Academics: Majors and Programs

Students Filmmaking

Documentary Filmmaking Major

Course Sequence

Spelman College's documentary filmmaking major is uniquely designed to address the needs of the 21st century student born into a digital world where moving images, storytelling and investigating social concerns have significant currency.

Why This? Why Now?

While documentary filmmaking has exploded internationally over the last twenty years, it is rare that one sees women of African descent at the helm in this field. Through its documentary film program, Spelman will develop a new, and urgently needed, generation of Black women documentary filmmakers who see the world through their histories and interests.

The major is an outgrowth of the Digital Moving Image Salon (DMIS), which was founded in 2003 by award-winning filmmaker Ayoka Chenzira, Ph.D. DMIS taught students to analyze films and use digital media tools to produce documentary films that focus on the lived experiences of women of color, the filmmaking program merged traditional documentary film strategies with emerging approaches to create new forms of storytelling; and it also explores new exhibition and distribution possibilities.

Valuable Real-World Training

The new major is guided by Ayoka Chenzira and other distinguished faculty. The major underscores the value of a liberal arts education by supporting work that is at the intersection of visual culture,humanities and new technologies and thus expands the definition of documentary film production.

With this major, you will:

  • Develop your artistic voice and produce films with a point-of-view
  • Develop a deeper understanding of visual language and filmmaking as an art form and as a form of rhetoric
  • Learn the technical aspects of production
  • Create a dynamic storytelling experience through creative writing for documentaries
  • Develop new strategies for production in the digital age
  • Learn the business of the art form, ethics, community engagement and portfolio development

Robust and Interdisciplinary Offerings

The documentary filmmaking major offers a robust production experience and includes film history, writing, and new forms of documentary production. It will prepare you for graduate school, professional industries and community engagement.

Additionally, the program will further connect itself to the local documentary film community through guest lectures, events, and an annual festival -- the culminating event for seniors in the film program.

Course Sequence

First Year
Division of the Arts Freshman Seminar
Intro to Documentary Filmmaking
Black Cinema: Contemporary Voices in Documentary Filmmaking

Second Year
Division of the Art Sophomore Seminar
Producing & Directing Documentaries I
Producing & Directing Documentaries II (pre-requisite Producing & Directing Documentaries I)

Third Year
Division of the Arts Junior Seminar
Photographic Visions
Basic Lighting Techniques
Advanced Sight & Sound
Prep for Documentary Film Thesis (pre-requisite for Senior Thesis I)

Fourth Year
Division of the Arts Senior Seminar
Senior Documentary Thesis I
Senior Documentary Thesis II (pre-requisite Senior Documentary Thesis I)
Creative Careers

*Internships are a required part of the documentary filmmaking major.
**See the department for information on electives.