Week 10: Rik Scarce


Guest speaker: Dr. Rik Scarce, Skidmore College

Sustaining this Place
“Sustainability” is a popular concept, but what does it look like in practice?  From Mount Marcy to Manhattan–all along the length of the Hudson River region–sustainability entrepreneurs are pursuing new approaches to farming, creating community, greening business, land preservation, and more.  Along the way, they are re-envisioning–socially constructing–the Hudson region’s landscape as a sustainability incubator.  Rik Scarce will share a rough cut of Sustaining this Place and will discuss documentary making from a sociological perspective.

Week 9: Filmmaker Jules Rosskam

This week in class, we will have filmmaker Jules Rosskam join us to screen his documentary Against A Trans Narrative. 

Trans filmmaker Jules Rosskam’s against a trans narrative is a provocative and personal
experimental documentary investigating dominant constructions of trans-masculine identity, gender, and the nature of community.

By sensitively framing the film through his own personal journey within the trans-masculine community, Rosskam creates an electric and original investigation into gender politics and social self-identity.

Blending fiction, nonfiction, and experimental film genres, against a trans narrative employs a gender-busting combination of intimate diary footage, stylized dramatic scenes, spoken word performance, faux audition tapes, and roundtable interview footage to explore and initiate a dialogue between feminists, queers, and transfolk about the way we construct personal and historical narratives. Careful attention is paid to the ways generation, race, class, and culture impact our understandings of gender.

against a trans narrative asks a series of provocative questions:

What does it mean to be trans?
Is there an idealized perception of trans-masculine identity?
What is the diversity of the trans-masculine experience?
Is there an “idealized” community narrative?

Certain to spark lively community dialogue, this powerfully emotional film appeals to anyone
who has ever struggled to reconcile their identity with the communities they belong to.

For more info, visit the against a trans narrative website


Week 8: Student Loan Debt Panel

This week in class, we will be attending the student loan debt panel in SU 243 that I have organized for my third documentary project, called Facing Student Loans: Sentenced to Debt. The videos above are my first interviews for this project. This project will attempt to conduct video interviews with 100 participants suffering under student loan debt in order to provide the face/narrative of this economic crisis. Please watch the 27 minute documentary Default: The Student Loan Documentary. Be sure to have some questions for our panelists. If you are interested in participating in the project, let me know. This would consist of a 30-60 minute videotaped interview that would be posted online.

Week 7: Immigration & Technology

This week in class, we have guest speaker Silvia Mejia, an Assistant Professor of Spanish and American Studies at The College of Saint Rose (Albany, NY). She will be sharing her documentary film Just a Click Away From Home.


Synopsis: Speechless, Arturo and Mercedes see their children on the videoconferencing screen: it is their first reunion since the kids left Ecuador and settled in NYC, 11 years ago. Meanwhile, Gloria–whose husband migrated to Spain–promotes internet access to rescue families separated by migration, whereas Carla takes advantage of email and digital photography to report on the Ecuadorian community in Italy. Through new technologies, Ecuadorian immigrants displaced in New York, Madrid and Milan cope with nostalgia and find themselves “just click away from home.”


Week 6: Documenting Sex Workers

On October 10, 2012, we will have the head Master and Mistress of La Domaine Esemar be our guest speakers. La Domaine Esemar is a professional BDSM dungeon that services clients, hosts monthly parties, and maintains an active BDSM lifestyle. Please explore a bit of the La Domaine website to get an idea of the place. I have been filming my current documentary at La Domaine, exploring this subculture and how it relates to the larger world of sex workers. I will be filming the guest speakers’ discussion to include with my documentary film (students won’t be filmed). I will also be talking about what it was like for me as a filmmaker to find this location and the guest speakers will talk about the ways in which the filming has impacted their experience.

There are no assigned readings this week, but you should explore the La Domaine website and also look up relevant information about the BDSM subculture, and sex worker social issues in general. Here are two clips from this documentary project:

In addition to the hour we will have with our guest speakers, I will talk about the world of documentary films that portray sex workers. Then we will watch Scarlet Road in class.

For your websites, your page on documentary films is also do. Please post a link to it on this blog posting and be ready to talk about it in class, if we have time.

Week 5: Documenting the Tattoo Industry

On October 3, 2012, we had four guest speakers join us to discuss how the tattoo industry is represented in documentary film. The guest included Phil Padwe, children’s book author of Mommy Has a Tattoo; Emma Griffiths, tattooist in NYC; Pat Sinatra, tattooist at Pat’s Tats in Kingston, NY; and Jen Carmean, tattooist at Monarch Tattoo in Newfoundland, NJ.

We watched clips from various tattoo documentaries, covering a span of topics: Hori Smoku, Sailor Jerry, Ed Hardy, Tattoo the World, Mario Barth: Under the Skin, Tattooed Under Fire, and Covered.

What did students think of the documentaries and the responses of the tattooists? What did you learn about the tattoo industry?

Also, please post a link to your website on the comment section below.

Week 3: Women in Film

 We will have Dr. Karen Mahar, of Siena College, join us in class to discuss her book, Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood. This book explores when, how, and why women were accepted as filmmakers in the 1910s and why, by the 1920s, those opportunities had disappeared. In looking at the early film industry as an industry—a place of work—Mahar not only unravels the mystery of the disappearing female filmmaker but untangles the complicated relationship among gender, work culture, and business within modern industrial organizations. In the early 1910s, the film industry followed a theatrical model, fostering an egalitarian work culture in which everyone—male and female—helped behind the scenes in a variety of jobs. In this culture women thrived in powerful, creative roles, especially as writers, directors, and producers. By the end of that decade, however, mushrooming star salaries and skyrocketing movie budgets prompted the creation of the studio system. As the movie industry remade itself in the image of a modern American business, the masculinization of filmmaking took root.

We read part IV “Emerging Camerawomen,” in the book Women Behind the Camera. We will also watch the companion documentary, “Women Behind the Camera.” This section of the book interviewed several contemporary camera women and asked them about their experiences of working in a male dominated industry. These women included: Sabrina Simmons, Karen Williams Kane, Sandy Butler, and Alicia Sehring.

We also read the widely touted article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” by Laura Mulvey. She was the one that popularized the idea of the “male gaze.” Be sure to be ready to discuss the assigned readings in class, as well as your latest work on your websites. You can post your project summaries in the comment section below.