CampusDoc is a highly selective 10 week honors program at the Utrecht School of Journalism in The Netherlands, the oldest journalism school in Europe. CampusDoc started as an answer to the needs of talented video journalism students who want to delve deeper into stories they care about as well as further develop their film and storytelling skills beyond what is required in standard broadcast journalism.
Our goals are ambitious and the course is an intense pressure-cooker period of long hours and demanding deadlines. CampusDoc covers all aspects of the pre-production, production, post-production and distribution phases and in that sense we are unique among other documentary programs in that we combine hands-on coaching and theories on film analysis and script-writing with tutorials from editors, researchers, filmmakers, as well as producers, entertainment lawyers and distributors. The goal is for participants to get their work seen and go on to make new work long after they have completed CampusDoc.
Professional Attitude – the course aims to engender in participants the motivation and social and mental skills necessary to be successful as an independent documentary filmmaker.
Professional Work – participants must deliver work equal to industry standards for regional, national or international distribution. A production is successful only when an external party is prepared to show or broadcast the work.
Innovation – participants are producing not for a grade but for the market. They need to pitch, research, finance, and produce their documentaries on their own with the goal of (international) distribution. During the course, they learn and try-out innovative approaches to financing, promotion and distribution.
International Perspective – since 2010 Campus Doc has partnered with Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Students from CUNY and from CampusDoc have worked together and collaborated on various projects. The CampusDoc group travels to New York City every February for two weeks of classes at the Hunter College Film & Media Department and The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. In addition to attending special classes on film theory, editing, lighting and film distribution, they also work for hyper-local news sites with the goal of publishing short video pieces in the North American ‘community journalism’ tradition. While in New York, CampusDoc students also visit major media organizations, small media start-ups and distributors. The goal is to broaden their horizons and their knowledge of the market outside of Europe. Hunter College and The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism are global institutions with exceptional students from all over the world. CampusDoc is bilingual, taught in Dutch and English with English-language literature and tutorials from Dutch and international professionals. Participants are required to think and act globally from Day 1.
Multi-platform storytelling “One topic, Three Angles”! At the end of CampusDoc, participants will have produced a 10 minute audio story, an interactive web feature and a 25 minute video documentary. We encourage a multi-platform approach to storytelling in which elements of the central story that are more appropriate for audio wind-up as such and are not discarded, and the elements of the story that are most effective in a written (and linked form) are also simultaneously published alongside the video piece.
So, while the focus of CampusDoc is on video, students are required to produce for more than one medium and in doing so, they create an effective strategy for the complementary promotion of their work in different media: students can for example create a radio documentary that touches upon a story angle not pursued in their video documentary, but that will however entice a listener to learn more about the story and watch the video.
Our approach is different than film academies and artistic documentary schools: we emphasize the journalistic qualities of the work rather than de-emphasize them in favor of a more cinematic feel.
We demand films that achieve a harmonious balance between style and substance. We believe that storytelling approaches that are grounded in journalism, yet borrow from tried and true Hollywood methods of creating dramatic tension and release will prove to be incredibly marketable. There is a growing hunger for fact-based films that –in addition to being stylistically attractive- are also diligent in their adherence to well-researched truth.
Truth is something more than facts and figures (though these need to be spot-on as well.) What we mean by truth is: the underlying truth of the story, the deeper meaning. So in addition to attractive or interesting characters, in addition to the element of surprise, in addition to active visuals, a successful CampusDoc documentary needs to meet the following criteria:
Originality: Some of the best stories are variations on universal stories that have been told over and over again in many different forms and yet do not lose their appeal. However, that does not excuse the storyteller from creating an original visual style or an original approach to telling the story.
Technical perfection: is the editing fluid and do the audio and video enhance the story or at least not distract from the story?
Narrative layers: does the story have multiple layers that interact with one another in a cohesive and rich manner?
Social relevancy: Does the story point to a deeper truth or call attention to a relevant societal problem? If the answer to this question is ‘no’ than there are no characters quirky, kooky and interesting enough to warrant the time and resources spent on making the story and the time and resources spent on watching it. This is the core of a journalistic approach to video storytelling.
If the story lives-up to these criteria than it is not only good film; it’s good journalism, which is what we aim to achieve with Campus Doc.