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Long-Form Non-Fiction Narrative


This capstone course focuses on production of a signature final project in the graduate program. It’s designed for students who intend to work in magazines (print and online) and documentary/long-form video (TV and online). Instructors emphasize the value of immersion reporting, investigative techniques, sustained narrative, and feature storytelling. Since documentary filmmakers, writers, and interactive producers will be working side-by-side, we expect that you’ll deepen your understanding of your own preferred medium while simultaneously enriching your appreciation of what it would take to complete a major project in other media.

Students in the documentary cohort will create 10-15 minute documentary films. They’ll work in pairs and will be teamed with writers pursuing feature stories in the same topic area. They’ll research and write treatments, report intensively, shoot and edit a film in a topic of their choosing. Emphasis is put on the exploration of character, conflict, drama and surprise in sustained narratives. In the past, documentaries created in this course have gone on to win National College Emmys, Press Association Awards and premiere at major film festivals like Cannes and Tribeca. Many have premiered on PBS and in online outlets like The Atlantic, Time, National Geographic, Fusion, and Al Jazeera.

Students aimed at magazine work in print or online will produce a 4,000-word major feature story or its equivalent. Working with David Standish, they will immerse themselves with a key subject or subjects, learn to interview for sustained narrative, thread the ethical questions which inevitably arise in such projects, frame a substantive story, locate the right outlet, and submit work for publication.

We will also be spending a bit of time considering how to write a nonfiction book as well. In the past, the students have been interested in that, and a successful long form article can be a chapter in a nonfiction book, and can lead to a book contract.

Work required for the capstone, including extensive reporting, is equivalent to 30-35 hours/week. (For those enrolled here, and in the additional Knight Laboratory unit) the likely call on time will be about 40 hours/week. The final project pursed in the course is intended to serve as an anchor for your resume as you graduate, bringing all the skills you’ve learned over 12-months to bear. Therefore, we don’t recommend that students engaged in this capstone take other courses during this quarter which require intensive reporting or research.