Arts of the Moving Image 162S: Making it in Hollywood

Breaking it down: scene from Homicide: Life on the Street.

Breaking it down: scene from Homicide: Life on the Street.
Michael Ginsberg/NBCU Photo Bank

Everyone consumes TV, but very few know how it's made,” says Ted Bogosian '73, visiting filmmaker in Duke's Program in the Arts of the Moving Image. Bogosian is one of those few who can claim he does. He's been in the business for more than thirty years, making episodic dramas and documentaries while also contributing to major film projects. His class, paid for by The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, is a crash course in and sneak peek at the inner workings of the film industry.

The typical class session is run like a professional workshop, and the students are treated like a group of budding directors. First, Bogosian hands out copies of a film or television script. The students watch a single scene, multiple edits of
a single scene, or hours of raw footage. Then they compare scribbled notes critiquing editorial decisions or choices in direction. “I give everybody the opportunity to act like a director, getting a script and then seeing how all the departments interact,” Bogosian says. “By deconstructing the episode after reading the script, they really get a sense of what goes into a show, what makes a good show.”

The first half of the semester is focused on Bogosian's own works, both documentaries and episodic dramas, so that students can question him about his decisions as editor and director. Once students are comfortable with the idea of being artists and storytellers, he gives them the director's chair: The midterm asks students to critique a famous episode from the television drama Homicide: Life on the Street and suggest how it could be made more relevant for the contemporary audience.

Post-midterm, Bogosian draws upon his connections in the film industry and hosts visiting artists who give master classes on various aspects of the creative process from script to final editing. Past guests have included Marcia Mule, executive producer of reality shows My Life on the D-List and Real Housewives of Atlanta; David Nutter, who directed episodes of hit dramas such as The X-Files, Band of Brothers, and Entourage; and Tom Fontana, the writer, producer, and creator of the prison drama Oz.

The course's final is a practical exam in which each student is given an authentic script and three hours of raw footage for a scene actually broadcast on NBC. It's a true cumulative test of the semester: Students can mold the footage however they wish; the final product can be as short as one minute or as long as a couple of hours, film noir or comedy. The class convenes on finals day to watch each student's cuts and workshop as a group one last time.

“The purpose is not to mimic what was broadcast on the network, but to improve it,” Bogosian says. “By the time the term is over, they can go anyplace in the business and talk with authority.”

Visiting filmmaker Ted Bogosian has directed several major television series for PBS, including The Press Secretary and Nine Days in New Hampshire, and episodes of The Bedford Diaries, The Jury, and Oz. He wrote and directed the PBS documentary series Anatomy of a Homicide: Life on the Street. His latest project, What Love Is, profiles the Pathfinders program at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center, which provides counseling for cancer patients and their families.


Television scripts
Uplift by Spike Lee and Lisa Jones, I’ll Be in My Trailer by John Badham and Craig Moddero, and other books


Weekly journal
Weekly screenings of episodic dramas and documentaries
Class participation (including master classes with guest speakers)
Midterm (mock director’s pitch)
Final exam

—Yongwoo Lee

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