Documenting Durham: Capturing Place Through Words and Images

Photo of Alaadin El Hamalawi by Liza Hoos, from the Spring 2016 Documenting Durham class

This course, co-taught by a nonfiction writer and a photojournalist, explores the art and craft of documenting place through words and images. Using the city of Durham as a practice ground, students will learn the skills essential to create both documentary writing and photography, as well as explore how these two genres can be used in concert to deepen a story. Given its rich history and current state of growth and change, Durham offers many opportunities for place-based storytelling that motivates thinking and reflection in others.


In addition to studying writing and photographs that effectively capture place and discussing the ethical aspects of gathering and working with stories that are not their own, students will learn the practical skills of both genres. They will learn how to report and conduct interviews as well as how to focus and structure written work. And they will learn essential elements of good visual storytelling, with an emphasis on portraiture and building a narrative through photo essays.

Throughout this weekend-long course, students will learn by doing, spending time in the field reporting, taking photos, and then sharing their experiences back in the classroom. They will immerse themselves in a corner of Durham, conducting interviews with people they encounter and collecting the variety of photos necessary to tell a story. As they work, students will receive feedback from their classmates and instructors. In the end, they will walk away with the beginnings of a documentary essay about place (in both photography and writing), as well as a broadened skill set for documentary work and an understanding of how to bring places to life in textured and nuanced ways. 
(16 hours/All Levels)

Christina Cooke is associate editor at the daily food-policy website Civil Eats and a Durham-based freelance writer who writes about people, place, and culture for venues including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, the New York Times, the Guardian, the Oxford American, Our State, and High Country News. Previously, she worked two years as a staff writer for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, and another year as the only full-time reporter for a weekly paper in Portland, Oregon. Cooke finds herself drawn to tell stories at the fringes of society, about people who are offbeat and unconventional, passionate and obsessed, and masters of their own, very specialized domains. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Portland State University and is a graduate of the nonfiction writing program at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. Find out more and view writings at christinacooke.com.

Kate Medley is a documentarian telling stories about good causes, companies, and campaigns. Following a ten-year career in corporate communications as lead documentary storyteller for Whole Foods Market, during which time she spearheaded a journalistic approach to the company’s marketing of farmers and producers, Medley now leads a media agency in Durham, North Carolina. Through a longtime partnership with the Southern Foodways Alliance, she has created several documentary film projects exploring Southern culture through stories about food. Counter Histories, produced to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, is a series of five films documenting lunch counter sit-ins across the south, and A Spoken Dish celebrates the diverse food culture across the region through a series of 85 video vignettes. Medley received her bachelor’s degree in photojournalism from the University of Montana and her Master’s in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. She has worked as a photojournalist for newspapers across the South, including the Charlotte Observer, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, and as a regular contributor for The New York Times.

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Center for Documentary Studies
CDS Library
Cooke 7/13 - 7/14 Sa Su 09:00 AM - 05:00 PM $320.00 View

Master Class: Nonfiction Writing

This workshop brings students together with professional writers and editors for an intense week of collaborative discussion, revision, and writing. Students in the workshop will read and discuss the ongoing projects of fellow students, work individually with the instructors to refine and shape their own projects, and participate in readings and round-table discussions with top figures in the publishing world. Throughout the week, students will have the space and time for sustained, concentrated writing, as well as access to the world-class Duke University Libraries system. This is a workshop on craft, structure, and the art of writing great nonfiction, and a rare opportunity to be guided closely by top editors and writers. (38 hours)

Haven Kimmel is the author of eight books: Two memoirs, the #1 New York Times bestseller A Girl Named Zippy and She Got Up Off the Couch, and Other Heroic Tales from Mooreland, Indiana; four novels; and two books for children. She graduated from Ball State University with a degree in creative writing and studied with the novelist Lee Smith at North Carolina State University. She is currently working on a horror novel and a non-fiction collection of essays about Quakerism. She lives in Durham.

Janine Latus is a freelance journalist and the author of If I Am Missing or Dead: A Sister’s Story of Love, Murder and Liberation, which made bestseller lists in New York, London, and Toronto. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a former board member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Her work has appeared in Discover, O, The Oprah Magazine, Parents, Fitness, More, and dozens of other magazines and websites. She is at work on her second book, about her recent year living as a nomad.

Barry Yeoman is a Durham-based freelance magazine journalist whose recent work has appeared in The American Prospect, Saturday Evening Post, onEarth, Audubon, and Parade. He is the author of “The Gutbucket King,” a longform multimedia profile of New Orleans bluesman Little Freddie King, published by The New New South. He specializes in putting human faces on complex social, political, and environmental issues. His website is barryyeoman.com.

Additional information:
The enrollment fee includes dinner the first night and all lunches during the week. Students are responsible for housing and transportation.

Two sections will be offered. Hours for the intensive are:

Section A
Taught by Haven Kimmel and Barry Yeoman
Sunday, June 9: 5 p.m.–9 p.m.
Monday–Thursday, June 10–13: 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Friday, June 14: 9 a.m.–8 p.m.

Section B
Taught by Janine Latus and Barry Yeoman
Sunday, August 4: 5 p.m.–9 p.m.
Monday–Thursday, August 5–8: 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Friday, August 9: 9 a.m.–8 p.m.

Friday's sessions conclude with a public presentation of student work.

See the course blog for a schedule, information on housing options, and more.

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Center for Documentary Studies
CDS Auditorium
Yeoman 6/9 - 6/14 Mo Tu We Th Fr Su 05:00 PM - 09:00 PM $675.00 View
Register Now!
Center for Documentary Studies
CDS Auditorium
Yeoman 8/4 - 8/9 Mo Tu We Th Fr Su 05:00 PM - 09:00 PM $675.00 View

Writing the Documentary Script (Onsite and Online)
Your documentary films can be scripted! A well-written script can be key to structuring your film. Structure can make not only the difference between a bad film and a good film, but between a good film and a great one. To create a documentary that’s coherent in post-production, your pre-production needs to be equally coherent. One of the best ways to organize one’s research, explore new ideas, and more accurately plan for the unexpected is to write a documentary script. In this one-day workshop, students will learn the basics of writing the documentary script, including the conceptual and practical theory behind script construction, the role of story in documentary filmmaking, and proper A/V script formatting. We’ll learn the best ways to outline scenes and analyze existing A/V scripts for production and post-production needs. And we’ll use widely available script writing software which you will then use in practical exercises that demonstrate how to translate your written documentaries from script to screen. Added value may be gained by pairing this course with Documentary and Three-Act Structure. (5 hours/All Levels)

Please note: This is a hybrid onsite/online class. Distance students will participate via teleconference.

Joshua Dasal has taught at CDS since 2010. He is an Emmy- and Silver Telly–winning director, producer, screenwriter, and video marketer. A master’s graduate of the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television, he has created projects and/or consulted for Discovery Channel, PBS, Sony Screen Gems, and director Wes Craven. He has taught filmmaking courses at UNC-Chapel Hill and Missouri State University, and his films have screened at venues like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Director’s Guild of America, and USC’s First Look Film Festival. He is the owner and chief creative officer of Kaboonki Creative, a video production and marketing firm based in Raleigh.

Additional information:
To participate from off-site, a late-model computer, fast internet connection, and built-in camera are recommended, though not required. Students with less than optimal hardware or internet connections are welcome to take the course, though it may be difficult to participate fully.

There will be a one-hour break for lunch.

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Center for Documentary Studies
Room 201
Dasal 5/11 - 5/11 Sa 10:00 AM - 04:00 PM $160.00 View