New Continuing Ed Courses Open the Door to Documentary Filmmaking (Sept. 8, 2005)

Posted: September 8, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Colleen Kearney Rich

Filmmaker Amy Gerber has always known what she wanted to be when she grew up. She began making movies using her family’s Super 8 movie camera at 12 and had won her first national award—from Lucasfilm Ltd.—by 13. But after graduating from a local high school, she ran into difficulties when choosing a university.

She just couldn’t find a good place in Virginia to pursue her film studies. And making sure that doesn’t happen to others is part of what is driving her in the development of a series of documentary filmmaking workshops at Mason.

Gerber is teaching two intensive six-week workshops this fall on the Fairfax and Prince William Campuses, beginning Friday, that will take students through the rigors of producing a documentary film.

A screenwriting class taught by award-winning screenwriter and American Film Institute Fellow Douglas Scott Hessler will be offered in the spring. “This is a chance to learn from working filmmakers and screenwriters,” says Gerber. “Students can get a real sense of the documentary film world and how it works.”

“We live in a visual society. This is the way to express oneself,” says Gerber, who has produced and directed more than 30 documentaries and art films. “It’s about telling stories that are starting to vanish from the American landscape.” So far, those showing interest in the courses have been an eclectic group that includes psychologists, physicians and lawyers.

“These are professionals looking to expand their experience. They have stories to tell,” she says. “We have also had interest from younger people who are looking to try out the medium but don’t want to sign up for a whole degree program.”

Gerber is planning for these students to get more out of the workshop series than they would from a four-year program. She wants to provide opportunities for the students to show their films and teach them how to find an audience for their work.

Gerber is also teaching a second class this fall on the business of documentary filmmaking. “Many courses neglect telling students how to get their films out there. They don’t touch on the business of being an artist,” says Gerber who also teaches in the Film Studies program at Hollins University.

Gerber’s production company, FlatCoatFilms, LLC, recently finished the documentary feature “Public Memory,” named one of the most thoughtful and engaging documentaries by Cineaste Magazine. She has an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, School of Film/Video.

Screenings of the newly created documentary films are planned for October. For more information about courses and how to enroll, contact the Office of Continuing Professional Education at 703-993-3016 or visit its web site.

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