Summer Programs
Online Courses

Fresh Ground

  • A new media laboratory

    Filmmaking is changing.
    Distribution is changing.
    Audiences are changing.

    Isn't it time to break FRESH GROUND?

    Fresh Ground is a two-week, intensive investigation into non-fiction storytelling through classical, web-based and mobile applications. Part theory examining the tradition and ethics of non-fiction storytelling, part hands-on honing the technical skills of filmmaking, and part laboratory experimenting with a range of new media platforms, this course will transform how you tell stories.

    Summer Quarter registration is currently open, click here to register now.

    Why new media? The inevitable shift toward web distribution has brought filmmaking to a crossroads: continue making traditional long-form documentaries for ever-shrinking distribution channels, or embrace new technological and creative possibilities. Fresh Ground is an innovative laboratory for both beginner and intermediate filmmakers to acquire the tools, information and creative inspiration needed to explore this new paradigm of non-fiction storytelling.

    Each day will be split between lecture/seminar classes, production training, lab time, and critique and reflection, providing the conceptual, theoretical and technical skills required to create a prototype for a non-fiction story in new media. Students will be introduced to a variety of documentary styles – personal essay, observational, cinema verité, experimental – as well as a range of tools for new media storytelling, including: Zeega, Vine, Tumblrs and GIFs, among others. Film production training will be adapted to each student's level of experience.

    Students will complete a new media project to exhibit in a group show at the end of the course. This course is for SU students who want to develop and expand their storytelling and filmmaking skills. It is also for community members who want an introduction to new media platforms for existing or new projects. It is for anyone who wants to apply the craft of filmmaking to the web and break fresh ground in non-fiction storytelling.

    Summer Quarter registration is currently open, click here to register now.

    Course Details:

    FILM 391.01 & FILM 391.02 (5 credits)
    Enrollment limited to 14 students per section

    Dates: July 22 - August 2
    Time: 9 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. daily
    Instructors: Sandy Cioffi & Gretchen Burger
    Tuition: $2,850
    Course Fee: $300

    Seattle University Students: FILM 391 satisfies an elective requirement for the major and minor in Film Studies, and a University general elective for non-majors.

    Non-Seattle University Students: You must first seek admission to Seattle University as a non-matriculated student. Click here for our Admission information.

    For more information, contact

    About the Instructors:

    Instructors Cioffi and Burger bring over 20 years of experience in traditional documentary filmmaking, their own explorations into new media, and enthusiasm and excitement for engaging with new forms. They are committed to maintaining the highest ethical and production standards while fully exploring the creative possibilities of reshaping the structures in which non-fiction films are told and experienced.

    Sandy Cioffi is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and video artist. She has worked with human rights organizations in global hot zones before, during and after conflict, including Nicaragua, South Africa and Northern Ireland. Between 2005 and 2008, Sandy made four trips to the volatile Niger Delta in Nigeria to film Sweet Crude, documenting conditions there and interviewing the region's key stakeholders, including leadership of the armed resistance movement. Sweet Crude has been screened at film festivals and garnered awards around the globe. In addition to documentary filmmaking, Sandy has created media design for Annex Theatre, Richard Hugo House, Seattle Repertory Theatre and On the Boards. She is a seasoned educator, working at middle and high schools throughout Washington State, as a tenured faculty member in the Film and Video Communications Department at Seattle Central Community College, and most recently as an adjunct faculty member at Seattle University.  

    Gretchen Burger is an independent video producer and editor with over 14 years of experience in documentary filmmaking and television production. Gretchen co-produced and edited the feature-length documentary Another Side of Peace, and assisted on, among others, the production of The Corporal's Diary: 38 Days In Iraq, The Motherhood Manifesto, and Trade Off. Gretchen was a producer and field director on three seasons of the Emmy Award-winning children's public television series “Biz Kid$”. More recently, she edited the award-winning, feature-length documentary Patriot Guard Riders. In 2010, Gretchen graduated from the MFA Film/Video program at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, where she turned her filmmaking pursuits to video art and installation. Gretchen teaches at The Art Institute of Seattle and Seattle University, and she serves on the steering committee of the Seattle Documentary Association.

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