Create a Short Documentary Video Portrait Premium class

Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Documentary Storyteller

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11 Videos (54m)
    • Introduction

    • Preview the Film: Coyote & Crow

    • Approach

    • Equipment

    • Subject Prep

    • Shooting

    • Editing

    • Watch the Film: Coyote & Crow (with Director Narration)

    • Watch the Film: Coyote & Crow

    • Pro Tips: Pitching Your Work

    • Closing


About This Class

How can you structure, shoot, and share your best story? Join filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon for a tactical, inspiring class on balancing artistry and authenticity in documentary video portraits and short films.

Covering every stage of her creative process, you'll go behind-the-scenes as she films a video portrait of Brooklyn-based musicians Coyote & Crow. Bite-sized lessons cover:

  • storytelling: discovering and researching your subject
  • single-camera shooting: tips for capturing visuals and audio when it's just you
  • polish: editing tricks for rhythm, pace, and style
  • pitching: advice on reaching out to commissioning outlets and brands

You'll learn how to create the kind of character-driven video portraits that distinguish great filmmakers — the films that turn into Vimeo Staff Picks, New York Times Op-Docs, film festival shorts, and more.

This 55-minute class is perfect for filmmakers, documentarians, journalists, and all creative storytellers eager to craft compelling narratives about the stories all around us.


We recommend that students have a basic technical knowledge of their camera and equipment, but all levels are welcome!

157 of 160 students recommendSee All

loved the documentary making process walkthrough. unfortunately I can't afford the gear in the course :), but I will try anyways
Nice overview of creating short documentary films.
Blair Koss

Changing Things Up

Excellent class! I hope Elaine teaches more classes soon! An idea would be to go more in-depth on certain aspects from this class, for instance: -Editing (FCPx vs Adobe Premiere, creating the storyline & choosing the editing style for documentaries) -Pitching to Distributors / Producers (provide sample starting templates on various pitches she's done in the past to NYTimes OpDoc, Bitter Southerner, Gawker, etc.) -One-Person Film Shoot Set-Up (go more in-depth on the equipment she used, and a BTS on how it's used & adjusted) -Journalism (how to tell stories through film, from ideation to filmmaking to distribution) I didn't know much about Elaine before, but after this class, I'm excited to now follow and support her work going forward.
Radha Mehta

artist & engineer, in no particular order...





Elaine McMillion Sheldon

Documentary Storyteller

Elaine McMillion Sheldon is a Peabody award-winning documentary maker, visual journalist and media artist who explores themes of identity, roots and change. Sheldon’s film and interactive work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, from the New York Film Festal to International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam.  

In 2013, she released HOLLOW an interactive documentary that examines the future of rural America through the eyes and voices of Appalachians. Hollow received a 2013 Peabody, 2014 Emmy nomination and 3rd Prize in the World Press Photo Multimedia Awards. 

In January 2016, Sheldon received Chicken & Egg's inaugural Breakthrough Filmmaker Award. She was a 2013 Future of Storytelling Fellow, and named one of the "25 New Faces of Independent Film" in 2013 by Filmmaker Magazine and one of "50 People Changing The South" in 2015 by Southern Living Magazine. 

She is the co-creator of She Does, a bi-weekly audio documentary series that documents creative women’s journeys. She Does won a 2016 Communicator Award of Excellence from The Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts.