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About The Course


Full Download of the course Syllabus Here: LINK


CT 355

Documentary Production

 Daniel Phelps,

Office Hours: 11am-4pm M-F | by appointment only


Course Description: This course encompasses a series of projects involving all aspects of producing documentary of real events: pre-production planning, budgeting, scripting, filming, editing, and directing. Students in small groups learn the theory and techniques of using portable digital video cameras, lighting and sound equipment in field work and complete digital editing with titles, voiceover, music, and special effects in a studio setting. A brief history and role of the documentary is also included. 3 Credits, 4 Hours

Course Objectives: The course is designed to enable the student to: 1) understand the basic process involved in the production of the video documentary; 2) be able to plan and organize a video documentary production including budgeting and assembling a crew; 3) use portable digital video cameras, sound equipment and lighting units in field production; 4) be able to produce a good video documentary; and 5) understand a brief history and role of the documentary.

Students will produce Several short documents during the semester. You will cover, A person, A Place, and A Thing.

Required Media and Reading:


Rabiger, Michael. Directing the Documentary. Amsterdam: Focal, 2004. Print.


Selected Reading provided by direct link to download source.


Recommended, But not Required:


Bernard, Sheila Curran. Documentary Storytelling: Making Stronger and More Dramatic Nonfiction Films. Amsterdam: Focal, 2007. Print.



Several SD Cards. Class 6 or Above. 8GB Reccomended

320+GB Hard drive. Preferably Bus powered. USB OK, Firewire 800 recommended Account for the entirety of the semester. (Required)


Video examples and demonstration DVDs/Media located in lab.


Required reading will be distributed via PDF.


Class Blog:

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Outside of class participation: Advanced Production/Post-Production Technical skills to be conducted by Daniel Phelps. You will also be asked to attend screenings of current documentaries at festivals and venues in NYC

Production Assignments: All production work is geared toward the completion of your documentary. The Production Deadlines are made clear to you in the production schedule. Not meeting the deadlines of the production schedule will affect your project and your grade.

Equipment Loan: All the equipment used in class is loaned to you for the production of your documentary. All equipment is managed through the York College Equipment Stockroom, managed by Daniel Phelps, 4G04F, 718-262-2917. Because the equipment is a limited resource, it may be reserved up to two weeks in advance of use and taken-out for a maximum 48 hour period. You are responsible financially for the equipment in your possession. You are also responsible for the timely return of equipment. Late returns and/or damaged equipment can result in the loss of access to equipment and failure of the class.



(Subject to change)


  1. 1/31 Film Analysis, Film List, Story Basics, Characters & Research
  • Assigned Reading
  • Rabiger 1,2,3
  • Complete first Film Analysis started in class.
  1. 2/7 Story Basics Continued
  • Assigned Reading
  • 2nd Film Analysis Due
  • Assign First Shooting Assignment (A Person)
  1. 2/14 Doc storytelling, Approach
  • Assigned Reading
  • 3rd Film Analysis Due
  1. 2/21 NO CLASS SCHEDULED. Classes will follow a Monday Schedule



  1. 2/28 Shooting and Editing
  • First Shooting Assignment (A Person) Due
  • Assigned Reading
  • 4th Film Analysis Due
  1. 3/6 Writing Narration and VO
  • Assigned Reading
  • 5th Analysis
  1. 3/13 Listen to the pros
  • Assigned Reading
  • 6th  Film Analysis Due
  1. 3/20 MIDTERM PROJECT (Place Project) DUE  “The Thing”


Final Project “The Thing”

  1. 3/27 Edit Sequences Presented, Shooting Completed.
  • Assigned Reading
  • Shoot
  1. 4/3 Guest Lecturer/Online Posts
  • Assigned Reading
  • Shoot

11.4/10 No Class Spring Break

  • Rough Cut/reshoot present cut progress every week.
  • Assigned Reading
  • Shoot
  1. 4/17 Documentary Progress Posts
  • Assigned Reading
  • Shoot
  1. 4/24 Present Rough Cuts
  • Assigned Reading
  • Edit
  1. 5/1 Work On Films
  • Edit
  • Re-Shoots

15.5/8 Color Correction

  • Edit
  1. 5/15 Final Audio Mix
  • Edit, Mixdown, Get it done
  1. 5/22  Final Doc Show – Party Time, Excellent




Film Analysis                                             20%

Production Assignment Goals                20%

Short Paper                                                 15%

Final Film                                                    30%

Class Participation/

Documentary Attendance                      15%


  • If you have 3 or more un-excused absences during the semester you grade will be automatically dropped 5% or your total grade (excused absences must be cleared with the professor prior to the class)
  • Projects not delivered on-time will be docked 25% for every week they are late. If you miss the project deadline, you have 7 days to turn in the project for 75% , 14 days for 50%, 21 days for 25%, etc…



York College Policy on INC

An INC grade may only be issued if the student has passed the final exam, is passing the course, and has work remaining to be completed.  INC grades will only be issued if the student has consulted with the professor regarding the missing work/absence(s)  and can provide valid documentation that warrants an extension.  All work required to make up an INC grade must be submitted to the professor before the ten-week deadline in the subsequent semester.  The assignment of an INC grade is at the discretion of the professor.


CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity

Academic Dishonesty, including plagiarism, Internet plagiarism, obtaining an unfair advantage, and falsification of records and official documents is prohibited in the City University of New York and is punishable by penalties, including failing grades, suspension, and expulsion as explained in the definitions and examples of academic dishonesty.  Please review the University’s full policy on Academic Integrity which can be found in the York College Bulletin or in the printed Schedule of Classes.


York College Policy on Accommodations  for Students with Disabilities

York College is required to provide reasonable accommodations  for students with disabilities under Section #504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities, act of 1990.

Services are available to students with disabilities.  Such services include “reasonable accommodations”  that a student may require to have a successful academic experience.  Students interested in more information should contact a counselor in room AC-1G02.  The OSD office is open Monday to Friday, 9 am–7 pm.

Each student receiving reasonable accommodations  from this office must submit an Accommodation Request draft, which will help the counselor determine what services the student needs.  An Accommodation Request form will be given to each professor describing the specific needs of the student.  This will serve as notification to the professor that the student has a “documented” disability.  Only the approved accommodations  should be given, as it is unfair to other students to provide additional assistance beyond what is needed.  Students are advised to alert professors as to any special needs as soon as possible so they can prepare any special arrangements.


An Incident Report form will be filled out for proctored exams if a student does not follow set guidelines.  A copy will be sent to the professor.




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