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When I heard that The Edit Center was offering a one week intensive course in documentary filmmaking, I was facing my 60th birthday and had reached a plateau in my work as an oral historian. I needed a change and a challenge. The Documentary Master Class provided me with both.

My classmates came from varied backgrounds and far flung places. Having had no prior filmmaking experience, I was a bit intimidated by those of my classmates who did. However, each of us was paired with a classmate with a similar level of experience so that we would not face our challenges alone and yet would be forced to work on each assignment without being able to fall back on someone else’s superior knowledge and experience.

Each day started with interactive lectures by filmmakers who were at the top of their profession. From the very first afternoon, we were sent out to practice what had been taught in the morning. Roaming around Dumbo with a camera and microphone, it was a trial by fire—but this trial by fire worked. The footage we shot got better and better as the week progressed. Knowing that each day we would have to share the previous day’s work with our classmates and teachers was great motivation for improvement.

In just five days we received a firm grounding in the basics of documentary film production. But more importantly, each of us came away from the class with new insights into our personal strengths and talents. I, who had always described myself as a behind-the-scenes person, saw that I came alive in front of the camera.

I consider the Documentary Master Class to have been an invaluable, self-affirming experience.