Explore the camera’s role in the storytelling process for documentary filmmaking.

SonyToday's audience has become very sophisticated in their appreciation of the visual art of filmmaking. Expectations by audiences are for a high level production quality in all visual forms of storytelling, including documentary filmmaking. This workshop provides students with an understanding of how photography and cinematography tools and skills are adapted to address the unique demand of non-fiction filmmaking.

This one-week course is for emerging and professional documentary filmmakers and cinematographers who want to explore the technical and creative role that the camera plays in documentary production. Through screenings, analysis of documentaries, examination of camera style, and a close look at technical and storytelling solutions, students will become experts at defining what makes a convincing documentary. Throughout the week the class will examine the importance of anticipating technical and logistical choices before the shoot. The workshop covers storytelling, shot design, sequencing and continuity, blocking and camera moves, composition, POV, and lens selection.

The mornings are spent in the classroom for discussion, critiques, and screenings. The afternoons are dedicated to research and fieldwork as the students find and shoot a short documentary, and gain practical experience handling the camera in a variety of situations. Scenes are edited for review and critique.


"I came away knowing 500% more than I knew coming in"
- Matthew Johnson, Washington, DC

"Documentary camera was both humbling and empowering as a whole new way of 'seeing' & perspective opened with regards to filming and as we were given unusual opportunities to practice new skills with encouraging feedback"
- L. Stager, Searsmont, ME

"It's not just a workshop, it's an experience."


Austin de Besche

Austin de Besche has been a cinematographer for over forty years, a director for half that time.  He has photographed feature films (Return of the Secaucus Seven and Lianna for John Sayles), documentaries (including Emmy winners Voices of the Children and On Thin Ice), national children’s programming (Postcards from Buster, Design Squad and NOVA scienceNOW for PBS), second unit television work (Cheers and St. Elsewhere), concert films, magazine shows, corporate films and television commercials numbered in the thousands.  His most recent work as a DP includes “The Year We Thought About Love,” a feature-length documentary about True Colors, a theater troupe for LGBTQ youth, which is screening at festivals all over the world.

Many of his projects have been award-winners: Return of the Secaucus Seven was chosen for the “10 Best Films of 1980” lists of the Los Angeles Times and Time Magazine.  His skills and experience range from digital video to 35mm film, from tiniest location to big sound stage, from unscripted documentary to drama to special effects.  His work has taken him to Africa, Europe, Asia, Central and South America, and all over the United States. 

He is also an actor and performer: he has acted in commercials and corporate films, performed in plays, studied and performed improv comedy for several years, and sings in a gospel choir.  He is a founding Board member of the Actors’ Shakespeare Project.

Mr. de Besche produced, directed, and photographed Pilgrimage into the Past, a documentary about a Holocaust survivor who walks again with his family the route of a “death march” he lived through at the end of World War II.  It has screened at several festivals, and was praised by renowned documentary-maker Ken Burns as “a fascinating, terribly honest and challenging film ... a great film.”