Undergraduates in the Broadcast and Cinema Studies track in the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information now have their very own overseas module, aimed at equipping them with relevant skills for their specialisation.
Under the direction of senior lecturer Dr Kym Campbell, the Overseas Digital Documentary, also known as ODYSSEE (Overseas Documentaries You Should See), accepted its first batch of students this semester.
The school also offers other overseas courses such as Going Overseas for Advanced Reporting for journalism students, and Regional Strategic Communications Campaign for public relations students.
“Documentary is about taking a journey and discovering stories that need to be told.”
Senior LecturerDr Kym Campbell
In March, the pioneer batch of 15 ODYSSEE students went to Penang for a week.
Dr Campbell, who specialises in broadcast production and cinema studies, and has worked on projects with Mediacorp, BBC and Bloomberg, believes that the new course will better prepare students for their Final Year Projects.
He shared that in every cohort, up to 20 students work on documentary productions for their Final Year Projects.
“Yet, there wasn’t anything that led them straight to their FYP and gave them a heads up,” he said.
Students interested in broadcast take up Image and Sound Production and Broadcast Journalism, but these modules only equip them with the basic skill set.
With this new opportunity, students in this track can gain the experience that they need if they plan to do a documentary, be it for school or for when they enter the workforce.
As part of the coursework, students are involved in the end-to-end process of creating a documentary; from the pre-production and post-production to the handling of its budget and travel requirements.
“This module teaches students how to be professional filmmakers,” said Dr Campbell.
For this semester, students worked on different stories in five groups of three.
For example, one group looked into the decline of the Chew Jetties — homes built by the “Chews” on wooden planks by the shores. The most popular among the seven clan communities in Penang, the Chews took over the jetties built by the government, turning them from a shed into a communal house.
Another group documented the business of a fishing village which has created a new market to cater their produce to tourists rather than the people of Georgetown.
“Documentary is about taking a journey and discovering stories that need to be told,” said Dr Campbell.
“Students should learn to be surprised by the mundane and find the special moments in someone else’s life.”
Senior LecturerDr Kym Campbell
All of the projects surrounded the theme of Heritage in the Age of the Digital.
The social media lead of each team promoted their work on websites that they had created specifically for this module. The students utilised social media platforms to help their respective communities garner more public attention.
The same theme will be used for future trips, creating an episodic series that look at different countries.
The final product will involve the students compiling their documentaries on a website for the public.
Apart from learning the technical aspects of documentary production, Dr Campbell said he is hopeful that his students will also discover and share stories that are unique to other countries.
“They should learn to be surprised by the mundane and find the special moments in someone else’s life,” he said.