Columbia Journalism School
  • Raney
  • Deputy Executive Producer of PBS Frontline and '95 Raney Aronson-Rath spoke to '14 Documentary Project grads about career turning points.
  • Raney
  • Deputy Executive Producer of PBS Frontline and '95 Raney Aronson-Rath spoke to '14 Documentary Project grads about career turning points.

The Documentary Project

Students produce documentary shorts that have run in The New York Times, on Narrative.ly, aired on PBS, and garnered awards at film festivals around the world

The Documentary Program is a full-time, optional semester for M.S. students who wish pursue intensive video master's projects.

The program is designed to train students as independent film producers and directors. Successful candidates have leveraged their films to include magazine articles, NPR radio stories, and newspaper articles. Watch the trailers below of the films that screened at the 2014 Docfest.

Documentary program students receive additional training in visual storytelling, camera work, sound recording, and editing. They generally work in teams, and receive one-on-one coaching from advisers who are recognized in the field. Students also learn the business side of documentary production— grant writing, negotiations, rights and clearances, and how to develop a winning production trailer. The resulting film, the capstone of these students' studies at Columbia Journalism School, is expected to publishable online, over the air, or at a festival.

2014 Docfest Trailers

Saman Malik won the Patsy Pulitzer Preston Award for "The Cost of Living."

Sean Ryon and Lea Zora Scruggs won the Joyce A de Greet Memorial Award for "Born Into This."

Deputy Executive Producer of PBS Frontline and '95 Raney Aronson-Rath spoke to '14 Documentary Project grads about career turning points.

Learn more about the J-school >>

Admittance to the documentary program is part of the admissions process.  Students are grouped together during the core reporting class, and test into either Video 1 or Video 2 (note: inexperienced videographers are expected to work extra hard to develop their skills). They workshop story ideas as a group during the fall semester in a Documentary Masters' section, and stories are greenlit by the time the spring semester begins. They gain automatic entry to the required spring documentary seminar. A special graduation event, held in December, honors third semester students.

Past graduates of the program are now working for broadcast outlets like CBS Evening News and CBS' Sixty Minutes; NBC's "Dateline," BBC Radio, NPR; for online publications like the Daily Beast and The New York Times; for a variety of video startups, and as independent documentarians in their own right.

Members of Columbia Journalism School's accomplished broadcast faculty who advise these projects include June Cross and Betsy West, Pamela Hogan, Jeff Newton, Chi-Hui Yang, Betsy Rate, and Lisa Cohen.

Documentary Seminar

This course teaches long-form visual narrative; and is a prerequisite for those who want to complete a third-semester master's project. Students are encouraged to work in teams and, by the end of the semester, pitch a five- to seven-minute work-in-progress trailer to a team of commissioning editors from major outlets. In the past, those editors have included representatives from Frontline, the Sundance Documentary Fund, HBO, CBS News, and the Cinema Tropical Festival. Filmmakers are assigned a broadcast faculty advisor in the fall term and complete their master's projects in either the summer or the following fall after completing the course.

2014 Docfest Trailers

 

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