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The curriculum is represented in table form, below. A core sequence of four required Production courses is supported by two required Documentary Studies courses, a Project Development Seminar, and a Master's Project, to be completed by the end of a student's sixth term. A course in Research Methods, an Interdisciplinary Elective, and a Theory Elective round out the curricular structure. 

The requirement for the MFA degree is 18 course units over a period of six semesters and the completion of a Master's Project/Thesis Production.

Course Schedule


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

DM8215: Fundamentals of Media I

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

2 Credits


One FCAD Elective (choices differ each year):

CD8310:  Topics in Cross Cultural Communication

The term cross-cultural competence denotes a vast complex of competencies, which educators, politicians and business leaders around the world have identified as one of the most crucial of the 21st century. The purpose of this course will be to foster such "competence" through a wide-ranging examination of the major social issues that affect communication across national and cultural boundaries. 1 Credit

CD8320:  Media Language: Forms, Approaches

This interdisciplinary course will investigate both common elements (visual and auditory narratives, methods of presentation/distribution, cultural roles) and specific attributes (individual characteristics and technologies) of contemporary media forms. Key developments in the evolution of media types and media languages will be explored in the larger context of understanding critical and theoretical issues associated with these forms and languages. 1 Credit

CD8330:  Audiences and the Public

This course will begin with the work of Jurgen Habermas and his influential notion that "the public" is not something that can be taken for granted, but a very specific historical development that first emerged in the 17th century in the bourgeois societies of Western Europe. The course will examine how the idea of "the public" or "the audience" has taken shape at different times; for example, the "imagined communities; that are the foundations of modern nations could not have taken shape in the absence of mass media. Different conceptions of the audience that arise from the different disciplines offered across the Faculty of Communication & Design will be examined. 1 Credit

CD8340:  Media Writing: Critical and Narrative Forms

This course will explore issues of form, expression and viewpoint in writing for contemporary visual arts and media. The emphasis will be on essays and critical studies, but writing of summaries, proposals and analyses will also be covered. Traditions of literary and arts criticism form a basis for study of contemporary writing practices for both print and screen-based media.  1 Credit

CD8350:  Socially Engaged Media

Bringing together masters students in Social Work and Documentary Media, this research/creation seminar explores socially engaged practices which privilege collaboration and social interaction in an interdisciplinary dialogue. These practices adopt and borrow from such disciplines as pedagogy, theatre, ethnography, anthropology, art and social work. Through praxis we will explore common  methodological problems faced by researchers and practitioners in relation to their subjects and communities. 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:  Research Methods

Students will be introduced to the theories, methodologies and methods that take into account creative, humanities-based and social scientific perspectives. A second goal of the course will be to familiarize students with the research and information gathering process, with the use of the library and library resources, electronic and online research, and creative and unusual research strategies. The third goal is to provide an introduction to the art of project design and the writing of proposals.

1 Credit


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

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 project. Antirequisite: DM8106

2 Credits


DM8235:  Master’s Project Production I

This is the first in two sequential courses focused on the production phase of the final Milestone requirement in the MFA, the Major Research Project. Antirequisite: DM8901

2 Credits

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.  1 Credit

Advanced Theory Elective (choices differ each year)

DM8301: Advanced Topics in the History of Documentary

The history of documentary can be understood entirely 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 historical study of the evolution of documentary’s truth claims from the 1890’s to the present day. Informing this historical study 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 the 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. 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

Building on the premise explored in the course described immediately above, 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

DM8236:  Master’s Project Production II

This is the production phase of the final course requirement in the MFA curriculum, the Master’s Project.  2 Credits

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.  1 Credit.