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Tuesday December 7th

Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies to offer new class using Merge Records anniversary footage

Students will use Mergefest footage

When Merge Records celebrated its 15th birthday in 2004, Cam Carrithers and his documentary team filmed every performance.

For seven years, the footage has been filed away, unused.

To enroll in Merge Records 15th Anniversary Videos, visit

The class runs every Thursday staring Feb. 3 to May 19 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Cost: $435

But in February, amateur and professional editors alike will make their own projects of the footage in a short-term course offered at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

The course, which begins Feb. 3, functions as an intermediate film editing class with a local focus.

“I thought it would be a cool idea to use footage that has a community tie to it,” said Carrithers, freelance video producer, director and editor, as well as director of the class. “Something that’s local, something that people care about.”

Each student will use a video from Mergefest 2004, featuring artists ranging from local favorites Superchunk to nationally renowned indie rock outfit Arcade Fire.

The popularity of the Durham-based label helped to draw in students.

Pilar Timpane moved to Durham to run a tutoring program as a part of AmeriCorps, a national network of service programs.

Timpane said she had been wanting to enroll in a course at the Center for Documentary Studies. The Merge name finally brought her to enroll.

“I know Merge has signed a few really big bands, I’m a fan of a couple of them,” Timpane said.

Local musician and journalist Kirk Ross was also intrigued by the iconic moniker of Merge Records.

Ross attended both Mergefest 2004 and the 20th anniversary celebration, Mergefest 2009. The incorporation of both the local music community and Final Cut Pro — film and music editing software made by Apple — was too good a mix to pass up, he said.

“I’m trying to get better and more sophisticated at editing and presenting video,” Ross said. “This seemed like a natural idea, it touched a lot of bases.”

Timpane said the class will function more like an internship or a workshop than a typical college course.

Carrithers said he hopes that the workshop feel will attract a passionate group.

“(The students will) care to sit there and get better at Final Cut and not think of it as work,” he said.

“It’s, ‘Cool, I figured out how to get this shot of M. Ward with this shot of M. Ward.’ You’re not thinking of it as a class project.”

Carrithers’ plan for the class is to give the students an opportunity to collaborate, have fun and make something they love.

“I’m excited about the possibility of continuing to grow in my own technique and style as an editor or as a writer,” Timpane said. “With any creative outlet, you’re wanting to grow.”

It is not yet clear what the edited footage will be used for. Carrithers said the quality of the final product will determine whether or not Merge will show it to outlets.

Merge Records did not return calls for comment.

But a group of passionate students is more important to Carrithers than the finished product.

“If you don’t care about what you’re making, it’s pointless,” he said.

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