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Film rolls for new documentary center

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Courtesy of Beverly Seckinger

Graduate students and faculty engage in an afternoon workshop presented
in conjunction with the screening of the film "Cesar's Last Fast" on Feb. 17. This film is from the DocScapes series, part of the recently launched pilot phase of the UA Center for Documentary.

UA faculty launched the pilot phase of the Center for Documentary to give graduate students and other faculty the opportunity to receive training in film and documentary production.

Vicky Westover, director of the Jack and Vivian Hanson Arizona Film Institute, said students can learn about cultural film programming, arts management, educational development, audience development and promotion through being involved in the Center for Documentary or the DocScapes film series.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for those interested in learning more about documentary filmmaking … to have a forum in addition to their major studies … and to be able to have access to workshops, seminars, screenings and filmmakers who are willing to share their experience and knowledge,” Westover said.

Beverly Seckinger, a professor in the UA School of Theatre, Film and Television and the director of the Center for Documentary, said the center was her idea and instigation. She said she saw a need for a training program for graduate students to learn how to make films.

“I have noticed increasingly over recent years, especially from graduate students in a lot of different fields, an interest in making documentaries about their research,” Seckinger said, “but there is currently no real training for them on campus.”

Seckinger said she coordinated faculty to put together a grant proposal for the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry last spring. She said now they have received a preliminary grant, so they can start having conversations about creating a graduate plan and begin programming.

Javier Duran, director of the Confluencenter, said they are providing the initial funds to start the Center for Documentary, which was one of two projects selected to receive funding last year under the “Innovation Farm” program. The program aims to promote synergistic work and collaboration.

“The projects selected for ‘Innovation Farm’ support demonstrated ample innovation and collaboration between disciplines in the form of working groups,” Duran said. “They also had to include public engagement aspects and showed high potential to secure long-term funding from external grants and private donors.”

Seckinger said one of the next important initiatives will be to create an interdisciplinary minor that will be available to graduate students to get hands-on production training.

“Putting grad students from different fields into a program together creates an environment where the paradigms that they bring from their different disciplines can cross-fertilize,” Seckinger said. 

Westover will work with Seckinger to select and invite films and filmmakers to present in the series. She said there are two aspects to the Center for Documentary: academic and public.

“For the public component, the center and the UA Hanson Film Institute are partnering on a public screening series called DocScapes to show exceptional documentary films with the producers and/or the directors of the films when possible,” Westover said.

Students, faculty, members of the community and filmmakers can come together and watch and discuss films in a communal setting, Westover said. The series premiered Feb. 17.

“The series will provide an opportunity to learn about significant diverse issues and about the art and craft of documentary filmmaking,” Westover said. “This is not an opportunity afforded to many people.”

Westover said the current venues for the film series are The Screening Room downtown and The Bisbee Royale in Bisbee, Ariz.

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