Teaching a Multimedia Storytelling Class

With Interactive Documentary Production on hold for this semester, I am teaching Multimedia Storytelling instead. Multimedia Storytelling focuses on traditional forms of media production. My focus for the course is issue-based, nonfiction storytelling.

In the first couple weeks of the class, students chose a social issue to work with throughout the semester. A sampling of the topics they chose includes the farm crisis, sex education, mental health, sports, healthcare, inflation, climate change, disability rights, policing, and unionizing.

After doing some background work on their topic, students next will be developing four multimedia projects for that topic.

The first project will not surprise frequent readers of this blog: a 2-5 minute documentary short in the style of their choosing. The short documentary must include a minimum of three interviews and all student-created B roll. No archival materials will be allowed for this assignment. We will be screening several Op-Docs and other short documentaries as models to consider for their own work.

The second project is a podcast. Too many podcasts begin with grand ambitions only to have one episode available on Apple or Stitcher. We will go through the process of developing the podcast, including mapping episodes, creating marketing materials, and creating boilerplate materials. Each student then will create one 30-minute episode working with at least one other person.

Nina Gelden Seavey’s podcast My Fugitive will serve as the model for the course. Seavey did a masterclass on multimedia storytelling for Docs in Progress a bit back that helped with thinking through the issues in podcast development. In the Dark from American Public Media will serve as another example with its season 1 focus on the Jacob Wetterling case.

The third project is an interactive component, which too often is overlooked in multimedia production. Using outtakes and extra materials from their short documentary, students will create an extra layer or two to the original story. YouTube cards will serve as the interactive tool for this assignment.

The fourth project is a small website showcasing not only the film, podcast, and interactive piece, but also their stake with the issue that they chose for the class projects. The website will need to frame their media productions, their issue, and their development with it in a cohesive way.

There are several smaller assignments throughout the semester. They will be engaging with a media framing assignment and a social listening assignment about their issue. A couple assignments introduce camera work, and a couple introduce audio work. Running throughout are weekly reflections on how everything is going.

My overall goal is that they learn how to think about story as part of becoming an expert in a subject, as part of making audio and video, and as part of marketing those multimedia materials.