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…)

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“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?

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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.

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“If you actually listen to people, they will talk to you.”

GIDEON’S ARMY, an award winning documentary that premiered at Sundance Film Festival and on HBO in 2013, follows the stories of three young public defenders who are part of a small group of idealistic lawyers in the Deep South.

The main characters work to challenge the assumptions that drive a criminal justice system strained to the breaking point.  They struggle against long hours, low pay and staggering caseloads; even the most committed often give up in their first year.

The director of Gideon’s Army, Dawn Porter, recently spoke at the Columbia Journalism School during Film Fridays. These are some highlights from the conversation, led by professor Betsy West.

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If you’ve just started working in visual media, you may notice you’re starting to accumulate a lot of digital files. Yes, digital files take up less space in your apartment than literal files, but figuring out what to do with all of that stuff can be daunting. First time choosing a hard drive? No problem. We’ve got a crash course for you.

XXI and 6 mois magazines: visual journalism… with a French twist

At a time when newsrooms around the world have embraced digital transition, two French publications are defying the odds by producing long-form visual journalism...in print. "XXI" focuses on reportage, and showcases photos, comics, text and illustrations, centered around a strong narration. "6 Mois" is dedicated to photojournalism, with contributions from all around the world.

Covering Protest in Ferguson: “I didn’t expect it to feel like war.”

Salima Koroma didn’t think her first first out-of-state assignment would be the historic protests over the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. She’s been producing video for Time’s online video team for just about two months, and last week they bought her a one-way ticket to Ferguson, Missouri.

Before starting at Time, she graduated from the documentary program at the Columbia University Journalism School, where she produced her own documentary, Bad Rap, and was a producer for NowThisNews. Columbia Visuals talked to Koroma about her experience producing video from Ferguson.

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