Behind the Prizes: Swan Song

Swan Song

Rick Gershon and MediaStorm did not set out to make a feature length piece when they went to Houston. Gershon was there to shoot client work for Neighborhood Centers, but then he met the Greer family. Marilyn Greer, the 58-year-old matriarch of the family, had recently been diagnosed with dementia. Gershon recognized the opportunity to turn a shorter client piece into a longer story, Swan Song, which documents the struggle of two young daughters who have to make hard choices in the face of their mother’s debilitating disorder.  (more…)

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Behind the Prizes: Staff Riding


“Staff Riding” is local slang for a dangerous sport: surfing the trains that wind through the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. Photojournalist Marco Casino took last year’s World Press Photo Award’s 1st Prize in Short Feature Multimedia with his film about the young men who ride the outsides of trains, and the toll it sometimes takes on them.

Shooting from the tops of trains and attempting to evade the police (staff riding is illegal), Casino shows the adrenaline-riddled highs and the tragic lows that staff riding brings to the townships in South Africa. Now, he hopes to turn the short into part of a long-term project about the metro train system in Johannesburg. (more…)

Everyday Instagram: “Changing perception and challenging stereotypes.”

Instagram launched in October 2010. Two years later, photographers Peter diCampo and Austin Merrill started posting, under the username @EverydayAfrica, scenes of African life happening alongside the wars, famines and other "news events" the two photographers were covering in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. As they put it on their website, “As journalists who are native to Africa, or have lived and worked on the continent for years at a time, we find the extreme not nearly as prevalent as the familiar, the everyday.”

The freelance market can be precarious, especially for those who are just starting out. Journalists complain about poor pay, unclear expectations and needy editors - a contract can help you avoid these problems. Columbia Visuals reporter Joanna Plucinska met with Bill Loundy, the Director of Talent Management at Content.ly, to discuss some of the things that every freelancer should keep in mind when drafting a contract.

Producing A Documentary: The Personal Piece

What if the character in your next piece isn’t a stranger at all? What if it’s a family member? Could you interrogate your parents and get them to reveal secrets they’ve buried since before you were born? Could you delve into the personal accounts of people you’ve known your whole life? How would you even approach it? This is exactly what documentary filmmaker, Lacey Schwartz, had to do in order to produce her documentary, Little White Lie. Recently, Columbia Visuals talked to Schwartz about the process of producing a documentary and turning the cameras on her own family.

A well-edited sequence creates clarity and allows viewers to understand the action taking place on screen. In order to create a seamless sequence in the editing room, you need to understand how to capture all the necessary footage. We've put together a basic list of shots you’ll need in order to create a coherent sequence of action- it's a simple starting place if you've never shot a sequence before.

Cutting a Trailer

It takes a lot of time and money to make a documentary, especially when you are just starting out. It’s one thing to get the filming done but another to get your film into post-production. One of the first things you can do to draw attention to your film is to make a trailer that will start buzz about your film,  even while it’s still in production.

We spoke to our former staffer Adam Perez and his fellow CUJ alum Jan Hendrik Hinzel (both class of ’13) about making the trailer that’s helping them fundraise and bring interest to their film Who We Become. (more…)

Illustrating Privacy: behind the scenes with Comics journalism

Michael Keller, a member of the Interactive Multimedia team at Al Jazeera America, has created work with data visualizations, video, graphics and in print. When he decided he was interested in reporting on privacy and Big Data, he turned to a method he hadn’t used before: comics journalism. (more…)

“it’s about our world today, and what we are willing to sacrifice to maintain a lifestyle”

Mélanie Gouby didn’t expect to star in a documentary when she began reporting on the Congo, but the independent journalist from France found herself as a tour guide in the award-winning documentary Virunga.

The film is about Virunga National Park, the oldest and most biodiverse park on the African continent. The story revolves around four main characters,  including an ex-child soldier turned park ranger, a caretaker for orphan gorillas, a Belgian conservationist and journalist Mélanie Gouby.  As the film’s tagline says, “Virunga is the incredible true story of a group of brave people risking their lives to build a better in a part of Africa the world’s forgotten and a gripping exposé of the realities of life in the Congo.” (more…)

Learning to photograph New York City

The 2015 class at Columbia Journalism School just survived what was, for most of them, their first training in photojournalism & DSLRs. Though it was difficult, they produced work that's thoughtful and engaging. We talked to some of the students whose work we’re featuring here, and asked them about their first experiences photographing New York without smartphones.

Illustrated Journalism

Comics journalism is exactly what it sounds like: a hybrid of comic book-style illustrations and reporting. We interviewed some of the pioneers of the graphic journalism field about their projects and publications, and the way they're contributing to journalism.

Anatomy of a Viral Video

Prior to entering journalism school, I interned for the digital department at an entertainment company in NYC. One main objective at this company was to create videos that had the potential to get lots of views, i.e. videos that would go “viral.” As long as the videos were entertaining and attracted lots of eyeballs, they were considered successful.

I began to understand what made these types of videos popular, but I wondered if the producers of videos that dealt with more serious topics followed the same guidelines. Was there someone in every newsroom video department saying things like, “Make that petty theft more entertaining, so it gets more views”?

There are some companies out there who are successful at getting more important stories to go viral – Mashable, BuzzFeed and YouTube are some of the better-known examples. In journalism school, we didn’t learn “the rules” of  producing viral news content. Do rules even exist?

(more…)

Kōan: Creating Community

Photojournalism can be a very lonely profession, especially as a freelancer working in remote areas. That’s why photographers Alex Potter, Allison Joyce, Amanda Mustard, Cooper Neill and Nicolas Tanner decided to form their own collective.

Four Steps to a Video Story

Last month, the Digital Media Associates- members of one of our fellowship programs at the Columbia Journalism school- produced the video above as a team. We wanted to share our process, because while it’s a short, straightforward story, the steps we took to produce the piece are the same steps we’d take to make a full-length documentary. We’ll walk you through the reporting, shooting, storyboarding and editing of a video that might be similar to the videos you’ll produce.

(more…)