You are here

Special Topics in Film and Digital Media Production: Making an Exoneree

FILM 171S-02
Academic Year: 
McHenry Lib 1340

Course Topic: Reasonable Doubts | Making an Exoneree

Course Description:

FILM 171S-02 will be an intensive two-quarter course in which a small number of passionate and highly-motivated UCSC students and a similarly committed and enthusiastic group of students from Georgetown University will work together as investigative journalists, documentarians, and social justice activists, with the goal of creating documentary projects, websites and social media campaigns that make the case for the innocence of a wrongfully convicted person who is currently languishing in prison. The “Making an Exoneree” course at Georgetown originated with Professor Marc Howard and his childhood friend, Adjunct Professor Marty Tankleff, who was himself wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for almost 18 years before being exonerated. Previous versions of the course at Georgetown resulted in the exoneration and release of Valentino Dixon, and significant progress in the legal prospects of several other potential exonerees.

In the winter and spring of 2022, Film and Digital Media Professor Sharon Daniel will co-teach this course with Professors Howard and Tankleff. Fifteen students at Georgetown and fifteen students at UCSC, selected by application, will reinvestigate the original crime and conviction, documenting the main issues, challenges, injustices, and human stories involved in each case. The output for the course—which will be prepared by five groups of students working closely together in teams of six (three students from each campus) on five different cases of wrongful conviction—will include the production of short documentary films, interactive documentaries and social media campaigns that will provide humanizing portraits of the lives, families, and complicated legal cases of five people who were likely wrongfully convicted. At the end of the spring quarter 2022, students will present their work at a public event hosted by the Prisons and Justice Initiative at Georgetown and the Institute for Arts and Sciences at UCSC.

The class is scheduled on Fridays from 9:00am to 2:00pm in both Winter and Spring of 2022. Students who wish to participate must commit to enrolling in both quarters of the course. Although the class will not always meet as a full group each week for that entire block of time, students must keep their Fridays open, free from other classes or regular commitments. Students will be meeting in-person and working together within smaller groups, attending guest lectures and presentations on both campuses via Zoom, and consulting with the professors on both campuses, on a regular basis throughout the two-quarter sequence.

The course is restricted to a maximum of 15 UCSC students. Priority will be given to those students who have a strong academic and practical background in film and digital media making, combined with a passion for justice and an understanding of injustice in the criminal legal system - system impacted students are especially encouraged to apply. Having a background in investigative journalism, criminal justice reform or abolition activism and/or legal studies is a bonus, but not a requirement.

As part of your application you will be asked to submit a 3-minute webcam video in which you explain why you want to take the course and what you have to offer, while also providing any background information that may be relevant or helpful. The application period will open on Nov 15, 2021, the final application deadline--for submitting all materials, including the video will be Friday, Nov 26 at midnight  Please visit SlugFilm to submit your application: