Damani Baker

BA, Sarah Lawrence College. BA, MFA, University of California-Los Angeles, School of Film and Television. Baker's over 20-year career as a filmmaker includes work that spans museum installation, feature documentaries, and advertising. Most recently, in The House on Coco Road (acquired by Ava Duvernay’s ARRAY Releasing), he combined family super-8 with, archival news and family interviews to weave his mother's personal story with broader historical threads to tell a story of migration and the Grenada Revolution. The House on Coco Road and his first feature, Still Bill, on the life and music of Bill Withers, have been critically acclaimed and featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Los Angeles Times, Time Out, and Village Voice, among others. Both Still Bill and The House on Coco Road enjoy worldwide distribution on Showtime, Netflix, and BBC. Baker's perspective has gained the attention of clients such as Apple, Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA), Wieden+Kennedy, Rainforest Alliance, IBM, and the United Nations. With RAA, Baker has directed more than 20 films for museums around the world—featuring notables such as President Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—all stories rooted in understanding the human story as its connection to place. Baker recently returned from Iceland, where he directed “Waterfalls,” a music video for Meshell Ndegeocello. Produced by his production arm, Station 10, Baker collaborated with students in the United Nations University Program on Gender Equality to deliver this groundbreaking work. His work has been supported by Sundance Institute, Ford Foundation, and the George Soros Foundation; he is an alumnus of Filmmaker Magazine's "25 to watch." As a tenured professor at Sarah Lawrence College, he teaches filmmaking to a diverse group of creatives—ensuring that the stories from all of our communities continue to be told with grace, dignity, and power. SLC, 2003-

Undergraduate Courses 2018-2019

Filmmaking and Moving Image Arts

Documentary Filmmaking: Truth, Freedom, and Bearing Witness

Open , Seminar—Year

Nonfiction is our search for the truth; it is an exploration in humanity—our beauty, complexities, and the often unimaginable. This class is designed for students who, through filmmaking, hope to move humanity one step closer to understanding who we are and how connected our life experiences may be. In this yearlong course, students produce one 15- to 30-minute documentary on the subject of their own choosing. Students will develop treatments, pitch their projects, create production schedules, and work in small teams to create their films. Each week, students must demonstrate clear progress on their projects, including outlined shoot dates, updates on production needs, screening of unedited material, assembly cuts, rough cuts, and the eventual final delivery of their conference films. During class, we will screen short- and long-form documentary films from around the world, complemented by hands-on production techniques and experience. Although this is an open class, students must be prepared to learn camera operation, sound recording, and lighting with diligence and professionalism. Each student will direct his/her own project; however, the crew will be made up of the student’s peers, who will be entrusted with delivering strong technical material. This course will challenge students to think beyond the beautiful gates of Sarah Lawrence and take on subjects and opportunities that are new spaces both emotionally and physically. Nonfiction requires passion for storytelling and, ultimately, a passion for people. We hope to finish the year with a lens on the world that’s evolved to new heights of understanding and compassion.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Previous Courses

Documentary Filmmaking: Truth, Freedom, and Bearing Witness

Open , Seminar—Year

Nonfiction is our search for the truth; it is an exploration in humanity—our beauty, complexities, and the often unimaginable. This class is designed for students who, through filmmaking, hope to move humanity one step closer to understanding who we are and how connected our life experiences may be. In this yearlong course, students produce one 15- to 30-minute documentary on the subject of their own choosing. Students will develop treatments, pitch their projects, create production schedules, and work in small teams to create their films. Each week, students must demonstrate clear progress on their projects, including outlined shoot dates, updates on production needs, screening of unedited material, assembly cuts, rough cuts, and the eventual final delivery of their conference films. During class, we will screen short- and long-form documentary films from around the world, complemented by hands-on production techniques and experience. Although this is an open class, students must be prepared to learn camera operation, sound recording, and lighting with diligence and professionalism. Each student will direct his/her own project; however, the crew will be made up of their peers, who will be trusted with delivering strong technical material. This course will challenge students to think beyond the beautiful gates of Sarah Lawrence and take on subjects and opportunities that are new spaces both emotionally and physically. Nonfiction requires passion for storytelling and, ultimately, a passion for people. We hope to finish the year with a lens on the world that’s evolved to new heights of understanding and compassion.

Faculty

Filmmaking: Visions of Social Justice I

Open , Seminar—Fall

In this course, students will collaborate with local nonprofit organizations to produce a three- to five-minute film that will be a portrait of the organization and speak to its cause. The projects are a combination of advertising and research, providing valuable content for underrepresented and marginalized communities. The class will work in teams to produce their films and, ultimately, deliver material to our partner organizations to be used online. Local travel is involved, along with many shoots in neighborhoods that our partners serve. Students will be encouraged to think beyond a traditional nonfiction short film and explore all forms of brand content that may include animation, high-concept advertising, the integration of media platforms, and other forms of social engagement.

Faculty

Filmmaking: Visions of Social Justice II

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

A continuation of the fall semester, students will collaborate with local nonprofit organizations to produce a three- to five-minute film that will be a portrait of the organization and speak to its cause. The projects are a combination of advertising and research, providing valuable content for underrepresented and marginalized communities. The class will work in teams to produce their films and, ultimately, deliver material to our partner organizations to be used online. Local travel is involved, along with many shoots in neighborhoods that our partners serve. Students will be encouraged to think beyond a traditional nonfiction short film and explore all forms of brand content that may include animation, the integration of social media platforms, and other forms of engagement.

Faculty

Sustainable Content: Like This, Share This, Follow Me!

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course is designed for students who wish to create fiction films, nonfiction films, and media exclusively for a Web audience. The course largely centers on gaining practical film/media production experience; however, students are encouraged to produce material that builds community and engages its audience beyond a single view. Through storytelling, students will explore ways to best utilize democratized and participatory spaces online. Projects may include unique approaches to scripted material, socially relevant short-form documentary, music-inspired visual storytelling, and the like. Students are encouraged to be innovative, provocative, and responsible in their online film and media making. Broken into three teams of five, students will work within their crews to produce pieces of content during the semester. Several small exercises accompany the larger projects, with components that include research, pitching, and technical proficiency. The final presentation is an opportunity for students to screen their work and present how they plan to reach their target audience(s) and why their chosen platform is the appropriate home in which their media should live. Open to all with passion and drive for Web media creation.

Faculty

Filmmaking: Frame by Frame—New Visions

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Spring

Previous film experience is required, along with permission of the instructor.

This course is for intermediate and advanced students who wish to “think cinematically.” It will be an intensive, hands-on course in filmmaking. Students will explore the structure and aesthetics of films from around the world, while gaining practical experience transforming their own ideas into action. They will work individually and in groups through several exercises and then produce a preconceived, thesis-quality, short film/media project during the semester. A limited group of students with a strong passion for filmmaking are encouraged to join us for a course designed to help transition SLC's inspiring creative freedom into the next steps and practical application. We will spend considerable time not only producing films but also developing the skills and language to distribute our ideas to a larger audience—including, but not limited to, film festivals and social media platforms.

Faculty