Documentaries have long been an incredible way for reporters to dig deep into complex issues and world events, but their lengthy and investigative nature makes it difficult to study in one college course. But that's a challenge Reynolds School of Journalism professor Kari Barber is willing to take on. This spring students at the Reynolds School of Journalism will take a semester to create a documentary film and submit their work to film festivals.
Professor Kari Barber, an award-winning filmmaker herself, will guide students through the entire process; from research and pre-production, to filming and editing and finally distribution.
Barber worked as an international journalist before she transitioned into documentary work. While she was working in Africa, Barber met someone doing documentaries for Frontline and realized she could do deeper and more meaningful stories through that medium.
"I was working as a journalist overseas, in West Africa, and had already changed from working in day-to-day journalism to doing feature stories and more investigative work," Barber said. "I was attracted to [documentary filmmaking] because my ultimate goal was always to get closer to the truth."
Barber is currently working on "Struggle & Hope" a documentary about all-black towns in Oklahoma. "Struggle & Hope" is being developed with the support of Independent Television Service (ITVS) with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). ITVS is the leading documentary film funder and distributor for public media.
Students will have just one semester to pull together everything for a short documentary. Barber says the time crunch is the most challenging aspect of teaching the course, admitting that with such a short time frame it can become a sprint.
In order to ease the time crunch and encourage a collaborative atmosphere, students have the option to work in teams. Barber says she tries to pull together groups with complementary skills. Video skills are not a prerequisite for this course and it's not just for journalism students. It does fill up quickly, so registering as soon as possible is recommended. According to Barber with such a tight timeline and such high stakes, students really put their all into the class.
"It brings out some of the most talented and interesting students. It brings them together. That's exciting for me to work with these students," Barber said. "People put so much work and put their hearts into it that I want to do the same."
For more information on Kari Barber and next semester's documentary class visit journalism.unr.edu.