Minor in Documentary

Examine the world and tell compelling stories as a means for social change.

Delve into the history of documentary filmmaking, the ethics and issues of documenting actual instead of fictitious subjects, practical training in the mechanics of documentary film production, and film distribution. You will be exposed to the history of documentary and non-fiction film and the various forms it now comes in. You will learn from directors, cinematographers, editors, and producers of documentary films who will share their experiences on why they chose to tell the stories they did and how they went about it.

Minor in Documentary Curriculum

You must complete 16 units for the minor. 

Changes to this minor took place this fall and are in effect for students who declared between fall 2018 and the present semester. Students who declared the minor prior to fall 2018 are subject to the original requirements for the minor per their Albert degree audit. If you would like to follow the new requirements, please contact us at tisch.minors@nyu.edu

Required Courses

The following are the two required courses for a total of 8 units.

History of the Documentary Film

OART-UT 1701 | 4 units | Instructor: Joseph Dorman

The course traces the documentary film from its origins to the present day.  As this still-young art evolved, documentarians of different schools constantly sought new means to tell the human story. Documentary filmmaking has always been a blend of artistry and technical means and we will also explore this critical relationship.  The course explores the development of the documentary and the shifting intentions of documentary filmmakers through the evolution of narrative approach and structure paying special attention to the documentary tradition’s relationship to journalism. Students examine how different filmmakers have gone about trying to convey “reality” on screen both through the use and avoidance of narration, through interviews, editing and dramatizations. Throughout the semester, students investigate how image-driven medium attempts to report stories and the ways an emotion-driven art can be problematic for journalistic objectivity.  Finally, the ethical and journalistic responsibilities the documentary filmmaker are discussed.

Check Albert for course schedule.

Master Class in Documentary: Director’s Series

OART-UT 1702 | 4 units | Instructor: Aviva Slesin

This course, while not a production class, is designed to give students the opportunity to learn each stage of the documentary filmmaking process from the best working professionals in their field. Each week we will watch a documentary and meet someone who had a pivotal role in the making of that documentary. Our guests will include producers, directors, cinematographers, sound engineers, editors, writers, film composers and sound mixers. These professionals will share their experience and expertise with the class and answer questions about their work thereby providing a foundation of insight into the decisions, tools and skills that go into the making of good documentaries. Class discussions will explore the creative and technical decisions involved in the making the film.

Check Albert for course schedule.


Select courses from this list for a total of 8 units.

Creative Fundraising

OART-UT 1093 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

This course is about the struggle between commerce and art in the worlds of film, television, theatre, music and new technologies.  It provides students with a framework for understanding the dynamics and various routes to raising funds for artistic endeavors.  The students will learn about basic financial tools and structures as well as exploring traditional and non-traditional fundraising and financing techniques.  This course will allow students to develop a general understanding of fundraising and financing the entertainment world and refining the creative skills necessary to develop proposals that allow the student to one day realize her or his creative vision, build a career, and establish themselves as an entrepreneur.

Check Albert for course schedule.

Documentary Fictions

FMTV-UT 1207, section 002 | 3 units | FALL ONLY

Cross-listed with CINE-UT 454

This course will explore the blurred boundaries between documentary and fiction filmmaking.  Intended to widen the horizons of the creative filmmaker and film student, we will analyze major documentary traditions with a specific focus on the narrative techniques used in the telling of powerful stories.  Alongside, we will examine contemporary fiction filmmaking that has broken new grounds by a creative absorption and sometimes exploitation of the documentary method.  The course will consist of four components: film analysis, interviews with filmmakers, seminal readings on the subject, and a creative treatment by every student on a film of their choice or a film they would like to make.


Check Albert for course schedule.

Documentary Traditions

FMTV-UT 1032, Section 002 | 3 units | FALL ONLY

14 sessions will be devoted to a history of the genre, screening essential films both inside and outside the canon, with a focus on the changes in style, technique, and subject matter which influenced the form from its earliest beginnings to the present. Undergraduates who take the course for three points are required to keep journals in which they respond to each session and compare observations with those made when viewing at least one documentary of their choice seen outside class, as well as in response to critical essays provided at each session and references in the text.

Check Albert for course schedule.

Documentary Traditions II

FMTV-UT 1034, Section 002 | 3 units | SPRING ONLY

14 contemporary and influential filmmakers will be present to show their work (often works-in-progress) and discuss the challenges they face as modes of production and distribution continually change.  Former guests have included D. A. Pennebaker, David Grubin, Les Blank, Albert Maysles, Sam Pollard, Susanne Rostock and others whose work is regularly seen on television and in theaters. Undergraduates who take the course for three points are required to keep journals in which they respond to each session and compare observations with those made when viewing at least one documentary of their choice seen outside class, as well as in response to critical essays provided at each session and references in the text.

Check Albert for course schedule.

Documentary Video Production in Havana

IFMTV-UT 1959 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

The following course is part of a Tisch study abroad program taking place in Havana, Cuba every spring semester.

This documentary video production course, offered in collaboration with Cuban National Institute of Film and Television (ICAIC), takes students through all the crucial steps from the development of ideas and research, through editing and postproduction. Students work in crews of four, learning the basic principles of computer operations, logging systems, and on- and off-line editing. Each student completes a final work for a rough-cut screening at the end of the semester. Students are encouraged to research and connect with aspects of Cuban culture and life that are not often seen in mainstream cinema. Although documentary production is the primary focus, screenings of Cuban narrative documentaries, workshops, master classes, and class discussions explore various aspects of documentary practice and Cuban cinema.


More About Documentary Video Production in Havana

Entertainment and Media Industries

MKTG-UB 40 | 2 units | Instructor: Check Albert

Prerequisite: MKTG-UB 1 or permission of instructor. Fall and Spring

Provides students with a framework for understanding key marketing issues facing organizations in the entertainment industry. Establishes a basis for the formulation of marketing tactics and strategies for firms competing for consumers' discretionary spending. Covers recent developments in major sectors of the entertainment industry, including movies, television and cable, and theatre and sports. Examines issues that cut across all types of entertainment marketing, including licensing and promotion. Uses case studies and projects.

This course is offered in New York and Los Angeles. Visit NYU Los Angeles for course schedules and registration information.

Check Albert for course schedule.

Fundamentals of Filmmaking I: The Art of Visual Storytelling

OART-UT 560 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

Formerly Fundamentals of Film: A Digital Workshop

This practical workshop is designed to introduce students to the techniques and theory of developing and producing short film ideas that are shot on digital video and edited digitally on computer using Adobe Premiere Pro Software. The course centers on learning elements of visual storytelling through a spectrum of aesthetic approaches. Working in crews of four, students learn directing, shooting, and editing skills as they each direct three short videos (three to five minutes in length).  This course is specifically designed to fulfill the major requirements in production of students not majoring in film and therefore, students who need to fulfill this requirement are given registration priority. For this course, the University Bursar assesses a lab fee.

Check Albert for course schedule.

Introduction to Media Studies

MCC-UE 1 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

This course introduces students to the study of contemporary forms of mediated communication. The course surveys the main topics in the field and introduces students to a variety of analytical perspectives. Issues include the economics of media production; the impact of media on individual attitudes, values, and behaviors; the role of media professionals, and the impact of new media technologies.

Check Albert for course schedule.

Journalism, Ethics and First Amendment Law

JOUR-UA 502 | 4 units |Instructor: Check Albert


Prerequisites: Foundations

This course is designed to acquaint students with the basic protections and restrictions of the law as they apply to the media, as well as the ethical problems and dilemmas journalists face. First Amendment rights and legal and ethical responsibilities and limitations will be examined and discussed. The course will look at these questions from five viewpoints: from (i) the practical view of a journalist doing his job with (ii) heavy consideration of ethical imperatives, and (iii) from a legal prospective, all the while (iv) considering the rules in a public policy context -- are they fair and appropriate in our society? -- while (v) noting the historical context in which they arise. Significant court cases and fundamental legal rules as well as past ethical scandals and issues will be explored in the context of political and historical realities, and in terms of journalistic standards and practices; contemporary media law issues and ethical problems and guidelines will also be focused on. Among the basic First Amendment issues which will be examined are libel, invasion of privacy, prior restraints, newsgathering and newsgathering torts, and the reporter's privilege; some of the ethical issues to be explored include objectivity in reporting, bias and transparency, conflicts of interest, and fair dealings with subjects, sources and advertisers.

This course consists of one lecture per week and one recitation section. Students must register for both the lecture AND a specific recitation section and attend the lecture and that section each week.

Check Albert for course schedule.

Journalism and Society

JOUR-UA 503 |4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

Prerequisites: None

This is a multi-topic course. Check Albert to see which topic is being offered in a given semester. Examples of topics under this course banner are below.

Minorities and the Media 
Why do we think that way? What do we mean by "women" and "men"? If you were a visiting anthropologist from Mars, how could you use our culture's media to understand our ideas about gender? Women & the Media is a collaborative seminar that examines the complex relationship (or different contradictory relationships) between those humans we call "women" and those forms of discourse we call "media." We will consider women both as subjects and objects, as artists and models, as creators of "media" in its many forms and as media's creations. What does our culture's "media" tell us about how we read gender? What, if anything, does our gender tell us about our readings of "media"? Student participation in this seminar is key: students are expected to attend all sessions, to complete all the reading (there's lots of reading!), to participate actively in discussion, and to lead one of the class sessions themselves. Leading a class means opening the day's conversation with a presentation, critiquing and elaborating on the assigned reading, bringing in additional relevant material, and suggesting questions or issues that seem particularly interesting or troublesome. The purpose of the course is to develop our critical and self-critical faculties as journalists, media critics, consumers of media, and women or men; to think clearly, challenge our pet assumptions, and have fun.

Women in the Media
A collaborative seminar designed to examine the complex relationship (or different, contradictory relationships) between those humans we call “women” and those forms of discourse we call “media.” We will consider women both as subjects and objects, as artists and models, as creators of “media” in its many forms and as media’s creations. What does our culture’s “media” tell us about its ideas of gender?      

What, if anything, does our gender tell us about our readings of “media?"

Check Albert for course schedule.

Media Audiences

MCC-UE 1016 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

This course is an examination of the great debate concerning the effects of mass media and mass communication on our society. Analysis and application of major perspectives and approaches used in formulating modern theories of mass communication.

Check Albert for course schedule.

Media Internship

FMTV-UT 1039 | 2-4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

Please follow the steps below to obtain an internship through Tisch Film and Television:

  1. Tisch students should sign up for an account with Tisch College Central, the online portal that is offered by Tisch Student Affairs which houses information on internship and job opportunities. Non-Tisch students, should sign up for an NYU Handshake account with NYU Wasserman. If you are not a Tisch student and would like temporary access to Tisch College Central, you must enroll in FMTV-UT 1039 first and you will be given temporary access while you search for an internship. Please see step #4 and email ugftv.internships@nyu.edu for more information. 

  2. You can also obtain an internship on your own. For the Documentary Minor, keep in mind, that an internship does not have to be Film/TV focused, as the minor also covers producing for theater or music or new media. Non-Film and TV majors should consult with their home departments regarding the nature of the internship.

  3. Each 1 credit of internship is equivalent to approximately 50 hours of work. Students may earn 1 credit (50 hours) to 6 credits (300 hours) per semester. Students may intern during any semester, including J-Term and Summer.

  4. Once you have obtained an internship, please contact ugftv.internships@nyu.edu with your full name and N# to receive a permission code to enroll in Media Internship for Non-Majors (FMTV-UT 1039). Students cannot self-enroll in Media Internship.

  5. Once enrolled in Media Internship, please visit the NYU Classes site for Media Internship (usually activated 1-2 weeks prior to the start of the semester). Navigate to the "Assignments" tab to download the Internship Agreement packet for your supervisor to complete, along with other assignments needed for the course. Once you and your supervisor complete and sign the Internship Agreement Packet, please upload the completed version back to NYU Classes.

  6. Questions? Please visit our Media Internship FAQs and email ugftv.internships@nyu.edu with additional questions. Be sure to include your full name, whether you are a Producing or Documentary Minor, and N#.

Tisch Drama majors: Please contact Rachel Friedman at rf90@nyu.edu.

Poetics of Witnessing

OART-UT 829, Section 001 | 4 units | Instructor: Peter Lucas

Today, many documentarians consider themselves working within a well-defined human rights framework where images and film are used to raise awareness about social injustice. On the far edge of this movement, however, there are writers, photographers and filmmakers whose work calls attention to the traditional documentary ethics of bearing witness but whose modes of representation blur the lines between fact and fiction. This body of work is more open-ended to interpretation and multiple readings, which also include more personal themes such as loss and melancholy, the ephemeral nature of time and memory, nostalgia and change. We will study several different kinds of visual poetics such as combining documentary photos with literature, artists working with archives and found images, the personal essay film, ethnographic poetics, photo reportage and new media visual storytelling, mixed media and public projections. Some of the writers and artists we will study include Alfredo Jaar, W.G. Sebald, Chris Marker, Christian Boltanski, Forough Farrokhzad, Susan Sontag, Marcelo Brodsky, Roland Barthes, Miguel Rio Branco, Alexander Sokurov, Lorna Simpson, Jean Rouch, Susan Meiselas, Jonas Mekas.

Check Albert for course schedule.

Research and Writing the Documentary

FMTV-UT 1118, section 002 | 4 units

This course will examine the moral and ethical problems of documentary making; logistics and planning; research techniques and sources; choice of media and style. Each student will be expected to develop at least one idea into a project.  COURSE SUBJECT TO DEPARTMENTAL FEES.  

Check Albert for course schedule.

Sight and Sound: Documentary

FMTV-UT 80 | 6 units | Instructor: Check Albert


The course teaches students to look at their world and to develop the ability to create compelling and dramatic stories in which real people are the characters and real life is the plot. Through close study and analysis of feature length and short documentaries, as well as hands on directing, shooting, sound-recording and editing, students rigorously explore the possibilities and the power of non-fiction storytelling for video. The course is a dynamic combination of individual and group production work in which each student will be expected to complete five projects.  Open to NYU non-majors only during SUMMER term. REQUIRED PURCHASE: All students must purchase at least 1 Firewire Hard Drive of 500 GB  or more. An additional drive for backup is strongly recommended. Drive requirements: Min speed 7200 RPM, preferably with an 8 MB buffer, Firewire 800 and USB3 required. Formatted as Mac OS extended; NO small-form factor drives, they should be full-sized and have a separate power source; have a manufacturer warranty of at least 1 year.  In addition to lab and insurance fees charged by the university, all students must also purchase a supplemental insurance policy at a cost of $155.

Check Albert for course schedule.


All students declaring a Minor must receive a grade of C or above in order to have the course count towards a Tisch Minor.

Course Allocations

No more than one (1) class or a maximum of four (4) units can be used to substitute a Minor designated class. Students cannot substitute required classes for the Minors.

As of spring 2015, regarding double-counting of courses for Tisch students: students who have any combination of Tisch majors/minors will only be permitted to count one course towards both areas. Tisch minor courses can be double-counted between two Tisch minors.