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Documentary Media (MFA)

Overview

Housed in Ryerson’s School of Image Arts, the Master of Fine Arts in Documentary Media brings together existing traditions of documentary with emerging practices. Innovative in approach, the program offers students the possibility of working in film, photography and/or new media. Exploring a range of subject matter, students’ projects may take the form of narrative films, print-based and interactive photographic books, web or multi-platform documentaries and/or gallery-based installations.

Our graduates may be found in diverse occupations including film and television production companies, arts administration, and freelance careers as filmmakers, photographers and new media producers. Other graduates have pursued studies at the PhD level and careers in education.

Degree awarded: MFA

Administered by: Faculty of Communication & Design

Documentary Media graduate program website

PDF fileDocumentary Media graduate program calendar 2020-21

Curriculum

Course Code Degree Requirements: Master of Fine Arts Credits

 

Major Research Project

Milestone

DM8102

Documentary Studies I

1

DM8103

Documentary Studies II

1

DM8108

Documentary Research Methods

1

DM8215

Fundamentals of Media I

2

DM8216

Fundamentals of Media II

2

DM8225

Master’s Project Development I

2

DM8226

Master’s Project Development II

2

DM8235

Master’s Project Production I

2

DM8236

Master’s Project Production II

2

DM8905

Master Class Seminar

1

 

One Advanced Theory elective

1

 

One Communication & Design elective

1

Electives

Course code Course name Credits

 

Advanced Theory

 

DM8301

Adv Topics in Documentary Media

1

DM8302

Cult of Avt Grde Mdrns Discnts

1

DM8303

Hist/Historiography: Vis Arts

1

DM8304

Dig Media: Theoertical Framewrk

1

DM8305

Dbs, Arcs, Virt Exprnce of Art

1

DM8306

Studies in Culture, Perception

1

DM8307

Representational Media

1

DM8308

Activist and Social Change Documentary

1

DM8309

Directed Studies: Advanced Theory

1

 

Communication & Design

 

CD8310

Topics in Cross-Cultural Comm

1

CD8320

Media Langs: Forms & Apprches

1

CD8330

Audiences and the Public

1

CD8340

Media Writing: Critical & Narrative Forms

1

CD8350

Socially Engaged Media

1

CD8351

Documentary as Oppositional Practice

1

Master’s Project
The master’s project milestone is the development and preparation of a visual project in documentary form. It may be presented in photographic, film, digital video or digital interactive format. It must demonstrate professional competence in the chosen medium/format, must be produced under the student’s sole creative control in consultation with faculty advisors, and must be accompanied by a written paper, which provides a project synopsis and critical analysis. Students also prepare a brief talk on their project. This is a “Milestone”. Pass/Fail.

DM8102 Documentary Studies I
The first in a two-course sequence in the traditions, methods and applications of documentary forms, this course will instruct students in the fundamental principles of authorship and creation of documentary artifacts. Emphasis will be placed on the history of the documentary approach, applied subject research, the development of structure, and image capture techniques and applications. The course will be supplemented with a required series of screenings, exhibitions and visiting artist lectures; these activities will provide a social and cultural context for understanding the many roles undertaken or assumed by documentary media in defining the present era. 1 Credit

DM8103 Documentary Studies II
This is the second course in a two-course sequence in which students gain an understanding of the traditions, methods, strategies and theories of documentary media. Recent theoretical debates and critical writing on documentary media will be used to contextualize documentary practice and to open questions concerning documentary truth and meaning; documentary disclosure and doubt; representation and reality; the ethical treatment of subjects and the emergence of new media forms. The screenings, exhibitions and lectures associated with Documentary Studies I will continue into the second term of the program as a requirement for this course. 1 Credit

DM8108 Documentary Research Methods
Students are introduced to the research methods used in documentary practices such as the interview, sensory ethnography, and Indigenous research methodologies. The course familiarizes students with the research and information gathering process, with the use of the library and the archive, online research, and creative research strategies. The course also provides an introduction to project design and the writing of research proposals.
1 Credit

DM8215 Fundamentals of Media I
This is a first in a series of production courses designed to overview the fundamental elements of visual media. The emphasis is on creating a relationship between formal and compositional elements of images and their content.
Theoretical ideas are placed against practical context of production methods and techniques including still image making, motion picture, and new media approaches. Antirequisite: DM8105 2 Credits

DM8216 Fundamentals of Media II
This course will continue with an overview of the fundamental tools of image making at an intermediate level. The relationships between documentary, representation, and construction are explored further and include a refinement of methods and techniques introduced in the first production course. Antirequisite: DM8104. 2 Credits

DM8225 Master’s Project Development I
This course is the first in a sequence of seminars designed to assist students in conceiving, articulating and producing their final projects. The course will explore documentary practice in relation to student project objectives, focusing on the principal stages in documentary production, including: planning, research, timelines, budgets, shooting, sequencing, editing and finishing. Critical, creative and production strategies will be examined in a variety of production contexts. Antirequisite: DM8101 Pass/Fail. 2 Credits

DM8226 Master’s Project Development II
This is an advanced production course that focuses on specific methods and techniques of editing images, motion picture, sound, or interactive experimental approaches in contemporary documentary-based practice. Various production and post-production strategies are reviewed. This is a hands-on course designed to prepare for graduate fieldwork and production of the MFA final project. Antirequisite: DM8106. Pass/Fail. 2 Credits

DM8235 Master’s Project Production I
This is the first of two sequential courses focused on the production phase of the final Milestone requirement in the MFA, the Major Research Project. Antirequisite: DM8901. Pass/Fail. 2 Credits

DM8236 Master’s Project Production II
This is the production phase of the final course requirement in the MFA curriculum, the Master’s Project. Pass/Fail. 2 Credits.

DM8301 Advanced Topics in Documentary Media
Documentary work can be understood in terms of an aesthetic and philosophical engagement with the ever- changing epistemological status of the form itself. What started out as a response to fiction or an adjunct to the dominant form now seems to have merged, in the audience’s eyes at least, into some sort of hybrid, postmodern comment on reality. This course will undertake a study of documentary’s truth claims in the 21st century. Informing this survey of contemporary works will be the seminal theoretical works that have mapped out the precarious philosophical terrain the form insists on cultivating. 1 Credit

DM8302 The Culture of Avant-Garde: Modernity's Discontents
This course explores the discontent that members of vanguard artistic movements of the 20th century harbored relative to the culture of modernity, and examines the different forms that this discontent (or protest) assumed in Futurism, Dada, Surrealism, Lettrism and Situationism. The course examines both key documents in cultural theory and the manifestos issued by various groups, and is concerned particularly with artists who attempted to forge a link between political revolution and a revolution in consciousness. The role the cinema played in all these artistic movements is given special consideration, as is the re- contextualization of this work as a document of its own culture and time. Antirequisite CC8983. 1 Credit

DM8303 History and Historiography: Critical Studies in the Visual Arts
A directed reading, seminar course examining recent developments in historical and critical studies across all media, with an emphasis on investigating developments in the fields of cultural studies which utilize contemporary visual media as primary source material. The ever-expanding literature related to documentary forms and practices, as well as the changing historical roles of these forms, will be another essential subject of investigation. 1 Credit

DM8304 Digital Media: Towards a Theoretical Framework
As digital media evolve, critical theory struggles to either keep pace or develop unifying-field theoretical constructs. This course looks at critical writings on digital media, with a particular focus on publications and on-line sources from the last decade. Relations between developments in critical theory and the rapid evolution of the technologies of digital media are actively tracked throughout the course; as are ways in which digital media aggregate to form new collections of digital documents. 1 Credit

DM8305 Databases, Archives and the Virtual Experience of Art
Visual information takes on different forms in the digital realm, and multifaceted databases accumulate more and more of this information. Our perceptual and social understandings of images -- even our cultural identities and memories -- are increasingly stored in systems through which only reproductions and virtual images can be retrieved. This course examines the larger implications of this phenomenon for image makers as well as for societies and cultures. 1 Credit

DM8306 Enabling Technologies and the Illusions of Knowledge: Studies in Culture and Perception
This course looks at ways in which enabling technologies increase the malleability of visual records and visual documents. Image politics, culture wars and new forms of propaganda are critically examined in this context, as are these issues in relation to the larger issues of accuracy in representation and the verifiability of virtual documents. 1 Credit

DM8307 Mirror, Prosthesis, Storage Device: Representational Media and Epistemologies
What are media and how do they shape and contain knowledge? This course critically engages with a history of ideas about the nature of the document. Students will work through a body of philosophical and theoretical writings from the ancient and contemporary worlds that consider media as mirror to nature, as prostheses or extension of the human body, as storage device, and as communication system, in conjunction with examples drawn from art, literature, photography, film, and new media. 1 Credit

DM8308 Activist and Social Change Documentary
A historical, textual, and thematic look at the culture and philosophy of activist and social change documentary, via a range of genres and approaches – ethnographic, essay-style, social realist, poetic, experimental, labour, feminist, and others. We will look critically at early forms of social realism, ethnography and verite and the emergence of self- reflexive forms of political documentary. The contemporary rise in popularity of political documentary, and its migration to digital platforms will also be examined. 1 Credit

DM8309 Directed Studies: Advanced Theory
1 Individual directed study of subject areas in Documentary Studies: Advanced Theory not addressed in the current curriculum will be carried out under the supervision of a faculty member. A program of supervised, advanced study related to the student’s area of concentration will be negotiated on an individual basis with the supervising faculty member. 1 Credit

DM8310 Directed Studies: Communication and Design
Individual directed study of subject areas in Documentary Studies: Communication & Design not addressed in the current curriculum will be carried out under the supervision of a faculty member. A program of supervised, advanced study related to the student’s area of concentration will be negotiated on an individual basis with the supervising faculty member. 1 Credit

DM8905 Master Class Seminar
The Master Class Seminar provides students with an opportunity to learn from outstanding professionals working in documentary media including film, new media and photography. Each class features one guest who brings their personal experience into an intimate, hands-on discussion on subjects such as photography, cinematography, directing, editing, digital imaging and interactive and installation work. Pass/Fail 1 Credit

Communication and Design Electives
see COMMUNICATION AND DESIGN SECTION