Building Blocks of a Short Documentary

In this three-day workshop, PBS American Experience producer/editor and former FRONTLINE editor Eric Gulliver presented methods for constructing a story in short documentary film. From scene development to post-production workflow, Eric guided students through best practices for story editing.

The first day of this workshop focused on developing a theoretical understanding of editing for short film. On day two, participants built a toolkit of advanced storytelling and editing techniques. Day three focused on improving technical skills in Adobe Premiere Pro through hands-on training. Students left this workshop with a framework for post-production that takes into account the changing nature of deliverables across media platforms.

Interested in workshops like this? Check out our upcoming workshops.

Mobile and Social Media Engagement

Smartphones have made creating content for the web easy. But knowing the best apps to use for quality content creation, or the best social media platforms to grow your audience— that’s trickier.

Multimedia journalist Val Hoeppner guided participants through the ins and outs of various apps and social media platforms and recommended best practices for audience engagement and growth.

Apps covered: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Canva, Enlight Videoleap Video Editor, VideoShop, Chart Maker Pro and Filmr.

If this workshop interests you, please check out our upcoming workshops.

Telling Family Stories in Multimedia

We all want to know more about who we are and where we came from (why else would DNA kits like 23andMe and sites like be so popular?). But how do we tell compelling digital stories about our families through archival video, photos and audio?

In this workshop, multimedia journalist and Montana Media Lab director Anne Bailey taught students how to record audio interviews with loved ones, digitize archival family photos and footage, and edit short, documentary-style videos in Adobe Premiere Pro.

Interested in workshops like this? Check out our upcoming workshops.

Short and Smart: Mobile Video

Learning to shoot high quality video on your smartphone is a game changer in the world of mobile storytelling.

Multimedia producer Val Hoeppner taught participants how to tell compelling video stories in 60-90 seconds for social media. Through hands-on exercises, students learned techniques for interviewing, capturing b-roll, sequencing and editing for impact.

If this workshop interests you, be sure to check out our upcoming workshops.

Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

For ten days each February, filmmakers and doc film enthusiasts from around the world gather in Missoula for the chance to see some of the more than 150 films that make up the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival (BSDFF).

When not watching films, attendees often participate in DocShop, a week-long program featuring panels, workshops, and presentations for students and media makers.

We’re honored to team up with BSDFF each year to co-host DocShop panels that connect our students and community members with industry experts. Check out our ongoing collaboration with DocShop below.

2020: Big Sky Documentary Film Festival Presents “Paradise Without People”

For the 17th annual BSDFF DocShop, the Montana Media Lab hosted TIME Studios filmmaker Francesca Trianni for a conversation about her film Paradise Without People.

2019: Big Sky Documentary Film Festival Filmmakers Forum

For the 16th annual BSDFF DocShop, the Montana Media Lab co-hosted multiple panels with experts from across the country. From “Audio to Visual: Taking Podcasts to the Screen” to “The Art of Sound in Documentaries,” filmmakers learned from the best in the industry.

Big Sky Film Festival Presents “Paradise Without People”

The Montana Media Lab proudly partners with the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival’s DocShop each year to host panels and presentations by top documentary filmmakers and producers in the industry.

In February 2020, TIME Studios presented at the Montana Media Lab on their ground-breaking documentary Paradise Without People. TIME Studios director Francesca Trianni and producer Justine Simons discussed how they approached the story of two Syrian refugee families and how they took that story from print to screen.

The documentary team documented developments daily on Instagram and worked with to create an interactive supplemental piece called, Finding Home.

TIME Studios’ “Paradise Without People” Trailer

“Paradise Without People” Producers Speak to Our Students

StoryCorps’ One Small Step Project

It’s no secret that politics in the U.S. has become increasingly polarized in recent years. We see it in our social media feeds; we read it in the news; we hear it in conversations with our colleagues and neighbors. For many of us, it’s as if party lines have turned into walls we can’t see over or around.

In December 2019, the Montana Media Lab teamed up with StoryCorps’ One Small Step project to help bridge the political divide here in Montana. We invited Montanas with opposing political views to sit down with each other for a 40-minute, recorded conversation.

The goal? To get beyond political stereotypes and recognize our shared humanity. To stop debating and start listening. To realize, at the end of the day, that we might have more in common than we think.

The following One Small Step conversations were recorded in Missoula, Mont. in December 2019.

“I voted for Trump, and I’m not ashamed of that.” — Jason Ellsworth

Jason Ellsworth (Republican State Senator representing Montana’s Bitterroot Valley) and Susie Orr (executive board member for the Missoula County Democrats) discuss how they came to hold their current political views and share their hopes and fears for the future. Listen here.

“I’m most fearful that we’re losing the ability to have compassion for each other.” — Rachel Gooen

Lisa Velk-Buseman, a fiscally-conservative, fourth-generation Montana, says Missoula has changed dramatically over the years, and not always for the better. Rachel Gooen, a Montana transplant with a social justice background, sees those changes differently. Listen here.

“We both really want to look at where the problems are… and try to do something about it to get to a better place.” — Ethan Holmes

Jessica Mayrer, LGBTQ community member and self-described liberal, Missoula liberal and member of the LGBTQ community and Libertarian Ethan Holmes discuss the environment, the 2020 elections and the concept of “anarcho-altruism.” Listen here.

“[Republicans] are not all the same, and I’d like people to know that… and I assume the same for the left.” — Jack Meyer

College Republicans Vice-President Jack Meyer and self-described liberal Ashli Jaschke (both UM students) talk about everything from prison reform to political stereotypes. Listen here.

“I used to think, ‘You can’t be a Christian and a Democrat,’ but I have changed.” — Rebecca Miller

Bigfork resident Rebecca Miller and University of Montana student Cassidy Martinez talk about religion, sexuality and how their political views have evolved over the years. Listen here.

Telling Visual Stories with Data

Compelling, code-based data visualizations like those in The New York Times and FiveThirtyEight turn complex data into digestible information for the public.

In January 2020, Montana Free Press data reporter Eric Dietrich hosted a two-day workshop at the Montana Media Lab to guide participants through his workflow for creating data visualizations. Participants learned to clean, visualize and annotate data to produce graphics using Google Sheets, the code-based visualization tool Vega and Adobe Illustrator.

Eric also introduced the Jupyter Lab environment for working with data using open source Python tools, and discussed how to combine data visualizations with narrative reporting and storytelling. The workshop culminated with attendees producing their own data visualization using a data set of their choice.

Want to see what’s coming up next at the Lab? Check out our upcoming workshops.

Learning data visualization techniques at the Montana Media Lab helped me add another tool to my storytelling toolbox. As a recent college graduate, I felt like I was learning skills that will help give depth to my work and stand out above the crowd.

Matt Neuman
Higher Education Reporter | The Missoulian

The Flagship Program: Conversations with a NASA Commander

Earthrise (above) courtesy of NASA

In 2018, the Montana Media Lab joined up with Missoula’s Flagship Program to produce an out-of-this-world story.

Local middle and high school students interviewed NASA Apollo 8 Commander Frank Borman as part of the “Lights on Afterschool” program. Apollo 8 launched in 1968 and was the first successful manned mission to orbit the moon and return to earth. The mission became famous for the stunning “Earthrise” photo captured by one of the crew.

The Flagship Program provides out of school opportunities for K-12 students in Missoula County Public Schools.

A Conversation with Commander Frank Borman

Behind the Scenes of our Intergalactic Interview