VM 495: Documentary Studio (Spring 2022)


The documentary studio is a space for collaborative production. Students and partners work together to create non-fiction representations of the causes and effects of gun violence in Boston.

A group of people working collectively on a hands-on project.

Problem Space 

This studio focused on amplifying stories of violence that are often ignored. This includes stories from mothers who have lost sons to gun violence, stories of trauma surgeons who treat gunshot wounds, and stories of those who have been caught up in the culture of violence. Media narratives typically report on yet another shooting in the inner city, or the performative shock of yet another mass shooting. But they ignore the after effects, the personal struggles, the deep ripples in communities, and the systemic racism that perpetuates it all.

Studio Approach & Engagement 

This studio embraced the complexity of co-creation. Emerson students worked directly with community partners who audited the course and participated each week. The first half of the semester focused on relationship building, informal story telling (without cameras), sourcing the stories that need to be told, and exploring creative possibilities. The second half of the semester focused on production and post-production. The result is a process where students and partners mutually reinforce the passion for the story they’re telling. The process is one that foregrounds gratitude (from Emerson students to the partners for graciously sharing their experiences, and from partners to Emerson students for graciously sharing their skills and drive to create).

Behind the scenes of making a documentary.

Quiet Rooms

The outcome is a ~20 minute documentary film called “Quiet Rooms” that tells the story of the immediate and long term impacts of gun violence in Boston.


Sabrina Carr, student

Shaulita Francis, partner

Rachele Gardner, Engagement Lab staff

Olivia Goldberg, student

Angelina Gu, student

Anna Porter, partner

Carla Sheffield, partner

Cole Tatham, student

LeAnn Taylor, partner

John Yang, TA and partner

Eric Gordon, professor

Theodore "Regge" Life, professor


Peace Institute


Visual and Media Arts


[email protected]

[email protected]

Studio Outcomes

Thumbnail image for video with title "Quiet Rooms"

If you or someone you know has been impacted by gun violence and are in need of support or services, please click here for resources.