Critics Association Awards 2014 and was nominated for 7 Canadian Screen Awards, including best picture, including nominations for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. He has also directed the short film Kai’s Place, and the short-run television series In Counseling. He is also a producer, most recently working on Connor Jessup’s new short film Lira’s Forest, which received funding from the Harold Greenberg Fund’s Shorts to Features program.
Igor Drljaca. Completed his Master’s in Film Production at York University’s graduate program in 2011. He is the recipient of the K.M. Hunter artist award for media arts. His award winning shorts include Woman in Purple (2010), and The Fuse: Or How I Burned Simon Bolivar (2011), which have screened at hundreds of festivals. His critically acclaimed feature film Krivina (2012) premiered at TIFF.
His new feature film, Tabija, which is in development, received Rotterdam’s Cinemart Eurimages Prize and was also selected for the prestigious Cannes L’Atelier program. The Waiting Room is his sophomore feature and will premiere at Locarno International Film Festival.



Are you planning to do fieldwork for an oral history or cultural anthropology project? Or do you wish to complete the book or the paper you are writing by a visual documentary report? Then this seminar is for you. You will acquire not only the basics of filmmaking, but, by participating in this seminar and developing your own project, you will be exposed to some of the specificities of documentary filmmaking: ethical, social, psychological and political issues related to video observation and interview.

This program introduces students to the principles and techniques of digital documentary filmmaking and essay film. Topics include the important keys for documentary script, the use of reenactment in documentary films, directing, videography, digital editing techniques and a short introduction for color correction. Hands-on instruction is provided for various types of cameras and recent versions of Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro. This seminar course also covers key aspects of an independent documentary development.

By the end of the course, students should be able to identify the basic rules and principles of digital documentary filmmaking to produce a short documentary video.



Week 1- Introduction
Friday April 21: 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Location: Linda Hutcheon Seminar Room, Comparative Literature, Isabel Bader Theatre, 3rd floor.

General introduction to the seminar. Proposals by participants of research/film ideas. Discussions on how to develop each of these proposals into a filming plan. Instructors will also show their own work, and discuss their own approaches and experience. Presentations of well-known examples of documentary filmmaking (Chris Marker, Joris Ivens, Haroun Farocki, Abbas Kiarostami).

In addition, further discussion can be carried around sample works from Russian, Iranian, Chinese cinema, etc.

Week 2 – Visual Storytelling
Friday April 28: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Location: Linda Hutcheon Seminar Room.

This class will cover the principles in visual storytelling and how they are applied in documentary filmmaking. Topics include: plot development, dramatic question, character development, intention of each scene, the main elements of the narrative and experimental documentary.

Week 3 – Preproduction I
Friday May 5: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Location: Hart House, Room TBA

Important topics in preproduction will be covered, including financing, budget, equipment preparation, crew development, etc. Basics in film directing and language will also be covered in this class.

A few topics will also be covered targeting academic research-oriented documentary projects. These topics include: solving ethical issues, acquisition of archival footage, ethnographical issues in approaching the subjects, etc.

Week 4 – Preproduction II
Friday May 12: 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Location: Hart House, Room TBA

The following topics will be covered on the filming practice in small crew.
Cinematography basics: understanding the image, basics of digital photography, composition, exposure, aspect ratios and shot sizes.

Basics in sound recording will be covered, including the following topics: relation between sound and image; diegetic and non-diegetic sound, microphone types—directional vs. non-directional, microphone placement, boom operation, background noise, sound levels, use of various microphones in interviews, how to use external microphone with HD video camera, sound collection—stereo vs. mono, etc.

In-class demonstration will be given on the use of typical low-budget documentary filming and sound equipment.

Week 5 – Production I
Friday May 19: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Location: Hart House, Room XXXX

Class will be divided into groups of 3-4 to carry out the shoot of in-class projects. Within each group, members will rotate among the roles of director, cinematographer, sound recordist, etc. The filming will be done under the assistance of the instructors.

Week 6 – Production II
Friday May 26: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Location: Hart House, Room TBA

To continue the in-class project filming.

Week 7 – Post Production, Editing
Friday June 2: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Location: Hart House, Room TBA

After introducing the principles and techniques of digital video editing, topics include editing basics, parallel editing, various types of transitions (cut, jump cut, fade in/out, dissolve, wipe), reaction shots, Kuleshov effect, etc; hands-on instruction of Premiere Pro and Apple Final Cut Pro will be provided.
Elements of colour correction & sound mix.

Individuals will be editing their own project.

Week 8 – Group project presentation
Friday June 9: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Location: Linda Hutcheon Seminar Room.

Each group will present the end product of a 5min film, which will be critiqued by other groups, the instructors, and faculty. This session is opened for a general public, involving faculty and students from COL and other units and a larger discussion around how to produce creative work that will be an integral part of a critical project in Comparative Literature.

Suggested book list:

Directing Actors: Creating Memorable Performances for Film & Television
The Filmmaker’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for the Digital Age
Producing and Directing the Short Film and Video
The Visual Story: Creating the Visual Structure of Film, TV and Digital Media
Cutting Rhythms: Shaping the Film Edit

How to Build a Great Screenplay: A Master Class in Storytelling for Film
Elements of Screenwriting: A Guide for Film and Television Writing
The Screenwriter’s Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script (6th Edition. Expanded & Updated)

The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video
The Filmmaker’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for the Digital Age

In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing
On Film Editing: An Introduction to the Art of Film Construction
Grammar of the Edit
The Focal Easy Guide to Final Cut Pro 7
The Technique of Film and Video Editing: History, Theory, and Practice
The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film
Fine cuts: the art of European film editing
The Technique of Film Editing
High Definition Postproduction: Editing and Delivering HD Video.

Producing and Directing the Short Film and Video
The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers: A Legal Toolkit for Independent Producers

Sound Design
Producing Great Sound for Film and Video: Expert Tips from Preproduction to Final Mix
A Practical Guide to Video and Audio Compression: from Sprockets
and Rasters to Macroblocks

Critical Focus: An Introduction to Film
All You Need to Know About the Movie and TV Business
The Major Film Theories: An Introduction
The Kid Stays in the Picture: A Notorious Life