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Nov 19


First Draft Due – Thursday 11.21 (no later than 11.26) – You will need to present your draft either online (vimeo/youtube), on a DVD, or on a flash drive.   We will screen (as a class) each draft and discuss.  Extra time can be devoted to editing.

Third Response – Thursday 12.5 – Similar to Response #1, I am asking you to engage with one of the extra readings I’ve provided on Dropbox.  The choice of reading is yours and the medium in which you respond is also fluid.  I’d like to encourage you to move beyond written/academic responses, but I understand that some of you are uncomfortable with this open-ended type of assignment, so a traditional 2 page response will be accepted.  As before, give an overview of the article and then give some details about how it corresponds/influences your thinking/practice in your own film.

Final Exam – Saturday 12.14 @12:30 – To screen in class or submit before this day?


Organize yourselves into groups of 2.  Take turns discussing your object documentary and showing your progress.  Use this as an opportunity to test ideas that you are considering and to ask questions about media relevance, aesthetic choices, music, interview effectiveness, edit choices, etc.  Get feedback.  Take notes in a blog post to record any suggestions or ideas that emerge from your discussions.  Repeat with a second group.


Read through the Promotion/Branding notes that were posted over the weekend.  Do a web search for a movie you have recently seen and discuss the way it was promoted.  How did you hear about the film?  Was your interest stoked through online or social media promotion?  (Include media if appropriate…links or images.)  Then use the rest of your post to brainstorm about how you will promote your film.

If you have extra time, use it to ask questions or continue editing you draft.


Check into the free trial of Adobe Creative Suit so you can edit at home!

I have 2 HD cameras and an audio recorder available for “checking out” if anyone needs some extra media gathering firepower.  See me after class for more details.

Project Promotion/Branding

An important part of the final project is the branding of your film.  As compositions move into a multimodal existence, and (especially) as complex ideas get disseminated in abstract/performative ways, it becomes more important for producers to frame their work through appealing, effective promotion.  In the past, writers have written and a graphics design department dealt with covers of books, flyers, posters, advertisements, etc.  Increasingly, scholars and professionals in many fields are taking a central role in every aspect of their compositions.  This change has been precipitated by many factors not the least of which is the proliferation of programs like Adobe Illustrator and the prevalence of social media.  So, remembering that we are working with strict time constraints and no budget, I want you to think carefully about how you will promote your film and take some steps to begin that process.

As in other parts of this process, there are many possible directions for you to consider.  At the very least, you should submit your project on a dvd with some kind of packaging.  HERE is a free template for DVD covers.  There are other templates available for posters, flyers, etc.  You might think about a web/social media presence for your project (apart from the class blog).  Again, I am not interested in you spending TOO much time on this aspect of the project and you shouldn’t feel obliged to spend a ton of money on printing and fancy paper or on coding complex websites.  I will be happy with some evidence that you have thought about the branding and made some plans about the directions you might go.

Check out past and current cinema promotion campaigns.  The work promoting the new version of Oldboy is especially intriguing (and at the heart of this part of the assignment)…check out their web presence HERE.


This post is to elaborate on what I expect from the REFLECTION portion of the final project.  As I’ve said repeatedly, this represents an extremely important, arguably the most important, part of your work for me this semester.  It is like a code that I will absolutely need to decipher your object documentary.  The better code, the better I can understand your film and the more accurately I can evaluate your effort in the course.

The academic justification for this reflective pedagogy comes from a diverse assemblage of disciplinary (and pragmatic) sources including anthropology, sociology, film studies, rhetoric & composition, technical writing, etc.  This trend toward reflection happened in conjunction with an explosion in production technology broadly encompassed by the term DIGITAL.  The first reflections were written and subject to the limitations of that technology.  As production technologies have become more widely available, the ability for researchers (practitioners) to sharpen their reflective focus with images and audio becomes similarly more available.  However, academic disciplines have a stubborn recalcitrance (attributable to many factors!) that has limited exploration into digital scholarship and continues to place primary interest in a finished product as opposed to a reflective analysis of the process.  While this situation is slowly changing and there are fantastic multimodal examples from emerging scholars, there remains a lack of convention that makes assigning a project such as ours very difficult.  There are infinite ways digital scholarship can look and perform.  To make specific requirements is to (inherently) limit your production.  So, rather than give specifics, I will map a few ideas for strategies and organizations.  Before I do that, I urge you to spend some time with the links below to get an idea of what other scholars (and myself) are doing in terms of using (documentary?) methods to make academic arguments.

Brian McNely “Spaces and Surfaces”

Jody Shipka “To Preserve and Digitize”

Enculturation Video Mashup Project

Vectors Journal

Kairos Journal

Computers and Composition Online


Harmon Lyotard Response

Harmon Thesis Draft

Harmon MA Thesis Final

Harmon “Toward a Glossary of Chai”

Harmon “Untitled: A body of images”

The most straight forward method/strategy/structure for your reflection is a temporal, narrative description.  What happened?  When?  How does it look?  How do I feel about that?  What could I do to make it better?

This is not the only option. 

You might also imagine a collage or pastiche of information about your project; a hybrid combination of the narrative questions above and other kinds of information. Be specific with production details.  Give model numbers and statistics.  I strongly encourage you to consider the reflection to be a multimodal assignment.  Include photography (ala McNely’s work), screen captures, scanned notes and doodles, tweets, blog entries, audio narration, etc.  Importantly, give captions to explain the content of the media and how it helped (or didn’t) in your larger effort toward the object documentary.  Include the short production assignments we’ve done in class and comment upon their effectiveness (or lack thereof) to your final project.

Another organizational strategy might be to examine your project rhetorically using some of the taxonomic/conceptual terms we’ve discussed in class ( Ethos, Pathos, Logos, Kairos, Invention, Arrangement, Delivery, Style, Documentary Modes, etc).  If you would like to get classical in your stylistic justifications, check out THIS list of rhetorical terms…how might these ancient devices be deployed to describe the visual moves you make in your film?  Remember John Law’s strategies in Aircraft Stories.  Consider the organizational strategies in the digital scholarship in the examples above.  Remix all of the above!  Explore your own ideas and do not be afraid to branch out into creative/artistic expressions to discuss the more affective/personal aspects of the reflection.

INCLUDE A PROPERLY FORMATTED WORKS CITED PAGE.  I don’t mind which format you use (MLA, Chicago…pick the one that is most useful for you in your discipline) but be consistent.  Include citations for ALL MEDIA USED in the object documentary AND the reflection (note: you represent the primary producer, so don’t cite yourself in this situation).

Lastly, think carefully about the delivery of your reflection.  Will you submit it to me (by the exam date) via printed page, flash drive with (well organized) folders and different kinds of media, a website, a dvd with chapters, as a separate file on the DVD on which you submit your object documentary, shoe box with a bunch of stuff in it?  Think rhetorically about persuading your audience.  If your organization tends toward the abstract/non-linear, consider providing a map or instructions about how to navigate your reflection (this is relevant if you give me a flash drive or a shoe box full of media).

If you have questions or comments that others might find useful, please add them as a comment to this page.  If you would like to discuss your ideas for your reflection, please make arrangements to meet outside of class.  I’m happy to help as much as I can.

Nov 12 Documentary History/Modes

Several folks began shooting and interviewing recently.  Are there any suggestions about things that worked and things that didn’t?  Where is everyone in the process?

History of Documentary

It is impossible to come up with a screening list that gives an overview of the history of documentary film, but I feel obliged to try.  By no means is this list exhaustive, in fact it represents a very narrow swath of my own personal preferences and influences.  I encourage you to build up an archive of your own preferences and influences.  Spend some time with the ‘Documentary’ sections on Netflix, Youtube, and Hulu Plus and at Thomas Cooper.  As we have discussed, articulating the genesis of ideas in filmmaking is a difficult endeavor.  Having some comparison material can be incredibly useful when composing your reflection ‘essay’.  Include the films you see in your Works Cited page!  Before we begin screening clips today, start a blog post entitled “Screening Notes Nov 12”.  Spend a few minutes after screening to write down some thoughts about each clip.  Here are some questions to guide your note taking:

Describe the production value (how does it look/sound…professional or not).  Are there interviews, is action ‘real’ or reenacted?

How many cameras are being used?  Where are they placed?  How are they stabilized? Where is the light coming from?  Is there archival footage?  Graphics?

Where is the sound coming from?  Is it diagetic (occurring in the scene) or not?  Is there music?  What effect does it have?  Is there a voice over?  Voice of God?

Where are the edits made? What is the framing?  What is being used for B-Roll?  What impact does the B-Roll have?

How ‘truthful’ is it?  Do you understand what is going on?  What is the point? (This obviously requires some conjecture on your part).

How did it make you feel?

What modes could describe it?

Dziga Vertov Man with a Movie Camera 1929 (Netflix)

Frank Capra Why We Fight 1942

Trinh T. Minh-ha Reassemblage 1983 (Library)

Godfrey Reggio Powaqqatsi 1988

Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin Chronicle of a Summer 1960 (Hulu Plus)

Allen King Warrendale 1967 (Hulu Plus)

Frontline PBS

Jean-Pierre Gorin My Crasy Life 1992 (Hulu Plus)

Terry Zwigoff Louie Bluie 1985 (Hulu Plus)

Morgan Spurlock Super Size Me 2004 (Hulu free)

BLOG POST (start a new post)

Keeping in mind that all ‘non-fiction’ films exist as a combination of genres and influences, which of Nichols’ modes do you find yourself MOST interested in/drawn to?  Which mode is most effective for telling a “TRUE” story?  Using the terminology of Nichols and the models we’ve discussed today, spend some time describing your thoughts on the shape of your object documentary right now.  You don’t need to be comprehensive at this point, but list several scenes you plan on composing and give some production details (what kind of camera, how will you stabilize it, how will you record sound, whom will you interview and where, how will you store your data, what colors/fonts will you use, what music will you use, describe any archival material you have/would like to find, etc).

For next time:

GATHER media for your final project and BRING it with you, along with some idea of a direction to begin your editing.  If you have already begun editing, make sure to bring ALL the relevant project files.  If you haven’t already, take some test footage with the camera to which you have access so you can have an idea of the aesthetic  (visual and audio) that you have available.

Some extra links:

I post these as supplemental material for use in your reflection or for your Third Response.

Tagged , ,

Weekend Email Nov 8

Hi everyone,

We left the photoshop workshop yesterday without discussing next week.  Please read the Nichols chapter (on Dropbox>Readings>Documentary) entitled “Six Modes of Documentary”.  If you didn’t get through the Barthes, try again!  We wont spend too much time with it, but I’d like to at least expose you to that kind of French (Post?)Structural philosophy of images.  (The Nichols is much much easier!)  As you read, jot down (or better yet, BLOG or TWEET) some ideas about how your film (or other films we’ve engaged) could be categorized using Nichols’ taxonomy.

I have also put several other readings in that folder.  These would qualify nicely as material for your 3rd response, so go ahead and have a look at what is in there and what might interest you.

Finally several of you are shooting/interviewing this weekend.  Here is a link to some tip for documentary interview techniques!  Good luck!

Remember…you need a draft of your documentary by Nov 21st.  This is an incredibly important deadline that must be met, so start gathering material and getting your ideas together.  As always, if you have any questions, need any gear or media, please let me know.

And, have a great weekend.



Nov 7 Photoshop

Blog Post

Take a few minutes and jot down some reflections on the images you brought in for today.  Where did you take them? Is there connection between the images?  Explain how they work using the conceptual terminology of Barthes (connotative, denotative, linguistic, etc).  How do you plan on using them in your final project?  Where will they fit in your film?  What purpose will they serve?  Will you pan and zoom?  Remember, you will be asked to reflect on EVERY step of the process.  Barthes’ of analysis of the Panzani image is an example of the kind of detail I’m hoping you will devote in your reflection.


HERE are some basic tutorials for those with little or no experience with this program.

What I’d like for you to do today is pick one of the images you brought of your object.  Open it into Photoshop (not Bridge).  Spend some time today exploring this software and producing 3 variations of the image.  Among the variations you might consider are the following (with tutorials linked):




Save each version (as JPEGs with appropriate file names in a folder on your flash drive) and then upload the 4 images (the original with 3 variations) onto your blog.  Tag your blog post with “photography”.

note:  Adobe Bridge is another program that can be very useful.  We’ll talk about this program next week.  If you already feel comfortable with Photoshop, I encourage you to try this assignment with Bridge.