Documentary filmmaking workshop to be offered in Madeira

Interdisciplinary research,
education and capacity building

30 Nov 2016

Prof. Nancy Schiesari of UT Austin will teach a workshop on documentary filmmaking using narrative strategies for finding and creating voice, point of view, and story structure, December 12-16, 2016 in Madeira.

Documentary filmmaking workshop with Nancy Schiesari
Professor of Radio-TV-Film, The University of Texas at Austin

December 12-16, 2016
Madeira, Portugal 



Workshop on documentary filmmaking using narrative strategies for finding and creating voice, point of view, and story structure.

Today more than ever, documentary filmmaking has evolved to use a hybrid of methodologies to communicate with its audience. As a documentary filmmaker I continuously borrow techniques from fiction to build story, character, point of view and content. Over five days of presentations and workshops we will explore the interface between narration, interviews, music, actualite and archive footage, and how these elements can be manipulated to enhance the receptivity and viewing experience of the audience.

Exercises for students to choose between A or B

A. Assignment: interview a person in the community about a specific memory. Shoot cutaways of the subject engaged in an activity. Maximum time 3 mins.

Workshop: deciding camera placement, eye line, lighting, and sound recording for a talking head interview. This workshop will benefit students who plan to work in documentary or as journalists where there is an opportunity to record video during an interview and to create a short profile. They must also think of how to shoot the subject engaged in an activity that visually says something about who they are.

B. Assignment: shoot documentary coverage using a narrative approach to what is unfolding in real time. Maximum time 3 mins.

Practice telling a story through selected coverage through a sequence of shots, capturing an event or transaction that has a beginning, middle and end, happening in real time. You must document an event or an exchange unfolding in real time in ten or less shots. The scene must be primarily edited in camera with some additional editing after. This exercise will help students think on their feet, reacting quickly to the world of their subject to create a truly visual sequence.

Students work in groups of two or three, to crew for each other, while sharing camera and sound equipment. Each student shoots his or her own project.

Some examples of subjects to consider for shooting documentary coverage for assignment B:

A person or family arrives at the dog pound and checks out a pet for adoption.
An old person receives a meal from a c
A parent takes his/her reluctant or happy child to daycare and says goodbye
A dog and his owner attend dog obedience class
A garden worker digs and plants a new plant in the botanical gardens
A farmer or farm worker rounds up animals to feed, train or brand.
A worker in a slaughter house prepares an animal for slaughter
A football coach directs practice
An animal rescue unit goes after a stray animal
A friend goes to buy a new or used car
A worker in the kitchens of a fast food restaurant prepares a meal to serve
A mother weighed down with shopping and a small child get on the bus and rides a few blocks and gets off
A fisherman makes a catch
Show passage of time: a busy square in the town comes to life from dawn to mid morning


Nancy SchiesariNancy Schiesari
Professor of Radio-TV-Film, The University of Texas at Austin 

Nancy is an experienced director, producer and cinematographer on both broadcast documentaries and award-winning independent films. Her latest full-length documentary, Canine Soldiers, premiered at the Austin Film Festival in 2016. Cactus Jack, Lone Star on Capitol Hill aired on PBS in February, 2016. Tattooed Under Fire aired nationwide on PBS in 2009. “Hansel Mieth-Vagabond Photographer” premiered on PBS’ Independent Lens in 2003, and on the Canadian and Australian Broadcast Corporation. She also directed History Man, a half hour profile on Martin Scorsese, for BBC 4, London, 2004.

Nancy also comes with twenty years experience as a Director of Photography on over 30 documentaries and feature films broadcast for England’s Channel 4, BBC, ABC, National Geographic, and PBS. Nancy has filmed in Europe, the U.S, Africa, India, Pakistan, Iceland, and Latin America. She was nominated for a 2002 Television Emmy for outstanding cinematography on The Human Face (producer John Cleese). Among her work as cinematographer is Barbara Sonenberg’s Regret to Inform, 1998, nominated for an Oscar, and Pratibha Parmar’s and Alice Walker’s Warrior Marks, Channel Four, London. Her work as a narrative director includes Loaves and Fishes, which premiered in 2000 at the South by Southwest Film Festival, screened at the International Latino Film Festival in Los Angeles, and broadcast on PBS’ experimental film series “The Territory” in 2001. Nancy graduated with an MFA from the Royal College, London and is a professor in production in the Radio, Television and Film Department at the University of Texas at Austin.