COMMUNITY VOICES | Doc U trains new documentarians

This year, a dozen people will have the chance to tell their stories and become first time documentarians through the Doc U program at Saint Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN) St. Paul’s non-profit community media center. Past participants have walked away with a new outlook on the world in addition to new skills. “[Doc U] was an important experience,” said Chamath Perera, who participated in the 2013 class, creating a documentary on a Buddhist monk living in Minnesota. “Making a film was a dream long deferred, since high school, I think. I think everyone should make at least one film. You learn about yourself and others in surprising ways. It strengthens character.”

This intensive mentorship program guides participants through the process of creating a 10-minute documentary on the topic of their choosing. In 16 weeks, from August 4- November 22, participants will learn how to shape a story and conduct interviews, along with basic camera operation and editing, through classes, workshops and mentorship. Applications for Doc U are currently being accepted through June 30th at

Theresa Crushon, who’s film on jazz legend Irv Williams  was created during the 2012 Doc U class, won a national award for Best Documentary from the Alliance for Community Media. Of the program, Theresa said SPNN “is awesome in making top-notch tools AND information accessible to the community. The training was stellar!”

Doc U is geared towards giving low-income adults and people of color access to the tools needed to tell the stories of their communities.  Kreshun Irby participated in the 2013 class of Doc U and said  “The process was very helpful in ways I couldn’t imagine. Being able to have staff that had expertise in areas that I needed help at disposal was very useful. I walked away with knowledge that’s invaluable.” Participants have access to HD cameras, professional editing software, and field gear, while gaining the knowledge to use these tools to tell a compelling story. To help offset the time commitment, SPNN is offers a small stipend at the completion of the program.

Throughout the program participants are mentored by SPNN’s professional staff; have access to the knowledge of local documentarians; and get feedback from their peers. Participants will have help flushing out story ideas, keeping on track to finish their doc and have a collaborative environment to work with their peers. The program is taught by SPNN’s experienced and knowledgeable Access Center staff. Bonnie Schumacher, Access Manager, says “Giving voice to individuals who have traditionally been marginalized, watching them grow, learn and share their voice through a ten minute documentary everyone is proud of is incredibly inspiring.”