Intensive Introduction to Documentary Studies: Ethics and Practice (ONLINE)


This intensive, weeklong class is designed for distance students who are pursuing the Certificate in Documentary Arts and fulfills their introductory course requirement, but it is also ideal for any student wishing to get a grasp of documentary work and practice. This course will feature a variety of guest speakers, including photographers, filmmakers, writers, and audio producers. We emphasize not only methodologies but also philosophies and ethics of fieldwork in different settings. Students will explore examples of documentary work, and at the final meeting will present project proposals of their own. These proposals may be the beginning of long-term documentary initiatives or simply a means to help decide on the direction of a future project. (38 hours)

Michelle Lanier is the newly appointed director of the N.C. Division of State Historic Sites and Properties. She was formerly the acting director of North Carolina’s African American Heritage Commission and Curator of Multicultural Initiatives with North Carolina’s State Historic Sites. She has been an instructor at CDS since 2000. She uses her background as an oral historian and folklorist to connect communities around personal narratives and cultural expression. She has traveled to Panama and Ghana to document African Diaspora funerary traditions, and her ethnographic work in a South Carolina Gullah community led to her role as a liaison to the Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. Growing up in a family that includes veterans of five American wars has inspired her current work, training students to collect veterans’ narratives.

Joy Salyers is a folklorist and a professional adviser on ethical and effective practice for individuals, organizations, and projects. She helps clients place an honest and compassionate assessment of themselves into the context of the systems within which they work. Salyers is also a writer, performer, and lecturer. She serves on advisory groups for several current documentary projects, and has taught in CDS’s continuing education programs for more than a decade. See

Additional information:

This course will be held using Zoom. The instructor will send further instructions for class access and equipment needed closer to the start date. 

Helpful links for students:

Join a Zoom meeting:

Meeting controls :

Please keep in mind that, while students need to be available during the listed course times, some of that time will be devoted to working on individual projects. Your instructor will communicate with you about the class schedule and the times that the class will convene online as a group as well as the times that will be spent working on your own..

Section A

Taught by Michelle Lanier

Sunday, July 26: 5 p.m.–9 p.m.

Monday–Thursday, July 27–30: 9 a.m.–4 p.m.

Friday, July 31: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.

Section B

Taught by Joy Salyers

Sunday, August 2: 5 p.m.–9 p.m.

Monday–Thursday, August 3–6: 9 a.m.–4 p.m.

Friday, August 7: 9 a.m.–5 p.m.


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