My scholarly activities and achievements include co-authoring the 7th edition of the textbook Directing the Documentary; producing and distributing independent and commissioned documentary films; co-producing non-fiction media projects in association with governmental organizations, NGOs, and non-profits; learning web development tool sets in the production of a digital humanities project; and learning virtual reality (VR) tool sets in the making of a short 360° documentary. I wrote several successful project proposals and served as a consultant on several long and short form media projects.
The documentary films I make span a diverse set of subjects and characters, but they all seem to be about champions of unpopular ideas whose unwavering dedication to their cause is virtuous, and whose sometimes unfortunate or seemingly misdirected application of their energy and passion belies a relatable, unimpeachable rationale.
The non-fiction media I produce in collaboration with governmental organizations, NGOs, and non-profits focuses on environmental conservation initiatives, advocacy for underserved communities, and educational content for those who seek to serve those communities. These issue-oriented pieces connect my work with my politics, sharpen my filmmaking skills, keep me connected with the technical tools of the trade, and grow my network contacts locally and regionally.
My friend and mentor Michael Rabiger, who invited me to co-author the 7th Edition of his textbook Directing the Documentary, is fond of the Emile Zola quote, “A work of art is a corner of nature seen through a temperament.” I have found this to be especially true of documentary and non-fiction media because it takes reality as its subject and requires the filmmaker to interpret that reality to communicate a story to a viewer. For the filmmaker, then, it is important to examine the unique point of view out of which the themes that generate and inform that interpretation emerge. I routinely ask my students to adopt this ethic in the pursuit of their own, authentic “voice,” which I believe is most effective when it lives at the very center of their work.
In January 2019, I was invited by Michael Rabiger to join him in co-authoring the 7th edition of his long-running textbook Directing the Documentary. The title was released on May 22, 2020.
The 7th edition includes brand new content on the rise of the documentary series, the impact of video on demand and content aggregators, updated information on prosumer and professional video (including 4K+), coverage of new audio & lighting solutions and trends in post-production, coverage of the immersive documentary, and provides practical sets of solutions for low, medium, and high budget documentary film productions throughout. The companion website has also been fully updated to include a wide variety of projects, additional project ideas, and professional film examples.
Documentaries (independent and commissioned):
There’s Heart Here (2019)
Credit: Writer, Director, Director of Photography, Story Editor
Description: A short documentary about three indigenous members of the Two Spirit and LGBTQ community as they journey toward self-acceptance, supportive healthcare, and communities that celebrate them. The project, which also includes a prescriptive video targeted toward health care practitioners in Indian Country was awarded through a proposal sponsored by the Northwest Portland Indian Health Board (NPAIHB) and made by Indian Health Services (IHS).
Distribution: Premiered at the 2019 United States Conference on AIDS (USCA), used in conjunction with training material targeted toward health care providers in Indian Country, and available through the NPAIHB website, screened at a special community gathering at the Native American Student and Community Center at Portland State University.
People of the Way (2019)
Description: A VR/360 short documentary about a tiny Lutheran congregation led by a gay pastor and committed to living out progressive values grounded in traditional faith.
Production Notes: This project was made as a part of a professional development opportunity at NW Documentary Arts and Media in their workshop DIY 360 Documentary.
Burton Before and After (2017)
Description: A short documentary that revisits the transition of a transgender man through home video shot 15 years prior.
Distribution: Educational streaming and DVD sales through Dark Hollow Films (2018-2019).
Film Festival Screenings: Leeds Queer Film Festival, Outfest Los Angeles, Q Films (Long Beach Q Film Festival), Reeling (The Chicago International LGBTQ Film Festival), Cinema Diverse (Palm Springs), Oregon Independent Film Festival, Olympia Film Festival, Tampa Bay International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, BendFilm Festival, TWIST (Seattle Queer Film Festival), Trans Stellar Film Festival Detroit, Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival (Portland), Portland Film Festival, Q Fest: San Antonio LGBT International Film Festival, Corvallis Queer Film Festival, Ethnografilm (Paris), Portland International Film Festival, Translations (Seattle), Ashland Independent Film Festival, Palm Springs International ShortFest, North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, Wandering Reel Film Festival (Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Northern California), Film Festival at Browns Point (Tacoma), Unlonely Film Festival.
Presentations and Special Screenings: The Evergreen State College (Professor Suree Towfighnia’s Mediaworks: Signifying Difference and Power on Screens course), Portland State University (Professor Miriam Abelson’s Transgender Studies course), Queering Social Justice Symposium (hosted by Portland State University), Trans Summit (hosted by Outfest LA), University Film and Video Association Annual Conference 2019, Trans Pictures: An Evening of Films Exploring Trans Lives at the Gene Siskel Film Center (hosted by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago), Hollywood Theatre at Portland International Airport.
45: Love Letter to the Resistance (2017)
Description: Donald Trump offers words of encouragement to Portland, Oregon’s street protestors.
Screenings/Streaming: Boathouse Microcinema, makeamericagreatagain.art.
Production Notes: This project was made in response to the a year of street protests that followed the inauguration of the 45th President of the U.S.
Confluence of Purpose (2016)
Credit: Co-Producer, Director, Camera Operator
Description: A short documentary awarded through an RFP administered by Tillamook Estuaries Partnership and funded by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife about a 520 acre tidal wetland restoration project located in Tillamook County, Oregon.
Distribution: Tillamook Estuaries Partnership website, Tillamook Coliseum screening, Tillamook County Board of Commissioners screening, Stories of Our Watersheds Film Festival--Portland, Stories of Our Watersheds Film Festival—Seattle, Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society (ORAFS) annual meeting, National Fish Habitat Partnership (NFHP)/American Fisheries Society (AFS)/The Wildlife Society (TWS) Reno Film Festival: Reno-vating Habitat for Fish and Wildlife: A Film Festival Highlighting Collaborative Habitat Conservation and Its Benefits.
Educational, branded media, and fundraising content made in partnership
with government agencies, NGOs, and non-profits:
Geeta Lewis (2019)
Credit: Camera Operator, Story Editor
Commissioned by: Swaim Strategies
Distribution: Q Center's annual SHINE fundraising event.
See Us. Stand with Us. (2019)
Credit: Co-Director, Camera Operator, Story Editor
Funded by: Indian Health Service (IHS)
Co-Produced by: Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHB)
Distribution: Premiered at the 2019 United States Conference on AIDS (USCA), used in conjunction with training material targeted toward health care providers in Indian Country, and available through the NPAIHB website.
Center for Women's Leadership (2018)
Credit: Camera Operator, Story Editor
Commissioned by: Swaim Strategies
Distribution: Screened at CWL's annual Power Lunch fundraising event.
Gladys Bikes (2019)
Credit: Camera Operator, Story Editor
Commissioned by: Swaim Strategies
Distribution: Screened at Basic Rights Oregon's Oregonians Against Discrimination Business Leaders Luncheon and available on Basic Rights Oregon's YouTube channel.
IHS, Tribal and Urban Indian Clinics are Curing Hepatitis C (2017)
Credit: Co-Producer, Co-Director, Co-Writer, Camera Operator, Story Editor
Commissioned by: Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board
Distribution: Used in conjunction with training material targeted toward health care providers in Indian Country, available through the NPAIHB's website and social media outlets.
Explore Nature (2018)
Credit: Co-Producer, Director, Camera Operator, Story Editor
Funded by: Explore Tillamook Coast
Co-Produced by: Tillamook Estuaries Partnership (TEP)
Distribution: Available on Explore Nature's website and social media outlets.
Digital humanities projects:
I am currently in collaboration with Professor Judith Raiskin at the University of Oregon on Outliers and Outlaws: The Eugene Lesbian Oral History Project, a community-based, digital humanities project that preserves and shares the unique history of the lesbian community in Eugene, OR.
A collection of 83 oral histories, housed in the University of Oregon library, are at the center of this initiative. The archived interviews and documents preserve and fills in a gap of important history.
My participation as originally envisioned was to produce a 24-minute documentary about several of the women who helped build the community and who continue to contribute to the culture. When COVID-19 hit, the production was put on hold and I was asked to turn my attention to the development and design of the project website and the upcoming digital exhibit. My collaborators and I worked to learn the Wordpress theme and page builder plugin, Divi.
I have found that sourcing material from the archive (interviews, photographs, documents, news clippings, and other ephemera) and using technology to frame its relevance and tell a story about it for an audience, requires the same skill set as documentary filmmaking. While I look forward to the time where we can record the documentary, I am enjoying this opportunity do something a little different with my creative energy.
New Opportunities for Older Creative Work
Several of my older documentary titles picked up new opportunities during the review period.
In collaboration with The Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, I story edited a looping 15-minute excerpt from Exotic World and the Burlesque Revival (2012) for use in their “Exotic World Museum” exhibit, which opened in 2018 continued through 2019.
My collaborators at Prairie Dust Films and I continued distribution efforts on Crying Earth Rise Up (2015), a documentary that examines the human cost of uranium mining and its impact on sacred water. Funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s minority consortia member Vision Maker Media and distributed to PBS by the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA), the film has been broadcast over 3,300 times since 2015 and continues to show periodically on PBS stations across the country. An additional distribution deal was negotiated with Documentary Education Resources in 2018.
A short documentary I produced in collaboration with Boxcar Assembly and the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission (OCHC) and funded by the National Parks Service (NPS), was included in the traveling exhibit Uprooted: Japanese American Farm Labor Camps during World War II. During the review period, the exhibit was featured at the Japanese American National Museum, Lane County Historical Museum, Friends Center, Moses Lake Museum and Art Center, and Oregon State University Library. The exhibit highlights photographer Russell Lee’s documentation of Japanese farm labor camps in the Northwestern United States during World War II.
Standing Silent Nation (2007), a documentary I produced in collaboration with Prairie Dust Films about a Lakota family’s attempts to grow industrial hemp and the federal government’s refusal to allow it, which aired nationally on PBS’s POV/American Documentary, received the honor of being chosen for the Vision Maker Media commemorative collection, “40 Years – 40 Films” in 2017.
During the review period, I offered consulting services on a limited basis to documentary filmmakers with projects at all stages of production from ideation and development to marketing and distribution. During the review period, several projects I contributed to were completed and distributed.
I am a credited Consulting Producer on North Pole, NY (2018), a feature-length documentary about Santa's Workshop, one of the very first theme parks in the U.S., and the struggle of those who love it to keep it alive. I began working on the project when it was in the development phase of the production process and offered consultation throughout its making, especially during post-production where I helped to story edit the piece. Upon completion, the film was invited to the prestigious documentary market Doc NYC, has since shown at several film festivals where it has garnered awards, and is currently playing in theaters in the Northeastern U.S. and Southeastern Canada as part of a 4-walling campaign.
I am an uncredited consultant on Unaccompanied: Alone in America (2018), a short advocacy video about the plight of immigrant children who must represent themselves in federal immigration court. The video went “viral” and has been screened millions of times in the aggregate on social media platforms and websites. Its director, Linda Freedman, for whom I have served as a consultant in the past, emailed me a rough cut of the project. I offered suggestions for managing the question of how to communicate to the viewer that the piece is a re-enactment, ideas for restructuring the video, and language for the inter-titles.
I am credited as an Additional Photographer on The Reluctant Radical (2018), a feature-length documentary about climate activist Ken Ward. I also provided critique twice during the rough cut stage of post-production. In the early stages of production on the film, director Lindsey Grayzel and her camera operator were arrested and charged with a number of crimes for photographing direct action related to the film’s narrative. I wrote a short report about the situation and emailed it to several colleagues across the country including media scholar Patricia Aufderheide, who edited and published my comments to the American University Center for Media and Social Impact (CMSI) website. To read the piece, visit: http://cmsimpact.org/fair-use-blog/hermann-dangerous-docs/
During the review period, I responded to two Requests for Proposals (RFPs). One opportunity was distributed publicly, and the other was solicited by the requesting organization. Both of the proposals I prepared and submitted were accepted.
The first proposal was made in response to an RFP sent out by Tillamook Estuaries Partnership (TEP) on behalf of Explore Nature, a consortium of environmental conservation non-profits in Tillamook County, for a series of short branded videos for the web and associated social media platforms. Details of that project are described above.
The second proposal was submitted upon request by the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHB) and funded by the Indian Health Service (IHS) for a short documentary about the treatment of queer indigenous people by health care providers in Indian Country. Details of that project are outlined above.
In the classroom, I model for my students an engaged and considered approach to interacting with the world and to authoring and collaborating on creative work. Through scrupulous curriculum design and deployment, I seek to invigorate the pursuit of learning and to stimulate students’ desire to achieve at a high level. By demonstrating a keen interest in the discipline, a passion for the film profession, and a commitment to contributing to the culture of the School of Film at Portland State, I endeavor to cultivate student engagement and success. My teaching is highly rated, according to classroom visitation reports and student evaluations.
Across the twelve different courses I have taught at Portland State during the review period, I employed a variety of approaches—reading, discussion, lecture, demonstration, seminar, writing, hands-on practice, and application of newly acquired concepts—in service to the goal of delivering skill proficiency and experience in the particular area of study while fostering an attitude toward creative work that prepares students for the next level of achievement in the curriculum and for future professional opportunities.
In my efforts to deliver learner-centered instruction, I offer strong leadership, organized planning, and unambiguous communication to create a stable environment where the inevitable differences in students’ preparedness, natural ability, and ways of learning can be effectively addressed, and I encourage students to interrogate their personal values, points of view, and areas of interest to arrive at subjects for and themes to address in their creative work.
Selected achievements during the review period include developing the curriculum for and deploying FILM 132 Introduction to Digital Filmmaking (required for all majors), FILM 450 Portfolio and Professional Development (first offered as a special topics course and then adopted into the catalogue), FILM 451 Advanced Production Workshop ((first offered as a special topics course and then adopted into the catalogue), and FILM 360 Branded Media (a popular production course that has invited community collaborations and brought awareness to the FILM program through distribution opportunities).
Branded Media Production
I developed Branded Media Production as an intensive production course for intermediate and advanced students studying film production at Portland State University.
Students work in small production units to produce professional quality, short form branded media videos for real clients.
During the term, students meet with the clients to determine their needs as they relate to the communication of the organization’s brand to a target audience. Students then prepare and deliver a formal pitch presentation to the clients—feedback from which is integrated into the final concepts for the projects. Students manage all aspects of production—from ideation to delivery.
Inviting collaborations with clients raises the stakes for students, copies a process that students might find when making work professionally in the future, and offers a built-in audience and distribution opportunities.
In Fall 2016, the Branded Media Production class produced 7 tourism spots for their campaign "Portland: You are Here", which was included in the Hollywood Theatre PDX microcinema's inaugural program. They worked with Looptworks, a sustainable apparel company that "upcycles" discarded goods into high quality products, to create 3 brand story videos.
In Fall 2018, students produced 7 “spots” for their campaign, “Portland State Film: Framing the Future”, which showed on a public screen on campus. They worked with Oregon Wild, a conservation non-profit, on 4 “brand story” videos, and with Explore Nature, a consortium of environmental conservation groups, on twenty, 1-minute “highlight” videos.
Advanced Production Workshop serves those students who have completed at least one of Portland State Film's production tracks. Students with diverse interests convene and collaborate on mature work that can be used in portfolios and offered to outside distribution channels including film festivals and online streaming.
Each student authors their own film in a chosen genre: experimental, fiction, documentary, branded media, or music video. Delivery deadlines throughout the term keep students on track to complete a project from concept to completion in 11 weeks.
Students are asked to invest in their classmates' processes; invoking a collaborative spirit that yields opportunities for student participation in an array of projects, each with its own storytelling, producing, aesthetic, logistical, and technical challenges. Because students crew on each other's projects, the experience is intended to produce high quality assets they can use in their individual portfolios.
During the term, students develop marketing materials (website + poster/postcard) and a distribution plan during the term to ready themselves to screen their work publicly. This activity supports the notion that films are made to be shared with audiences, which serves to professionalize the work to a greater degree.
Portfolio and Professional
Annually since Spring 2016, I have facilitated Portfolio and Professional Development, an experience that culminates in a portfolio show held at Portland State University.
The course asks graduating students to investigate their interests, values, personality, and skills as the basis for discovery and communication of their personal brand as they begin their careers. To discover career goals and set a path to attaining them, students undertake a series of short research projects, in-class writing exercises, and oral presentations.
In service to communicating their personal brand, students prepare marketing materials (a portfolio website, a resume, a generic and a tailored cover letter, a business card) and a reel or reels highlighting generalist and/or specialist skill sets in media production.
At the end of the term, students present themselves as emerging professionals to the school community, alumni, peers, friends, family, and to established media professionals.
The portfolio show manufactures a reason for students to reach out to local professionals, serves as a marketing tool for the course itself among lower level students, establishes a culture of career planning in the program, keeps the program on the radar of the local creative community, provides a destination for students’ work, creates a meaningful deadline for student completion of marketing materials, raises the stakes for the course deliverables, offers a safe space in which students can present themselves as professionals for the first time, and formalizes the transition from classroom to job market.
Introduction to Digital Filmmaking is a required course in the Fall 2018 catalog that I developed in collaboration with other faculty and first taught as a FILM 199 Special Topics trial in Winter 2018.
The course clarifies the goals I have for our beginning students: students exiting the class should understand the amount of dedicated interest that film production requires of a practitioner, the value of telling the stories they are uniquely prepared to tell rather than pursuing derivative work, the basics of the technical tools and techniques of filmmaking, the steps in the media production process, the importance of professional development, and the culture of collaboration and mutual respect expected of them in the School of Film.
The course culminates in a final project that requires students to work in small groups to produce one mini-documentary and one microfiction film; thus employing accumulated skills and concepts learned during the course and preparing the students for the 200-level production tracks in documentary and narrative film production.