Amidst the fun and beauty of a Montana July, I was fortunate enough to spend two full weeks in a documentary filmmaking workshop presented by the Rocky Mountain School of Photography and the Big Sky Film Institute. The workshop featured two wonderful guest instructors, each accomplished in the world of documentary film. Meagan O’Hara, whose powerful 2014 film In Country about Vietnam War re-enactments has been screened at many festivals, including at the 2015 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival led the first week of the workshop. Then in the second week, Laura Green, whose film Disaster screened at the 2012 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, came and led the group through the editing and post production process. Meagan and Laura are both graduates of the Documentary Film and Video Program at Stanford University, and both brought great experience and expertise to the workshop. Meagan focused on planning, and production. She taught the essentials of lighting, exposure, focus, audio, interviewing, and more. Laura brought her talents in editing and post production. Her time with the group enabled us to make difficult decisions about constructing film narrative, and produce a polished, presentable film. Each participant in the workshop produced their own short documentary, and at the end of the two weeks, all the films were screened at the Roxy Theater here in Missoula.

For my film, I decided to do a portrait of a local ceramic artist whose work I admire. Shalene Valenzuela is the Executive Director of the Clay Studio of Missoula, and a fascinating artist. Here’s my final film.

Incidentally, it is worth mention that this workshop is being offered again in 2017, according to the Rocky Mountain School of Photography website. The dates this year are are June 11 – June 23, 2017, and apparently both Meagan and Laura are coming back. If you have any aspirations for digital documentary filmmaking, I highly recommend this workshop. There are several testimonials on the site (including one from me) which elaborate on what I’ve written here.