Crew Needed for Skate Park Doc

My name is Paulina Jimenez and I'm the Chair of the Villa Park Skatepark Committee (VPSC).

The Villa Park Skatepark Committee (VPSC) includes kids that are BMX bikers, skateboarders and rollerbladers, interested parents, school board members and several business people. Formed over three years ago, I decided to help the BMX bikers/skaters get organized after realizing the youth lacked political experience. Our current goal is to build a state of the art skate park in Villa Park, IL, but we constantly run into roadblocks with the Village.

I thought that it would be interesting to do a documentary of the making of the skate park, more like what goes behind the scenes…to show the things that people don't realize that are happening and what we are trying to do.

If you go to our website<> you can read more information about out history and our plan.

Please feel free to contact me at anytime at my cell 630-461-0084

Thank you,
Paulina Jimenez


If you’re familiar with the Documentary program at Columbia College Chicago, then you've probably seen, heard about, had as a sub, and or had as a teacher Anu. Born in New Delhi, India, she's had many roles on many films, both narrative and documentary. In addition to her teaching duties and involvement with Viva Doc, she continues to be a documentary filmmaker.

I spoke with Anu to grab her perspective on a number of topics and her humble beginnings in film.

Staygosh: I know that you from India to here (Chicago), but fill in the gap in between. How did your journey lead you to Chicago?

Anu: That's actually a pretty long story, so to shorten it, I got my undergraduate degree in mathematics, and while I was doing that I did a lot of social work, which was primary field research, and then I realized that I hated math, so I decided to go into journalism. Once I was a journalist I was writing feature stories, so essentially a lot more research, sometimes months of research for one story, and after a year and half I realized I wanted to put the stories on screen. So I did my masters in India in mass communication, and eventually applied for documentary MFA at Columbia College Chicago.

S: And here you are.

A: And here I am. One of the reasons I applied to Columbia was because I didn't really have a film background; it was more video/television. CCC was one of the few four-year programs where they start you from scratch.

S: Was it a gradual transition, to go from television to documentary?

A: No, it was actually pretty abrupt. I started my MA in 1999 (In India) and as part of that we did internships. I worked in Mumbai for television as producer, assistant producer and assistant director for games shows and quiz shows. (Laughs) It was the craziest thing ever! One of them was a word game show, a trivia show, and I realized that being AD (assistant director) meant writing out all the questions for the contestants and that was terrifying, I thought that wasn't my job, I thought my job would be more technical. I didn't really enjoy it that much. I also interned for day soaps. (*As in Soap Operas) and I didn't like that all. But my last internship was for a documentary production house, and what we did was the behind the scenes for The Indian International Film Festival in 2000, which was awesome. I was there for all the interviews conducted, and was also assistant editor.

S: How did teaching come about?

A: I've taught a lot before, except I was teaching math to high school students and English to students that came from lower economic backgrounds in India. My mom did that a lot, she still does that. India is different in that people have a lot of domestic help, and my mom would watch all these children from the neighborhood. I would get home and there would be eleven kids sitting studying; that’s what got me into teaching. Also there was a program that was started by the Indian government called “each one teach one” which was them trying to increase the literacy rate. Part of our high school graduation requirement was to teach a student who couldn't afford to go to school. In the end the kid learned something, so I think it worked out.

S: What could you say to someone who wants to gain experience in the documentary field?

A: For someone who is completely new to it, I would say to get on as many documentary shoots as possible and take on crew roles. So not just hanging out or following them around, but stepping up to the plate and saying ” Could I do sound?” even if it’s your first time. There will be people that will teach you the basics, and you can ask questions. So being involved is the best way to learn, especially for documentary.

It's really important for you as a documentary filmmaker to feel comfortable shooting and doing sound because you won't always find the perfect crew, and even if you do, there will be situations where your subject won't feel comfortable with a crew, so you need to feel comfortable as well, or you've lost an opportunity.

S: Now was that something you learned from the grad program, or something you found out?

A: I think the classes have changed since I was a grad student here. The documentary center, years ago, was very auteur based, you were making films by yourself. But now we’re promoting the idea of documentaries with collaboration, which is great. You don't need to be a one-person band. You don't have to do everything by yourself. You need to know how to work with people.

S: Do you feel Doc films have something that narratives don't?

A: Yes, I think fictional narratives and documentary narratives both have things that people like. You hear it all the time, “the suspension of disbelief”, where you can go into a movie and know it’s a movie and that's very freeing. But even yesterday I was talking to someone who said they wanted to make documentaries entertaining. So I don't think that fictional films are the only ones that can be entertaining. People gravitate towards documentaries because they’re activists or they’re looking for something that's real. Whether they do or not, I am not sure, but they have the illusion around them that they're more real.

S: Could you talk about the thesis films that you made?

A: My thesis film started off being about women boxers in India then began to focus on two women, two Muslim women boxers. One of them was the first Muslim women in India to ever take up boxing. I started to research and found an article on the BBC online and it was about the person who would become my main character. I tried tracking her down; it took me a few months. We shot in two locations, in Kolkata and Kerala. Sort of like Chicago and LA (*In terms of distance). And While I was there, that's when the Tsunami hit Kerala (*In 2004, A Tsunami hit southern India killing thousands). So by the second day of the boxing competition, a hundred people from the town we were filming in had died. It made me rethink what I was doing. “Ok, I'm making a film about boxers and people are dying, should I follow that story?” I don't think I am the type of documentary filmmaker that likes following misery. And the media was talking to all the family members of the people who had died, I couldn't see myself doing it (*Interviewing the victims) without being in a position to help in some way.

S: Now you'd talked about people's misery, do you feel thats a thread that is abused in documentaries?

A: I wouldn't say abused. I would love to go back and make a survivor story and follow a character through the situation and see where they were now. But being there for six days doing this boxing story and to take off on another story, that was not something I wanted to do.  Having worked as a journalist before that was what I was doing. It shouldn't be such a spur of the moment decision that you don't stop to think about why you’re following that story.

S: So that's a focal point for you, the “why”?

A: Yes.  It's really important for me as a filmmaker to know what my intentions are, because if I’m not clear on why I want to do it, it’s very hard to be passionate about it.

S: What's Viva Documentary about?

A: Viva Documentary is a student documentary organization at Columbia College Chicago. We've been around for over ten years. We host events, screen films and have panel discussions.

S: So it's a group that does a little bit more than just watching films?

A: Yes. Viva Documentary is a group that's a little more than just watching films. We like to watch films, but we like to make films. We like to get together and crew each others films. We'd love to bring in more filmmakers and talk to them about how they make films. One thing we're hoping to do this year is to reconnect with our alumni, specifically those who went through the documentary program and the doc center. We want to start up a mentorship program, and we're also trying to highlight our faculty. Columbia College has a lot of faculty members that make documentaries, so we'd like them to come in and talk to students. We're trying to create an environment where students can ask a lot more questions about what documentaries are and what making documentaries means. Even just the nitty gritty of 'How do you do this?' How to shoot, how to light an interview. We're trying to create an environment where students can feel comfortable asking those questions and then do it.

S: Can you talk about the ISDC?

A: The International Student Documentary Competition (ISDC) was founded by Russell Porter in 2003. I'm the coordinator for the ISDC and Viva Doc is hosting it.  This is our first year after a hiatus of five years, and we received fifty two entries from all over the world; Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Canada. S. Africa, Cuba and all over the United States.

S: That's a lot of mail.

A: That is a lot of mail. We did get a lot of queries about the competition, about entry fees and how they could send it. We charge twenty dollars per entry because Viva Doc has no budget. So the money that comes in is essentially the money we’re giving out as the prizes, and prizes are five hundred dollars for each category. We hosted a fundraiser in the spring and are going to host another one in the fall to make up the difference.

S: Going back to what you were saying about people giving you their films. That's drastically changed over the past 10 years, distributing a film or showing a film. Would you have thought that 10 years ago you'd be able to click a button and stream a movie?

A: Not at all. Ten years ago watching a documentary in a theater was hard enough. The last ten years have changed a lot. People have almost called this decade “The Documentary Decade” cause it did revolutionize a lot of ways that documentaries became mainstream. But within those 10 years the past four/two years have been amazing for distribution of documentaries. They've changed thanks to Netflix and other online sources. I was online last night and they have an amazing amount of documentaries. Those have definitely made it easier to watch documentaries. The one thing I'd like to see more of is short documentaries. * * * * *

Chevron Demands Access to Doc Filmmaker’s Footage, Could Have Chilling Effect on Documentary

Documentarian Joe Berlinger, the director of the documentary “Crude,” a film which chronicles the environmental devastation that petroleum companies like Chevron are wreaking in Ecuador, was subpoenaed by Chevron for access to more than 600 hours of footage.

In the story, which appears on, Berlinger says, “There is a lot at stake here…This is a financial burden for a documentarian to fight this fight. But if Chevron is successful in getting a journalist to turn over a work in process, it will have a chilling effect on this kind of documentary making in future.”

Berlinger also says what Chevron is trying to compel him to do is to violate pacts he made with members of tribes in Ecuador:

“When invited into extremely sensitive situations, there’s a level of trust-building that the filmmaker is going to be responsible with the story he’s telling, and not an expectation that dailies will be handed over to adversaries in litigation.”

Chevron claims that Berlinger may have “unwittingly captured on film other instances of improper collaboration between court experts and the plaintiffs’ representatives that would further demonstrate the illegitimate nature of the entire Lago Agrio trial.”

The Lago Agrio trial is the epic trial against Chevron that “30,000 Amazonian settlers and indigenous people, who call themselves Los Afectados—the Affected Ones” have been waging. It is the trial that is the primary focus of Berlinger's documentary.

For more on Berlinger's battle, click here.

Would You Like to Document Social Injustice?

Documenting Social Justice is being offered in the Spring 2010 semester.

This is a course that has been offered before and has been revamped. It has been updated so that students can produce media that employs media tools to create social change. 

The course description: 

Documenting Social Injustice* 
Social justice education is both a process and a goal and involves students who have a sense of their own agency as well as a sense of social responsibility toward others and society as a whole. Students become familiar with the range of diversity issues–race, ethnicity, gender, religion, class, etc.–through extensive readings and videos. Class tours several sites of ethnic art, activism, and social justice. Students work in teams on documenting their impressions and comparing the classroom with the experiential with help from experts in the field.

Postings on campus have pictures of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and iWeb icons. Below it says — 

-Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and blog to report on social injustices and LEARN how these modes help affect change. 

-LEARN about the history, aesthetics and production techniques of the media activist

-CREATE a photo essay, blog, website, and short video using WordPress, iWeb, Vimeo, Final Cut Studio, and YouTube to upload short media stories for a global audience

-ACQUIRE basic camera, sound, and lighting skills to create a 3 minute video for the web 

The only prerequisite you need is Culture, Race, and Media. But, if you are interested and are a documentary student and have not taken CRM, you may be able to contact the instructor and try to get in the class. 

There are eight spots left. Don't miss this great class being offered in the Spring.

New Doc Classes for the Fall!!!!

Check out the selection of new courses for the Documentary Program.

24 – 2806 Documentary Research
Comprehensive overview of documentary research and pragmatic documentary writing. Critically analyze and evaluate sources and evidence. Develop research protocols and methodology. Conduct primary research resulting in a working hypothesis and leading to a proposal premise. Apply legal and ethical elements to documentary preproduction and preparation.

24 – 2807 Documentary Storytelling
Begins with an overview of the relationships between story and discourse in narrative storytelling. Includes narrative voice and perspective, temporal and spacial arrangements of events and mutual influences between plot and character. These principles are then applied to documentary film. By studying excerpts from existing works, students develop an understanding of narrative approaches to documentary and apply that knowledge to a personal project they wish to develop.

24 – 3820 Topics in Documentary
This production course for advanced documentary students will study and engage in various subgenres of documentary filmmaking. Such topics have included Visualizing the Documentary, The Nature Film Documentary and Cinema Verite. Students may repeat this course as topics change.

This Fall
Sports Documentary
The Family and Home Movie

The following are one credit, two whole day (Friday and Saturday), nuts and bolts classes

24 – 2809 Documentary Production I: Basic Field Production
This intensive workshop gives you a solid grounding in basic documentary field production including a variety of hand-held camera moves and essential three point lighting techniques with minimal equipment. You will develop basic wired and wireless sound recording techniques.

Additional topics include set protocols and crew coordination strategies; checklists and preparation; logging and labeling.

24 – 2815 Documentary Production II
This intensive workshop gives you additional grounding in intermediate documentary field production in a variety of visual strategies, sophisticated three point lighting techniques with advanced equipment.

Additional topics include advanced sound recording techniques, one person crew strategies and production problem solving.

24 – 2811 Producing and Directing the Interview
This intensive course gives you a comprehensive advanced approach to producing and directing interviews in assorted scenarios and venues. You will prepare question banks based on pre-interviews and research. You will practice friendly, adversarial and investigative techniques.

Additional topics include booking, scheduling, visualizing the interview, crew communication, coordination and creative directing for specific styles. Ethics and legal aspects of the interview will be explored.

24 – 2812 The Interview: Lighting, Shooting and Sound Acquisition
This intensive course uses practical hands-on application; you will explore intermediate and advanced approaches to shooting, lighting and acquiring sound for both formal and alternative styles of on-camera interviews

8 Interview Tactics to Borrow From Oral History

At the suggestion of Don Smith, I went on a limb and am taking Oral History: The Art of the Interview during this, my last semester at Columbia. Don, one of the Documentary III instructors, said it'd be useful to learn about interviewing techniques from a different point of view.

I've learned a lot from Oral History (49-3672), taught by Dr Erin McCarthy, and I'd definitely recommend it to any documentary film students, although it's a pretty intensive class. Over the course of the semester, you learn about collecting audio or video personal narratives from (extra)ordinary people involved in history at the ground level, and then you conduct an interview of your own which gets put in an archive used by scholars on whatever the particular subject is (this semester it's anti-Apartheid activism in Chicago).

I thought I'd share some of the lessons I've learned about how to interview from an Oral History perspective, which, although not exactly the same as documentary purposes, are similar and certainly interesting.

* A good question hardly ever starts with “Did you…” because that often leads to a yes or no answer.

* If you are asking your subject to recall events in their life, do it in chronological order that it actually happened in: you want to guide them through history in a linear way.

* Save reflective questions– those asking them about how they feel about past events today– for the end of the interview. They'll have just been recalling the events for you and they'll be in a mode where they can offer judgement on them much better at that point.

* When interviewing somebody who has been interviewed several times before (i.e. politicians etc) and will likely have prepared or stale answers, oral historians will first open them up with a question or two about their childhood, to shake them out of their soundbite mode into true recall.

* Super broad questions (“how do you feel about racism?”) aren't good– oral historians usually try to ask questions that put a specific image in the interviewee's mind.

* Don't assume, lead or judge with your questions; allow the interviewee to choose how they want to answer them. In the same vein, don't give choices in your questions (i.e. “were you mad or sad when…”), let the interviewee tell you how they feel because they may feel pressured to choose one of your options even though that isn't how they really feel.

* Outline for your subject how the interview will work before you start if there are different categories of questions you plan on asking.

* Don't ask compound questions with multiple parts if you can avoid it because people will tend to only answer the last part because it's the part they'll remember. Feel free to break complicated questions into multiple questions.

Ask a Filmmaker: An Unfinished Dream

My thesis project, Untitled DREAM Act Film, is transitioning from casual pre-production to real pre-production. What does that mean? It means that it’s time to stop playing around and start working on this film. One way that I thought of to do this was to talk to someone who has done or is doing what I’m about to set out to do.

Margarita Reyes is a University of California Los Angeles student studying Chicano Studies. She’s collaborating with UCLA film minor, Andrea Ortega, on An Unfinished Dream, a social justice documentary following the lives of undocumented students in the California university system. She was kind enough to answer some of my questions.

MC – What drew you to the topic of the DREAM Act?

MR – Last year I met “B”, who, like myself, was a UCLA transfer student.
Several weeks into my first classes with her, I found out “B” was an
undocumented student and was not going to be able to pay for her tuition fees.
“B” did not choose to come to the United States as a 4-year-old. That decision was made for her.

“B” and I have shared our family histories and found that there
were many similarities. The only difference being that I was born in the United
States, and she was not. I don't feel like she should be treated as though
she is invisible because of her immigration status. She is one of the kindest,
most loyal, and hard working people I know. She is an academic overachiever, a volunteer and she is currently organizing other undocumented workers to form unions in her community.

I am proud to call her my friend and she has inspired me to produce this
documentary in order to tell her story.

AO – The DREAM students, as they have come to be called, attend school like other students but have to overcome an extraordinary amount of obstacles to accomplish their higher education. While the CA DREAM Act benefits a student whether he/she is a citizen or undocumented, the undocumented students show their commitment for education as they endure commuting for 2-3 hrs on bus to get to school, working three jobs to pay for college and on top of that not enjoying benefits that other students receive such as studying abroad, doing research or having a paid internship.

As a Mexican-American first generation female of a low-income family, I already struggle to pay for my university, but to see the DREAM students persevere despite not getting that financial aid that I need to pay for college, is an admirable quality when on top of that they are able to find a manner in which to advocate for themselves. Most of them are the valedictorians, class presidents and top students coming from their high schools who have so much potential and talent to offer our society, yet there is currently no outlet, because after all the hard work they place into acquiring their degrees they are still not allowed to give back to the community as they wish to.

I have found inspirations through students that with so much less than me have
made it to the university and are fighting for others who should not have to go
through what they went through. They have strengthened my resolve to
help those less fortunate and shown me how privileged I have been throughout my

MC – Why did you chose documentary to explore the topic?

MR – We chose documentary because we wanted to show the human face of the issue.
These are human beings, like you and I, who are experiencing an apartheid
situation. They should not be treated as second-class citizens. They are
amazing, overachieving, hard-working, upstanding citizens of the world who only
seek to contribute to the country they call home.

AO – A documentary can give a more organic perspective and it humanizes the issue by showing you reality. This documentary is being made with care so that you can see the true identity of undocumented students and recognize them as the neighbors and friends you have always known as opposed to the stereotyped representation you may hear or read about in newspapers and such. There are just so many layers and angles in the lives of these students that only a documentary can capture.

We want the audience to truly understand and see how dedicated these students are to getting their higher education and just how hard they work to accomplish it. Truly it is the students creating the story and the documentary the tool to which the rest of the world is able to engage in that story. That is what is so great about documentaries is their ability to tell reality to a mass audience in an enticing manner.

MC – How have you dealt with any legal obstacles that have risen around the
status of the characters in your film?

MR – Here’s the catch, when a student goes to a California university or college
they sign a legal document, an affidavit, which says they will adjust their
status as soon as they are eligible. Most of our students are in the process of
adjusting their legal status. They are reporting to immigration; they are going
to court and spending thousands to become legal in this country.

AO – We have taken the utmost care with protecting the students as we wanted them to feel comfortable to open up, despite having to be underground or invisible most of the time because of their status.

MC – Did you have difficulty gaining access to the subjects of your film?

MR – Yes, it was a long and sensitive process. We have grown to love them. They
are not just subjects to us. They are a part of our family. Being such a
sensitive issue with serious repercussions for them, I know that they trust us
with their stories. We will not let them down or allow anyone to hurt them in
any way.

AO – We are dealing with a delicate issue and I started getting involved in the issue only a little before we started the documentary. The truth is that since they are very aware of their rights and risks we did have to show that we understood the issue and had no intention of misinterpreting the material they gave us. Since then, however, I have become an advocate for their situation myself because through filming this documentary I learned of the importance and significance of this cause.

MC – What is your target audience?

MR – Our target demographic is 14-35 years of age. We realize the importance of
teaching our youth that there are others like themselves who are struggling to
attain higher education. Their obstacles far surpass what the “normal”
American student in high school and college experiences.

We hope to help the momentum of the Federal Dream Act campaign for 2009. So
please go to for production updates and/or you can go
to for constant news and events in regard to Dream Act 2009.

The Scoop on Viva Doc Small Groups

VivaDocsters, doc lovers, filmmakers, Columbia students, staff, faculty and alumni:
VivaDoc is thrilled to announce the formation of Small Groups for people interested in making, screening, and talking about docs within the context of small groups. Whether you’re looking for support in completing your own project, want to collaborate on making a group doc, or are looking to watch docs with other doc lovers, we probably have a group for you!

Production Groups (4-5 members)

Finishing Group: This group is designed for filmmakers with principal photography completed on a documentary. Group will focus on the post-production process, providing feedback with cuts, and looking at press packets, festivals and distribution.

Idea Generation: Want to talk about ideas for documentaries? This group will focus on brainstorming and pre-production. The group could continue into the development stage with treatments, outlines, and so forth, but could also just be an idea-generatin’ good time.

The Three Ps (Pre-Pro/Production/Post): This group is for anyone with a documentary that they are working on in any stage. It will focus on looking at members’ work (written and moving) and encouraging one another through feedback. Members may bring in ideas, loglines, proposals, treatments, budgets, scripts, rushes, rough cuts, i.e., the whole works!

Let’s Make A Doc! This group will take on the challenge of making a doc together. If you’re not currently enrolled in a doc class, or are looking to collaborate on a new project, this could be the group for you!

Screening Groups (4-10 members)

Short Docs Screening Group: This is a chance to watch one, two, or several short documentaries with a small group of people and enjoy discussion of the films. Members may be willing to do a little research on a film and present it, or the filmmaker, to the group. Short Docs could include films in the in-between 60 min. length.

Feature Docs Screening Group: Here is an opportunity to screen and discuss longer works with a group of doc lovers: Bring a list of docs you’d love to see to the first meeting and brainstorm your ideal screening list! Feature Docs could include films in the in-between 60 min. length.

Obscure Docs Screening Group: Do you love the rarest, weirdest, least-heard-of docs ever? This is the screening group for you. Be prepared for strangeness.

Note: Depending on interest, screening groups may be consolidated. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let us know!

How, When, Where?

Email VivaDoc at with the group(s) you are interested in, your Spring schedule (let us know the blocks when you can’t meet), and your name, phone number and preferred email address. We will connect you with your group and send guidelines for getting started!

Small groups will run in conjunction with the Spring Semester (beginning in mid-January) and will meet every two weeks, unless the group decides otherwise. Current and former Columbia students, staff and faculty are welcome to join.

How did your registration process go? Doc students weigh in

Ah, registration for classes next semester. Columbia students’ experiences range from fun to stressful, and that’s when Oasis is up and working properly, which isn’t often. Here are what some docsters had to say about their experience this year:

Viva Docster Mary H. said: “I think my registration process went well… I can’t really say since as a second semester Grad student we don’t have any choices on what classes we want to take. We are locked in to all are classes for the first year and a half of school. So if anything my registration process was flawless and stress free!”

Viva Doctster Michael W. said: “Overall, registration went well. I enrolled in Doc 2 and Producing the doc. I wish Visualizing the Doc was offered in the Spring. I think that class is probably better taken before rather than after Doc 2. Also, I wish History of the Doc wasn’t in between Doc 2 and Producing the Doc on Wednesday. If I signed up for all three I think my brain would be so fried by the end of the day I wouldn’t be getting my money’s worth. ”

Viva Docster Adora W-E. said: “It went pretty badly. Since the school enacted this new ‘pay all before you register’ policy, I’ve struggled to register in time. My loan check bounced because my bank didn’t tell me I needed two signatures. I had to get a legal copy of the check, send it to my parents, get them to sign it, and then send it back. It took a week for the check to clear, and so by the time I registered for classes, way after my sign-up date, I lost spots in a bunch of classes. Ugh!”

Viva Docster Karl G. said: “My registration experience this semester was super easy. I had a hold on my account but I got it removed well before my registration time because I checked it early. I also picked out a rough schedule before my registration time. By doing so I was able to get a seat in all the classes that I wanted! Amazing how a little pre-planning can make things so much easier.”

Did you have trouble getting into the documentary classes you wanted to sign up for? Did everything go flawlessly? Please feel free to leave a comment on how your documentary registration process went for spring 2009 zithromaxpaxil cr online pharmacy

Tip of the Day 13

Sometimes the best research comes not from a book or news article but instead from an off-camera background interview.

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