Instructor: Michael Ostroff

This is a unique course about storytelling, about taking history beyond academic papers and about creating an entertaining and enlightening short narrative historical documentary film.

There are no footnotes in film; instead students learn the value of combining rigorous research with artistic judgment.  If you’re keen on finding a creative outlet for your enjoyment of history – then Making Documentary History is a course you should consider.

The basis of the course is interacting and engaging people in history, writing in a creative manner, experimenting with the limits of creative licence and the power of strong effective visuals to tell a story, the power of editing, collaborating with colleagues, and working with actors and composers. You are after “a good story, well told.”

Working in a small group, you’ll learn to engage an audience emotionally and creatively and to appreciate the passionate power of documentary storytelling.

You will be exposed to the basic elements of good documentary filmmaking, and you will be challenged to think in a visual and creative manner.

The course involves:

  • An introduction to and analysis of some of the best examples of the genre of the narrative historical documentary;
  • Basic training in the skills of documentary-making, including workshops detailing the operations of the Canon Vixia G-20 HD camcorder and the Final Cut Pro 10 editing system (all equipment and software are provided);
  • Archival research and interview practices required to develop the evidentiary resources and the subject expertise required to tell the story;
  • The production of a ten-minute documentary on an historical topic of the group’s choice;

History 4302 is not your typical history course. At the end of the year the documentaries made in this course have a public screening; over the years, some of the best ones have been acquired by museums and public institutions, some have even been offered broadcast licenses by the CBC and some students have gone on to careers in filmmaking.