Johnson, Barnett mentor
summer research projects


School of Communications faculty members Brooke Barnett and Ray Johnson are supervising undergraduate research at Elon University this summer with two students who applied for and received SURE (Summer Undergraduate Research Experience) grants.

SURE scholars receive a stipend of at least $2,500 for their work over the course of an 8-week summer stretch. The students doing research this summer are Laura Hersh and Neeley House.

Hersh is working with faculty mentor Barnett on a meta analysis of critical values in documentary film festivals.

"The intent of this project is to combine systematic analysis of successful documentaries with studies of pedagogical practice to provide a descriptive academic pattern of the content and form of acclaimed documentary projects and to study how to best teach the genre," Barnett explained. "Many film festivals allow submission of documentary projects. We plan to contact at least 20 of these festivals for their selection criteria and judging sheets. Based on the festivals' information and supplemented by in-depth interviews of festival organizers and those who purchase and distribute documentaries, a coding sheet will be constructed from such categories as documentary length, format, funding, content, style, genre, etc. We will then code the winners from the film festivals for the past five years."

Barnett said she and Hersh also plan to do a similar study on the documentary category in the Academy of Motion Pictures since the inception of the awards. Then they will translate the findings of both studies to describe pedagogical practices to use in the documentary classroom, looking at what is valued at the beginning (student division and regional festivals), intermediate (major film festivals), and advanced (Academy Awards) levels.

"From this content analysis, we will deduce a formula for success in the documentary category intended for publication in an academic journal such as Journal of Film and Video," Barnett said. "We will also write a paper about how to strengthen documentary pedagogy based on what is valued and rewarded in the profession and trends in the genre."

House is working with Johnson to complete the "Black Mountain College Research Project," work for which she also received a Rawls research award. "Neeley received the SURE grant to continue research, shooting and editing," Johnson explained.

Black Mountain College was founded in the mountains of rural North Carolina by a group of disgruntled faculty members from Rollins College in Winterhaven, Fla., who decided to build a learning environment devoid of grading policies attendance and course requirements and rigid teacher-student relationships.

Over its 24-year span in the 1930s, '40s and '50s, students and professors included Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Josef Albers and Joel Oppenheimer.

"Through my research and ultimately the creation of a documentary I hope to help preserve this unique educational experiment," House, a history and film major, wrote in her application for the SURE grant.

She is searching for source material in the North Carolina and United States Historical Archives in addition to interviewing Black Mountain alumni. House is also working with a documentary filmmaker from New York City, Cathyrn Davis, in the completion of her film, "Fully Awake: A Black Mountain College Experience," on the same subject in a collaborative effort.

"It is our agreement that I will serve as co-producer on this project and provide supplemental material and research to her film and edit her final full length documentary," House explained. "I am also writing, producing and editing a complementary short film that illustrates the more creative aspects of BMC to give viewers a more intimate perspective and leave them with an overall creative impression of the educational cultural environment, the artistic and literary work that was produced and the historical significance of this experiment in higher learning. At the completion of both films, we have proposed to create an educational packet to accompany a shorter 30- to 45-minute version of the full-length historical documentary that will include teacher lesson plans and classroom materials that will be distributed to middle and high schools in North Carolina."

The documentaries will be entered at several film festivals, including the North Carolina Documentary Film Festival.



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Last Modified:  6/20/05
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