Recent Thesis Films
The Master of Fine Arts degree in Documentary Production and Studies culminates with a the successful production of a final thesis film that demonstrates a student's professionalism and artistic creativity. Below you will find a selection of thesis documentaries produced by recent graduates of the M.F.A. program. The selection highlights the diverse interests and styles of our students.
The Great Hanging (2016) - Johnathan Paul Martin
The Great Hanging is a documentary film that tells the story of the largest extra-legal mass hanging in U.S. History. This story is told through stage play recital of "October Mourning" written by historian and professor Dr. Pat Ledbetter. Using the stage play as a vehicle, the film showcases cinematic re-enactments based in the events in Gainesville, Texas during October 1862. These events show how a small community became overwhelmed by the fog of war and delved into madness as the Civil War crept closer and closer to their doorstep.
Miz Markley (2016) - Sharie Vance
Lisa Markley, a.k.a. "Miz Markley", is a genuinely happy person even if she is not particularly financially successful as a musician. In an effort to validate my own choices as an artist, I chose to follow her. What was intended to be a portrait of a working musician, becomes instead a feminist musical essay film about the transformative power of art making.
Deva Plus Dog (2016) - Hannah Beavers
Deva Plus Dog is a look at the life of a teenage girl singularly devoted to the sport of dog agility. The film explores how relationships develop and evolve in the high stakes world of competition, and how an alternative lifestyle impacts a youth's coming of age.
The Best Medicine (2015) - Ron Lechler
The Best Medicine is an animated documentary that explores the true stories behind the live performances of stand-up comedians. The film juxtaposes live stand-up performances with candid interview footage combined with animation and illustration. Three subjects- Michael Burd, Casey Stoddard, and Jacob Kubon- discuss alcoholism, childhood abuse, and sexual anxiety, respectively. Their candid, intimate interviews reveal personal information, creating a new context with which to understand live stand-up comedy performance. This illustrates themes of finding humor in dark or painful circumstances and the cathartic nature writing and performance.
Miss Kathy (2015) - Jeffrey Alexander
Miss Kathy is a documentary film that tells the story of Kathy Griffin-Grinan, a lead recovery coach for prostitution and human trafficking with the Harris County Sheriff's Office. Her non-profit organization --We've Been There, Done That - works in conjunction with law-enforcement to offer the survivors of prostitution a chance at rehabilitation. With endless enthusiasm, she mentors survivors as they struggle to escape a destructive lifestyle. This film also explores the relationship between human trafficking and prostitution, while addressing issues of victimization and exploitation.
Mineola (2015) - Lauren Cater
Mineola is a poetic, observational, immersive documentary centered in the town of Mineola, Texas. The film provides an intimate, first person perspective of different locations in the town as well as underlying subversive beliefs and traditions. The film's authoritative perspective guides the viewer not only in a direction of observation but personal connection to nostalgia of small communities.
Texas Paranormalists (2015) - David Goodman
Texas Pararnormalists mixes participatory and observational styles in an effort to portray a small community of paranormal practitioners who live and work in and around North Texas. These practitioners include psychics, ghost investigators, and other enthusiasts and seekers of the spirit world. Through the documentation of their combined perspectives, Texas Paranormalists renders a portrait of a community of outsiders with a shared belief system and an unshakeable passion for reaching out into the unknown.
On the Fence (2014) - Estevan Medrano
Living the vast majority of my life in an area that celebrates diversity but thrives because of illegal cross-border activities (undocumented workers, drug imports) at times the distance between the United States and Mexico is in fact as thin as the width of a fence. Though it is typical for a filmmaker to hope to present a unique take on a subject, given how I have seen the topics of immigration and the perspective of the purpose of homeland security portray, I am confident that there is an opportunity to show these issues in a more personal, less aggressive light with the use of first person accounts instead of a dependence on the most violent aspects of these topics. The main subject will give character to this agency by blurring the lines of his life as an agent and as a citizen.
My Brother's Keeper (2014) - Sean Greenthaner
My Brother's Keeper is a Documentary Film developed to explore the life of John Dillinger. It examines the legendary criminal through the memories of Frances Dillinger Thompson, his last remaining sibling. The film attempts to understand John Dillinger by exposing his intimate childhood relationship with his sister, and the burdens his actions left on her.
The Ocean In Between (2013) - Sara Masetti
Centered on the universal search for home, The Ocean in Between is an autobiographical documentary about my bicultural identity and sense of guilt as a first generation Italian emigrant daughter. As I embark on a journey between Italy and the United States, I attempt to reconcile my American aspirations with my Italian roots. Using observational footage, direct interviews, and narration, this film provides a poetic and intimate look at family relations, love and death, bicultural identity, and sexuality.
The Hoax (2013) - Rodney Gray
The HOAX is an examination of abusive power and lack of regulation in the homeowners' association industry; a business and quasi-government system whose key selling point is the protection of property values. The documentary follows an investigative reporter, homeowners, and HOA reform activists as they illustrate shocking evidence of financial and psychological hardships throughout Texas and Nevada. A few of these people, including the filmmaker, are the subject of adverse actions from various players in this quasi-governmental system.
Out of Order (2013) - Kimberly D. Davis
Out of Order is a documentary film that explores the emotional and physical aspects of living with polycystic ovarian syndrome. This reproductive disorder affects between 5 and 10% of all women of reproductive age. This film features an animated, autobiographical look at director Kimberly Davis' personal experience with this condition.
Classless: On Being Middle Class in America (2013) - Joseph V. Brown
Classless: On Being Middle Class in America is a documentary film that explores what it means to be middle class in America. The film combines personal narrative, folksy reporting, and comedy as the film's director-- Joe Brown, tries to reconcile his own status anxiety with everyday understandings of social class. Classless takes the form of a journey; the film travels through the American South, Northeast, and the Mountain West while trying to get at the heart of our middle class American Dream. Classless forwards three main arguments: (1) the American middle class is not as all-encompassing as seems; (2) Americans are more concerned about inequality than both politicians and the media suggest; and (3) many Americans are not actually middle class, economically speaking.
Rickshaw Man (2013) - Denny G. Thomas
This documentary film tells the story of Mohammad in India, and Mike in the United States, who are separated by social, economic, cultural, linguistic and religious differences, and yet there is an inanimate object that connects them-the rickshaw. The film examines how rickshaw men are viewed and treated by the society they live in and also illuminates the threads of commonality between these two men to show that they are not so different from each other after all.