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Documentary Boot Camp – A Master Class with Melody Gilbert [Virtual]

Starts March 4

Online. 1 session: Saturday, March 4, 9:30am-3:30pm CST

Have you ever wanted to make a documentary? This intensive, one-day class taught by award-winning documentary filmmaker Melody Gilbert will cover:

  • What makes a good documentary?
  • What is your documentary about?
  • Why do you want to make your documentary?
  • The art of the pitch
  • Pre-production exercises that will make you think
  • How to make others enthusiastic about your idea
  • You’ve shot your footage…now what?

Students with a work-in-progress may show up to two minutes of footage (trailer, raw footage, or edited scene) in class and receive feedback from the instructor and students (though it’s not necessary to have begun a project to participate). Melody will also show clips from her films and share her top ten tips for success in documentary filmmaking, along with behind-the-scenes stories about her films and how she made them. You’ll leave the class with information, insights, and a newfound energy for making your documentary project idea a reality. All levels welcome. During our lunch break students will have the option of watching a short documentary.

Melody was so encouraging and enthusiastic. I really appreciated what makes a good documentary and the document on pitching that gave ideas of how to write it. —Winter 2023 student

All aspects of the course were enjoyable and helpful, but I felt the pitches that everyone did were especially helpful for me in understanding what considerations I should have as I make my first documentary. —Winter 2023 student

Instructor is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic and took each student where they wanted to go and find the subject they sought. She gave encouragement and was interested in each person’s subject and offered ideas. —Winter 2023 student

NOTE: Participation in this online course requires that you use the free Zoom cloud-based video conferencing service. For optimal performance it is recommended that you install Zoom on your computer rather than running it from a web browser. We’ll e-mail you a course reminder and Zoom link a few days prior to the first session. Click here for a Zoom tutorial.

Tuition: $185 regular | $140 member | $105 low-income

Melody Gilbert has directed, produced, filmed and edited 13 feature-length documentaries since 2002. Her work is noteworthy for featuring a rare intimacy with her subjects as she unearths previously hidden worlds. She works mostly solo, querying her subjects from behind the camera, whether they are people who have full-fledged relationships with synthetic companions (Silicone Soul/DOC NYC), a former Vice President of the United States (Fritz: The Walter Mondale Story / PBS), or a physically healthy person who desperately wants to become an amputee (Whole/LAFF). All of Melody’s films have screened at prestigious film festivals (SXSW, Hot Docs, Thessaloniki) and have been picked up for international distribution on TV networks and on Netflix and iTunes.

Melody is also a producer, writer, and story consultant for other filmmakers and production companies. Recently, two films that she produced received national recognition: a national Emmy nomination for Beneath the Ink (2019) and an Alfred I. DuPont award for Love Them First (2020). Earlier, she was producer on the James Beard award winning The Starfish Throwers (2014) and Women Outward Bound (2016/PBS).

Melody has received grants from the Jerome Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board, and she was selected as the first McKnight Foundation Artist Fellow in Filmmaking. Melody is also a journalism and filmmaking professor who teaches documentary courses around the world, most recently at the American University in Bulgaria, where she spent four years on the faculty, and currently at Northwestern State University of Louisiana. Her most recent feature documentary, Silicone Soul (2019), was broadcast on STARZ and on TV internationally and is now available on Amazon Prime and iTunes. She also directed the recent short documentary Viewfinder and co-directed with Rita Davern the feature documentary Stories I Didn’t Know. Melody’s most recent short documentary, Judy’s Thoughts, created using audio recordings her mother privately made while battling cancer, premiered at the 2022 Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival.

Melody is the founder of Minnesota DocuClub, co-chair of the Minnesota chapter of Film Fatales, an international organization of women who direct feature-length films, and a huge fan of Dunn Brother’s Coffee.

The Documentary Channel called Melody “one of the most fearless filmmakers in contemporary documentary cinema.”

Class Registration Guidelines & Cancellation Policy

  • Space is assigned on a first-come basis. Registrations must include payment in full. Registrations are accepted after registration deadlines if space is available.
  • If minimum enrollment has not been reached by 7 days prior to the start date of a class, FilmNorth may cancel it, in which case registrants will immediately be notified and receive a full refund within 2 business days. A check will be issued for registrations that were paid in cash. In lieu of a refund, students have the option of applying their tuition to another class scheduled in the same calendar year.
  • For those needing to cancel a registration at least 7 days prior to the first class session, 100% of the tuition will be refunded minus a $25 administrative fee. For registration cancellations received less than 7 days prior to the first class session, 50% of the tuition will be refunded minus a $25 administrative fee. As of 5:00 pm the day prior to the first class session, no refunds or credits/exchanges will be given (Friday at 5:00 pm for Sunday classes). 
  • Tuition is not prorated for missed class sessions.




March 4, 2023
9:30 am - 3:30 pm
Event Categories:


Melody Gilbert
Registration Deadline
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Class count or Info
1 session: Saturday, March 4, 9:30am-3:30pm CST