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Senior Production

Course Details

Course Number
Section Number
Spring 2016
Fain Fine Arts Center
Classroom Number
Days & Times

Midwestern State University

Mass Communication

SENIOR PRODUCTION MCOM 4243 Spring 2016 FA B105, TR 12 30PM - 1 50PM 

Instructor: Jonathon Quam 

Office: Fain Fine Arts Bldg. B-125 Email: Phone: 940.347.4849 

Office Hours:

M 10AM-11AM, 2PM-4PM





Jonathon D. Quam (view Profile)
Course Objectives

Course Identification: This course introduces students to the art of documentary filmmaking. As a capstone course, it synthesizes the knowledge theyve gained throughout their time in the Mass Communication program.

Productions: Each student will work with a group to create a 12 -15 minute short form documentary. This project will utilize preproduction research, proposal writing, interviews, lighting, observational footage, and editing skills.

Along with the production, student teams will be expected to handle public outreach, promotion, and media interviews.

Location Strike: Whenever an outside production is required; it will be the responsibility of all in the class to transport all needed gear to and from the location in a safe and timely manner. All items must be stored properly and returned in working order. If there is an issue with damage or malfunctioning equipment a proper report must be logged before you go out on location.

  • Students will produce an original television documentary between 12 and 15 minutes in length.

  • Students will examine ethical, legal, organizational and other aspects of the mass communication world.

  • Students will improve their written, oral and visual communication skills.


  • Mass Communication Major

  • Completion of MCOM 1243 – News Writing I

  • Completion of MCOM 3613 – Television Production

  • Completion of MCOM 4183 – Internship

  • Senior Standing

  • Consent of Instructor

  • Consent of Department Chair

    Required Text: Documentary Filmmaking: A Contemporary Field Guide (2nd Ed.), John Hewitt & Gustavo Vazquez, 2013


    Final Documentary 50% Weekly Reports and Deadlines/Conferences 15% Smaller Assignments/Projects 10% Proficiency Tests 10% Participation/Cooperation 15% 


Course Expectations

Documentary screenings will be scheduled for Finals Week. Exact date and time TBD.

Quizzes: There will be no regularly scheduled quizzes, but if I sense that students are not keeping up with the

readings or attending class regularly, unannounced quizzes will be given, and they WILL count toward the final

grade. Unannounced quizzes tend to take place on days when attendance and/or class participation leave something to be desired. These quizzes will be given at the beginning of class, and late students will receive scores of zero unless the late arrival is excused.

Attendance: Attendance does not constitute a specific part of your grade, but perfect attendance is required. Attendance is critical when undertaking a project of this size, and I will go to great lengths to attain full attendance (see note above re. quizzes, for example). If you have to miss a class or a deadline for any reason, please contact me IN ADVANCE to let me know. CONTACTING ME IN ADVANCE DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY EXCUSE AN ABSENCE, but it is a lot better than calling after the fact. If you fail to contact me before the next class period to explain an absence, it will be very difficult for me to excuse the absence. Please note that work, non-emergency medical and dental appointments, hangovers, intramural games, visitors from out of town, fixing your roommate’s computer, fraternity/sorority events, arguments with boyfriends/girlfriends and studying for other classes do NOT constitute excused absences. See also the Missed Assignments Policy.

If you need to miss class due to a religious holiday, please see me as far in advance as possible.

If you need to miss class due to university-sponsored events such as field trips and sports, please see me as far in advance as possible. You will be required to complete the assigned work on or before the due date, and you will be required to submit an official form from the university before your absence.

As one of my former colleagues says, in the “real world,” you can not do your job if you are not present to do it. Employers do not generally tolerate such behavior, and employees who offer weak, irritating excuses frequently find themselves unemployed and unemployable. The same rules apply in this course. I don’t judge anyone who chooses to make attending classes a secondary (or lower) priority. However, this choice is not without consequences.

If you cannot make it a priority to attend every class session, please drop now so another student, who is more serious, can have your spot.

IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO SEE ME IF YOU MISS CLASS. I will not chase students around the city. A related note: You are required to be on time and I have little tolerance for those who are continually late. Constant

tardiness will be noted and could lower your final grade. I am not above embarrassing students who walk in late.

Missed Assignments Policy: If you miss any assignments or quizzes without being excused, you will fail the course. I reserve the right to determine whether an absence will be excused. In-class assignments may be excused at my discretion; however, all outside assignments must be completed within a reasonable time frame after your absence — no exceptions. In addition, I reserve the right to determine what, exactly, is a “reasonable time frame.” In sum: This is a zero-tolerance policy. I have no time or patience for those who are not going to take this class seriously; thus, “three strikes and you’re out” does not apply. “ONE strike and you’re out” is more applicable. Some past students have flunked the course for this reason. In any case, I tend to be cynical about making up missed assignments, but if you have a legitimate problem, alternate arrangements can be made at my discretion.

If you cannot make it a priority to complete every assignment, on time, please drop now so another student, who is more serious, can have your spot.

As this is the senior capstone course and you are less than a semester away from graduation, professional considerations such as attendance, punctuality, teamwork, responsibility and attitude become even more important. Know that they make a difference.

By accepting this syllabus and remaining enrolled in this course, you are indicating that you understand the Missed Assignments Policy.

Attitude/Class Participation: The success of this course will depend on students keeping up with the reading and discussing the topics at hand. In addition, each student will be required to work with a team. You are required to remember that you are part of team and to act accordingly.

As stated above, this isn’t the type of course in which you memorize information, spit it back to me on an exam, and forget what you’ve learned as you walk out of the exam room. Because this is an upper-level course, corresponding

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attitudes and work ethics are required. Although there is no set percentage for this component, it will play a big role if you are on the “borderline” at the end of the semester.

If you cannot make it a priority to have a good attitude, please drop now so another student, who is more serious, can have your spot. See also the Missed Assignments Policy.

A related note: Cellular phones, pagers and other similar devices will not be tolerated. In my mind, they are a sign of a bad attitude. I will not tolerate annoying jingles and beeps. If you own such a device, turn it off (not on vibrate) or somehow make sure it doesn’t make any noise while I am trying to conduct class – better yet, leave it at home or in your car. If your other commitments are so pressing that they can not wait until the end of the class session, it may be in your best interests to reconsider the priority you place on being here. In any case, I reserve the right to ask you to leave immediately or to embarrass you mercilessly if your beepers/phones/pagers/etc. make noise during class. If cell. phones become more than a one-time problem, I reserve the right to lower your final semester grade and/or take further disciplinary actions.

Unfortunately, laptop computers, iPhones and other similar equipment will not be allowed in class for note-taking. Although I realize this is a convenient way to take notes, past students have abused the privilege by using the equipment to surf the Internet, send e-mail, and troll Facebook. I will not tolerate this kind of distraction.

Sending and receiving text messages during class will not be tolerated.

Appropriate conduct – in the classroom, with the instructor and in any other class-related situations – is required at all times. The instructor has the right to remove disruptive students from the classroom and take other disciplinary actions as necessary.

Please remember also that you are representing the Mass Communication Department, and, if off-campus, the university. You may be the only contact sources have with the group, and as such it is critical that you conduct yourself appropriately.

I reserve the right to drop any student with an F if he/she has excessive absences or missed assignments,

engages in disruptive behavior, has a poor attitude, or in any other way is clearly not taking the class seriously.

By accepting this syllabus and remaining enrolled in this course, you are indicating that you understand my expectations for students concerning attendance, attitude and work ethic.

Two final notes on grading: Critics from both within and outside of higher education have accused faculty of engaging in “grade inflation,” the idea that grades don’t truly reflect quality and instead have been devalued to the point that an A means very good, a B means average, and anything less than a B is failing. I’m not sure whether those people would include me in their criticisms, but I do know I try my best to adhere to the system as I understand it: an A means outstanding, a B means above average, and a C means average. Please remember these interpretations as the semester progresses.

Please remember also that attending every class and completing every assignment do not constitute outstanding quality or guarantee an A for the course. Attending every class and completing every assignment are only prerequisites for achieving a desired grade in the class. Too many students have argued that these are the reasons they deserved an A in the class, and

I do not buy into this way of thinking.

By accepting this syllabus and remaining enrolled in this course, you are indicating that you understand the grading policies for the course. If you have questions, you should see me as soon as possible.

Equipment: You are expected to follow proper check-out and check-in procedures, including filling out the proper forms correctly and completely. You are also expected to return the equipment in a timely manner, and if you are unable to do so as a result of unforeseeable circumstances, you are expected to call Lisa to let her know.

The equipment is expensive to replace and to repair. Students are expected to use the equipment carefully and correctly. While accidents do happen through no fault of the student, carelessness will not be tolerated.
If equipment is damaged while it is checked out to you, you are expected to inform Lisa so she can make arrangements to have it repaired. If she determines that the damage is due to your carelessness, you will be billed for

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repair or replacement costs. As my colleague says, “If you break it, you buy it.”

Ethics: The MSU Student Honor Creed, written and adopted by the 2002-2003 MSU Student Senate, covers expectations related to cheating and other forms of academic dishonesty. The main statement from this document is:

“As an MSU student, I pledge not to lie, cheat, steal, or help anyone else to do so.”

All students in my courses are expected to abide by this student-produced document, as well as all other related university policies. I will provide copies of the MSU Student Honor Creed to any student who requests one. It is also on page 10 of the 2013-2014 MSU Student Handbook (the handbook is also available online at Assets/documents/student-life/2013-14%20Student%20Handbook.pdf).

In addition, the university requires faculty to provide this statement to all students:

By enrolling in this course, the student expressly grants MSU a “limited right” in all intellectual property created by the student for the purpose of this course. The “limited right” shall include but shall not be limited to the right to reproduce the student’s work product in order to verify originality and authenticity, and educational purposes.

By accepting this syllabus and remaining enrolled in this course, you are indicating that you understand the statement provided above and agree to comply with it.

I require COMPLETE honesty in producing your work. Working professionals are often encouraged to confer with their colleagues on strategies and wordings, but there is a difference between advice and blatant plagiarism.

I also realize it will be very easy to confer with colleagues on take-home assignments, but you should realize that instructors can usually identify when students have worked together. I also realize the Internet provides a convenient source of information, but students need to be aware that proper citation will be required.

Past students will tell you I take this issue very seriously and have not hesitated to confront them. A slightly higher grade on an assignment is not worth the extremely unpleasant experience of taking an accusation of academic dishonesty through the university hierarchy. Please don’t force me to do it.

I reserve the right to drop any student with an F if he/she engages in any form of academic dishonesty. I further reserve the right to recommend other sanctions as may be appropriate. Students are also encouraged to consult the following sources for additional discussion of students’ rights and responsibilities regarding cheating, attendance and general conduct:

  • The MSU Student Honor Creed

  • Pages 16, 19-22, 55-57, 71, 75-83 of the 2012-2014 MSU Undergraduate Catalog

  • Pages 7, 9-10, 43-53, 59, 67-79, 81-114 and 120-121 of the 2013-2014 MSU Student Handbook

    (the handbook is also available online at 2013-14%20Student%20Handbook.pdf Student-Handbook-20110815-150251.pdf?LL=147).

    By accepting this syllabus and remaining enrolled in this course, you are indicating that you understand the seriousness of academic dishonesty and realize I will impose the harshest sanctions possible if I can prove you have engaged in academic dishonesty. You are also indicating that you understand what constitutes academic dishonesty; I will not tolerate the excuse that the student did not know he/she was engaging in academic dishonesty.

    Privacy: Federal privacy law prohibits me from releasing information about students to certain parties outside of the university without the signed consent of the student. Thus, in almost all cases I will not discuss your academic progress or other matters with your parents. Please do not have them call me. Regardless of these important legal considerations, it is my general policy to communicate with the students, not their parents, even when a student has signed a consent form. College students are adults and are expected to behave accordingly.

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Special Accommodations: Students with disabilities or who are in need of special arrangements should see me as early as possible in the semester. I will do what I can within reason to accommodate your needs. Please note that in order to qualify for consideration of special accommodations, you must be registered with the MSU Office of Disability Support Services, and I must have a memo on file from that office, along with the Special Accommodations Request form.

If you have specific medical information that needs sharing or you need specific accommodations in case of emergencies or emergency evacuations, please see me as soon as possible.

Course Organization and Schedule: This course will be run as a seminar, with the expectations that students will arrive for class prepared and that the course will proceed with far more discussion than lecture. The success of this format depends on your willingness to actively participate in class discussions and other activities. If this approach doesn’t work, I will be forced to lecture for the entire time.

This is the TENTATIVE course schedule. Due to storms, last-minute changes, extended class discussions and my frequent inability to stick to the agenda I set at the beginning of the course, this schedule is likely to change. I reserve the right to change the class schedule if circumstances make it necessary. Chances are good that you will receive at least one revised schedule before the semester is over. If reading assignments or deadlines change, I will tell you well in advance.


Week 1 01/18 – 01/22

Course Introduction

Lecture: Documentaries vs. Other Forms of Narratives


Week 2 01/25– 01/29

Topic Selection

Lecture: Defining a good story/Writing the proposal & treatment Reading: Chapters 1, 2, & pgs. 62-76


Week 3 02/01 – 02/05

Review of Equipment Lecture: Cameras and Editing

02/04: Topic Selection Proposals Due Reading: Chapter 9


Week 4 02/08 – 02/12

2/09: Camera/Videography Comp Test 2/11: Pitch Day
Optional: Conferences
Reading: Chapter 8


Week 5 02/15 – 02/19

Interviewing/Sources Image/Lighting Design Reading: Chapter 6


Week 6 02/22 – 02/26

Week 7 02/29 – 03/04

Week 8 03/07 – 03/11

Week 9 03/14 –03/18

Week 10 03/21 – 03/25

Week 11 03/28 – 04/01

Week 12 04/04 – 04/08

Week 13 04/11 – 04/15

Lecture: Lenses & Composition Lecture: Sound Design in the Field Reading: Chapter 7
2/25: Treatments Due

Lecture: Sound Design in Media Composer/Audition 3/03: Process docs due
Reading: Chapter 11

Lecture: Legal and Ethical Dilemmas 3/10: Editing Comp Test
Mandatory Conferences
Reading: Chapter 12

<WORK WEEK> 3/17: Scripts Due

Spring Break


<WORK WEEK> Mandatory Conferences Reading: Chapter 13


<WORK WEEK> Rough Edit Notes Reading: Chapter 14

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Week 14 04/18 – 04/22

Lecture: Post Production Cleanup (Image, Color, Sound)


Week 15 04/25 – 04/29



Week 16 05/02 05/06



Week 17

05/09 – 05/13

FINALS WEEK: Final Cuts Due 05/10, Screenings TBD 


Final Exam 05/12/2016 10:30AM-12:30PM
Submission Format Policy Note: You may not submit a paper for a grade in this class that already has been (or will be) submitted for a grade in another course, unless you obtain the explicit written permission of me and the other instructor involved in advance.
Plagiarism Policy

Plagiarism is the use of someone else's thoughts, words, ideas, or lines of argument in your own work without appropriate documentation (a parenthetical citation at the end and a listing in "Works Cited")-whether you use that material in a quote, paraphrase, or summary. It is a theft of intellectual property and will not be tolerated, whether intentional or not.

Student Honor Creed

As an MSU Student, I pledge not to lie, cheat, steal, or help anyone else do so."

As students at MSU, we recognize that any great society must be composed of empowered, responsible citizens. We also recognize universities play an important role in helping mold these responsible citizens. We believe students themselves play an important part in developing responsible citizenship by maintaining a community where integrity and honorable character are the norm, not the exception.

Thus, We, the Students of Midwestern State University, resolve to uphold the honor of the University by affirming our commitment to complete academic honesty. We resolve not only to be honest but also to hold our peers accountable for complete honesty in all university matters.

We consider it dishonest to ask for, give, or receive help in examinations or quizzes, to use any unauthorized material in examinations, or to present, as one's own, work or ideas which are not entirely one's own. We recognize that any instructor has the right to expect that all student work is honest, original work. We accept and acknowledge that responsibility for lying, cheating, stealing, plagiarism, and other forms of academic dishonesty fundamentally rests within each individual student.

We expect of ourselves academic integrity, personal professionalism, and ethical character. We appreciate steps taken by University officials to protect the honor of the University against any who would disgrace the MSU student body by violating the spirit of this creed.

Written and adopted by the 2002-2003 MSU Student Senate.

Students with Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact the Disability Support Services in Room 168 of the Clark Student Center, (940) 397-4140.

Safe Zones Statement

The professor considers this classroom to be a place where you will be treated with respect as a human being - regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, political beliefs, age, or ability. Additionally, diversity of thought is appreciated and encouraged, provided you can agree to disagree. It is the professor's expectation that ALL students consider the classroom a safe environment.

Contacting your Instructor

All instructors in the Department have voicemail in their offices and MWSU e-mail addresses. Make sure you add your instructor's phone number and e-mail address to both email and cell phone lists of contacts.

Writing Proficiency Requirement

All students seeking a Bachelor's degree from Midwestern State University must satisfy a writing proficiency requirement once they've 1) passed the 6 hours of Communication Core and and 2) earned 60 hours. You may meet this requirement by passing either the Writing Proficiency Exam or English 2113. Please keep in mind that, once you've earned over 90 hours, you lose the opportunity to take the $25 exam and have no option but to enroll in the three-credit hour course. If you have any questions about the exam, visit the Writing Proficiency Office website at, or call 397-4131.

Campus Carry

Senate Bill 11 passed by the 84th Texas Legislature allows licensed handgun holders to carry concealed handguns on campus, effective August 1, 2016. Areas excluded from concealed carry are appropriately marked, in accordance with state law. For more information regarding campus carry, please refer to the University’s webpage at

If you have questions or concerns, please contact MSU Chief of Police Patrick Coggins at