Each semester, mass communication majors take a class called Senior Production as their exit-level course. Students work in teams and are required to produce a 12 to 16 minute documentary on the topic of their choice. Students are required to handle all elements of the production, including source selection and interviews; shooting and editing video; writing the script; and working on other technical details such as audio and graphics. All documentaries are produced using the latest digital production and editing equipment.
While 12-16 minutes may not sound like a lengthy project, it is important to remember that for each minute of video in the final product, approximately one hour of video is shot. For each source and sound byte in the final product, dozens of others are discarded. We estimate that each minute of the final product represents approximately 10 hours of shooting, editing, writing and other pre-production work per student.
At the end of each semester, the department holds a screening session during which the faculty watch the documentaries and discuss them with the students. These screening sessions, which are open to the public, have been well attended and well received.
Since 2000, our documentaries have won 60 awards through organizations such as the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association, the Southwestern Journalism Congress, and College Media Advisers. Seventeen documentaries have won first place awards in categories such as Best Documentary, Best Production, Best Public Affairs Program, Best Videography/Editing and Best Special Broadcast. For seven of the last nine years, at least one documentary has been in a finalist in the nationwide competitions sponsored by Collegiate Broadcasters, Inc., including a first-place finish in Fall 2005.