The Social Problem Documentary: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Creating Media Tools that Address Societal Problems
For the past 7 years at Rowan University my Documentary Film Production class has been working with the psychology and sociology departments to create 25-minute video documentaries that address many of the societal problems in the US. These documentaries have paired Radio/TV/Film students with sociology, psychology, and journalism students, as well as appropriate members of our surrounding communities. The student documentaries have addressed the social problems of binge drinking, sexual assault, racism, hazing, and drug addiction. The Rowan University Center for Addiction Studies (based in the psychology department) has funded many of these documentaries, and distributed them to all 54 New Jersey colleges and hundreds of New Jersey high schools. The student documentaries also have been funded by Security on Campus, Inc. This organization has distributed the documentaries nationally to over 10,000 colleges, high schools, police operations, rehab centers, and the US Navy. Customized, interactive websites, DVD design, and additional video resources have also been part of the projects. I thought the conference attendees would be interested to hear how this innovative, interdisciplinary approach to creating socially conscious media can be both a great learning experience and have a positive impact on the surrounding community. In the end, the success of our program is directly related to the students, who are the same age as the target audience. They create documentaries that are hard-hitting and relevant. The fact that the research is grounded in fundamental sociological principles enables the students to see the bigger societal picture and tell their stories better. Creating multi-media in support of the documentary subject is a bonus for everyone.
Keywords: Societal Problem, Multi-Media Technology, Interdisciplinary Teaching, Documentary Film
Prof. Edgar Eckhardt
Chairman and Professor, Radio/TV/Film Department, Rowan University