Category Archives: Module II

agenda :: 4/2

warm-up: if you’re showing your work, double check your link on youtube and make sure everything’s playing right and accessible for your screening. looking forward to seeing your work!

module 2 screenings: kimmi, xianhao, ian, seri, saina, don, jason, tingnan, sophia, connie, yuhe

homework: if you screened your project today, pull up the production journal template one last time, and answer all the prompts in the reflection segment. everyone should have these completed and posted by this monday, april april 6 at 11pm so that i can start grading and get them back to you quickly.

Tagged , ,

agenda :: 3/31

warm-up: if you’re showing your work, double check your link on youtube and make sure everything’s playing right and accessible for your screening. looking forward to seeing your work!

module 2 screenings: shannon, yuxiang, jesse, grace, mi so, fanwen, wangsoo, haley, jun, kelsey

homework: if you screened your project today, pull up the production journal template one last time, and answer all the prompts in the reflection segment. everyone should have these completed and posted by this monday, april april 6 at 9pm so that i can start grading and get them back to you quickly.

Tagged , ,

agenda :: 3/19

writing warm-up: now that you’re in the midst of completing your module 2 project, visit the website and send your future self an email from your present self. think about the things you’ve learned so far in the past two modules, and send along advice or words of encouragement to help yourself out at the end of the semester. set the deliver date for one month from now (april 19), submit, and wait.

reading recap: “shitty first drafts”

“For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.” (p. 22)

  • the first draft is the “child’s draft” – let it run wild, don’t get bogged down in your adult aesthetic or criticisms, just see what comes out of it. or the “down draft” – just get it down
  • the second draft is the “up” draft – you’re fixing it up
  • the final draft is the “dental draft” – you’re checking “every tooth to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy”

group meetings: as a group, view everyone’s rough drafts. explain what stage it is in to your group, and what you plan to do between now and your due date to finish up. think of this time as a mini-critique, giving honest and helpful feedback to your peers. make note of what works, and help find solutions to what doesn’t. this is your last chance to meet with your groups, so make it worth your while and gain as much feedback as you possibly can! ask questions, be critical, and think of the “dental draft” approach. is everything in place and working? what needs to be fixed or put in place? does the visual style match the subject of the piece? is there a balance of a-roll and b-roll material? a clear story with a beginning, middle, and end?

independent work: use the rest of the class period however you need in order to stay on schedule for your screening next week. i’ll stick around to talk if you have questions or want to show me your rough draft for some feedback for the weekend. you’re free to stick around and work on your edits here or in the lab, or leave to go complete some final shooting or work outside of the classroom, but let me know what your plan is!


  • complete the post-production segment of the production journal, due on your blog by monday, march 30 at 11:59pm. you do not have to complete the “reflection” phase of the production journal until your project has been screened, so i will assign this next week.
  • our first group of students will show their work on the tuesday, march 31, when we come back from break. we will hold a critique as usual. students in this group, make sure that your video is completed, posted to your blog, and easily viewable for us during class.
Tagged , , ,

agenda :: 3/17

writing warm-up: are documents (news articles, documentary films, etc) always truthful? when you encounter something (like a news article, video, etc.), how do you know when it is a trustworthy source? what are some challenges you as an author might face in creating a “truthful” text? 

misrepresentation exercise: (30 min) go back and review the footage you shot last class of the 10-question interview you did with your partner. create a quick 1-2 minute rough cut in which you completely MISREPRESENT the statements of that person. this activity is meant to demonstrate just how much power the editor/filmmaker has in representing their subject – a major challenge in the “art of the real” project will be to use this power responsibly, and represent your subject fairly. however, this is your chance to use your powers as editor for evil and have some fun twisting their words. you do not need to post this, but you should take a few minutes to show your subject what you’ve done to their original interview!

in-class writing: use the next 30 minutes or so of class time to work independently on the production segment of the production journal template. take your time, think carefully and fill out each prompt in as much detail as you can according to your own project. hopefully you’ve gotten into production already the past couple weeks, so this should be fairly easy on you! if you have any questions, shoot your hand up and i’ll be happy to help. when you’re finished, go ahead and post to your blog!

group meetings: (30 min) get together and talk about your projects per usual. share production journals. everyone should set clear goals for the upcoming week for their production. take notes of everyone’s goals, so that you can hold each other accountable next week.

screening dates: your projects are due next week in class, so just a reminder about which day you will be screening your work:

  • march 31: shannon, yuxiang, jesse, grace, mi so, fanwen, wangsoo, haley, jun, kelsey
  • april 2: kimmi, xianhao, ian, seri, saina, don, jason, tingnan, sophia, connie, yuhe


  • finish the production segment of your journal and post to your blog if you haven’t yet.
  • read “shitty first drafts” by ann lamott, available on library e-reserves.
  • start piecing the footage you have together, and post a rough draft of your project to your blog by wednesday at 11:59pm. remember, according to lamott, a first “rough” draft should be very rough – at this stage you’re only putting things down and seeing what works and what doesn’t. editing requires that you draft and re-draft multiple times until everything starts to sharpen up. but you have to start somewhere!
Tagged , ,

agenda :: 3/10

video warm-up: more advice from ira glass on storytelling :: (good taste :: 5:20) and (two pitfalls :: 2:46)
screening: exit through the gift shop :: banksy is perhaps the most infamous street artist in the world, and no one really knows who he is. which is even more surprising that he would produce and appear in a documentary! it’s partially about banksy and other street artists, but the videographer, thierry, becomes an important character in this documentary as well -thierry captures, and maybe even causes, the moment at which street art sells out and joins the “art world”. there’s a lot to learn from this one. in part, it shows one “filmmaker’s” commitment to capturing fleeting events on video and literally become a partner in crime with his subject – he’s fully immersed with his subject. also, a cautionary tale of what not do to when pretending to make a movie.
independent work/meetings: you’re free to do whatever you need for your project during this time, but use your time wisely. work towards the goals set forward in your pre-production journal, and begin piecing it all together if you have not yet. gather footage for a rough draft. next week we’ll be moving from production into post-production, so by the end of this week your footage gathering should be in full swing, should ideally be finished by the end of next week. remember your due dates for the module 2 project screenings will be when we come back from spring break – leave yourself time to edit and get a jump on it.


  • thursday’s class will be an independent work day. you have two choices: you can 1) come to class as usual and meet with me for 10-15 minutes to talk in person about your project, then be on your way or 2) use the time according to your needs, but fill me in about what you did in a 250 word blog post. it’s up to you, but i am here to help!
  • read barry hampe’s “visual evidence”, available on e-reserve
  • respond to this reading by writing 2 paragraphs that a) defines “visual evidence” according to hampe, and b) explains what visual evidence you are gathering for your project and how it is useful in telling your subject’s story. due on your blog by wednesday, 11:59 pm
Tagged , ,

agenda :: 3/5

video warm-up: ira glass on storytelling (part 1) and (part 2)

Interview a fellow classmate somewhere in the building (30 min):

  1. select a partner, and go out into and around the building to find an interesting place to shoot an interview. find a good “background” that helps the interview footage look more compelling. think carefully about framing, lighting, etc.
  2. explain that they will use the interview questions they prepared for homework to interview each other. they should take their laptops and use their iSight cameras to record the interview. remind them that shot composition, location, lighting, etc should all be considered with care. if you accidentally wrote your interview questions specifically for another person who isn’t here, interview your partner about their major, or a topic of your choice.
  3. come back to the room in 30 minutes.
  4. MAKE SURE THAT YOU SAVE YOUR FOOTAGE AND HAVE IT ON YOUR COMPUTER; this material will be used in a later class.


  • burt’s buzz (excerpt)
  • jiro dreams of sushi (excerpt)


  • finish the pre-production segment of the production journal in full, according to the idea you are pursuing for your “art of the real” project. write in as much detail as possible, it will make it a lot easier on yourself to plan ahead! due on your blog by monday at 11:59pm.
  • read “Ch. 21: The Documentary Interview” by Barry Hampe, available on library e-reserves. This will direct you to a different publishing service, SIPX, it’s confusing but let me know if you have trouble accessing the file. This reading is packed full of advice that will help you a great deal when conducting an interview on camera. Read through it carefully, and keep a list of 10 bits of advice that caught your attention. Explain briefly how each piece of advice might relate to your own project. Post to your blog by monday at 11:59 pm as well.


Tagged , , ,

agenda :: 3/3

writing warm-up: (10 min) Think about a recent conversation you had with another person, or a group, in which you learned something new about a topic you were unfamiliar with.  Write about your thoughts on the difference between learning through conversation with another person, versus learning by reading about a subject.

video warm-up: (10 min)

“Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure.They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.”

activity: Improvisation Interview: (10 min)

  1. Pull up your 100 questions page from day one.
  2. Pair up with someone near you, ideally someone you don’t know too well.
  3. One of you will begin as an interviewer, and the other will be the interviewee. The interviewer chooses a question from their list that can be used to interview another person, and must proceed to interview for at least five minutes by riffing off of the interviewees responses. The only requirement is that your interview must not stop before I call time.
  4. Switch roles, and repeat step 3!

screening: this american life, “two wars” :: b-roll: a common technique in documentary filmmaking is to combine interview footage with “b-roll” material that supplements the meaning of the piece and the fills out the picture you are painting for us of your subject. this could be shots that establish the scene (interesting things you notice in the interview environment), capture important “action”, or otherwise fill in the gaps and break up interview footage or audio, and reinforce the message. b-roll is the key to keeping things interesting and avoiding a “talking head” interview, but also to help tell us about the subject.

what kinds of b-roll did you notice used in this story? jot down a few things you notice on a scratch piece of paper if you need. how does this documentary challenge the conventional ways of interviewing a subject?

in-class writing: pre-production journal

  • a few good examples of an a-level response to this journal :: edwinnicole; kelley
  • take the next 30 minutes or so to begin answering all the prompts in the pre-production segment of the production journal. you should write in as much detail as you can for each segment, even if this is just your initial idea. it is important to think about these things before you go out and shoot, and is a useful way to start thinking about the subject of your piece and what you’ll need to prepare for shooting. remember, this is a map and outline for your project, and this writing is meant to be mostly for your benefit. however, it also keeps me in the loop about the progress of your video project. this writing will ask you to commit somewhat seriously to exploring an idea, which is the first scary step you have to take to make something great!

group meetings: check back in with each other and share what you’ve written for the pre-production journal. help each other fill in the gaps if there were any segments of the journal that you were having trouble with. share any other pertinent info or feedback you received in the past couple days, and ask questions.


  1. Prepare a ten-question interview centered around a topic of your choice.  You will interview a classmate with these questions in class on Tuesday and record it with your ISight camera (or other camera), so have the questions posted on your blog but also printed or written out for you to follow. also due on your blog by wednesday at 11:59pm
  2. if you did not yet finish your pre-production journal, make sure you finish it some time this week and have it posted to your blog by monday at 11:59pm.  by tuesday’s class, we will move forward into the “production” segment of the video process. it is natural that your project will evolve at this stage, but addressing these points now will help you create a much better piece. if your subject changes completely, these prompts will need to be addressed again.
Tagged , , ,

agenda :: 2/26

writing warm-up: if you could have dinner with any 3 people (living or not, real or fictional), who would they be and why? what would you want to ask them?

explain and discuss module 02. talk about journaling/production template and module 02 grading rubric. our project screenings this time will be broken up into two sessions. your final piece will be due march 31st or april 2, according to this alphabetical list.

  • march 31: shannon, yuxiang, jesse, grace, mi so, fanwen, wangsoo, haley, jun, kelsey
  • april 2: kimmi, xianhao, ian, seri, saina, don, jason, tingnan, sophia, connie, yuhe

screenings:  a few student examples :: tonyhan-julaurenyingfudarrenaustin

group brainstorm: talk briefly with your group about any initial ideas you might have for your module 2 project. toss out as many interesting things you’ve noticed on campus, comb through the events in the daily illini or campus calendar, discuss personal connections you may have to help others in finding their subject. think about things happening on or near campus that you’ve always wanted to know more about – pick something interesting to you, but that you know little about. have a first choice for your idea, but also make sure you have a backup plan. by tuesday, you should have come to a decision and made contact with your top idea. they might say no or your schedules might not mesh, that’s why its good to have a plan b!

if you’re stuck, it’s always a good idea to look through other resources to find out what’s going on around you that might be worth documenting. here’s a few places to start: daily illini around campus section, the buzz magazine, uiuc calendar, smile politely


  1. reading :: Getting Lost by Tim Cahill (on library e-reserves)
  2. getting lost: i believe that disrupting our routines from time to time can be a major benefit to our creativity. most days we have our schedules planned out to the minute, take the same paths to class, encounter the same people and surroundings, and essentially stop paying attention to what’s around us. take the rest of the class period and do the following:
    1. for one hour “get lost.” following the spirit of this reading, and thinking of this whole class as a little journey into the unknown, get lost somewhere in or near C-U. have an adventure. walk in a neighborhood you’ve never visited. take a bus to the edge of town. drive south for 20 minutes. explore a campus building you’ve never been in before, open unlocked doors. hang out at the train station or a hospital. talk to strangers or take a vow of silence, assume a fictitious identity.  try not to have too much of a purpose. don’t do anything responsible like study for another class, your laundry, etc. be prepared to tell us a little bit about your trip when you return after the hour is up. your only requirements are:
    2. you cannot use any electronic devices (computers, phones, ipods, ipads, etc.), unless you’re taking a photo or video. honor system.
  3. getting lost journal :: in no less than two lengthy paragraphs describe what it was like to “get lost.” some questions that you might want to consider when writing about your experience are :: what did you see, or recognize as normal?  what surprised you, made you curious?  what made you anxious, nervous, or comfortable?  how did you decide what to do?
  4. come to class on tuesday having made contact with your first choice for the module 2 project, and ready to dive into the “pre-production” part of the production process.
Tagged , ,