MA Film Studies

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Contemporary Documentary Filmmaking

Course unit fact file
Unit code DRAM72102
Credit rating 30
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


Today, documentary filmmaking practice is an expanding field of emerging forms, genre experimentation and digital platforms that are transforming the way that non-fiction is constructed on screen. This course trains and supports you in the creation of your own 10-15 minute documentary film and encourages you to critically position your own practice within an examination of contemporary modes and methods. Through a series of advanced workshops combining practice with theory, students develop their filmmaking craft with industry-level camera, sound and editing equipment alongside their understanding of documentary genres, style and narrative technique. Teaching will be responsive to the evolving ideas and needs of the students as they work in small groups to take their idea from proposal development to production. This course is designed to prepare you for work in the non-fiction filmmaking industry and provide the opportunity to make a film that is festival ready. You will learn in depth about professional practices and considerations such as proposal writing; documentary research; filmmaking ethics; interviewing and a range of techniques to support your creative choices when shooting and editing. You will also learn about the range of potential careers in documentary and television production and be encouraged to think about how your film might sit within current platforms for non-fiction film.  


  • To develop student’s craft and foster their creative approach to devising, shooting and editing their own original documentary film 
  • To develop students’ critical understanding of a range of contemporary modes of documentary storytelling, with an emphasis on the hybrid legacies of observational cinema and new and experimental approaches to short form documentary 
  • To aid students in the development of ethical, responsible relationships with the chosen subject/s of their film 
  • To enhance students’ understanding of cutting-edge practice and prepare them for potential careers in the industry 

Teaching and learning methods

The course will use a combination of different teaching and learning methods, including but not limited to: 

  • Practical technical workshops 
  • Workshops with industry professionals 
  • Weekly practical tasks and assignments 
  • Screenings  
  • Assigned readings 
  • Seminar discussions 
  • Informal group presentation feedback 
  • Mentoring 

Knowledge and understanding

  • demonstrate a systematic understanding of the key modes, methods and contexts of contemporary documentary practice 
  • demonstrate an advanced critical understanding of the key theoretical concepts and debates that inform contemporary documentary film practice 
  • demonstrate creative and original thinking to devise documentary films that build on their own societal, creative and intellectual interests   
  • demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of how to apply industry-level techniques of research, camera work, sound recording, interviewing and editing to creative effect 
  • demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the ethical considerations involved in making documentary films and how these inform the filmmaking process 

Intellectual skills

  • evaluate how research, theory and craft synthesise in the production of original documentary work.
  • deal with the complex and often unpredictable issues that arise during production systematically and creatively.
  • work collaboratively and responsively with peers to evaluate, critique and enhance each other’s practice, drawing on feedback to develop and refine the creative process.
  • communicate their ideas clearly in a critically informed manner to both the contributors in their films and industry professionals.
  • demonstrate a sophisticated and self-reflexive understanding of their own creative filmmaking process through reflective writing. 

Practical skills

demonstrate advanced practical skill in: 

  • camera operation and shooting technique  
  • maintaining effective and ethical relationships with contributors 
  • production planning and management  
  • proposal writing 
  • factual script production 
  • Archive sourcing and clearance 
  • Applying ethical and legal guidelines to documentary practice  
  • editing software  

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • demonstrate self-direction and originality in managing their own learning and professional development.
  • demonstrate advanced interpersonal communication and team-working skills.
  • demonstrate critical thinking skills and creative group-work practice skills (problem-solving, thinking innovatively, drawing on creative approaches of others, evaluating arguments, giving and receiving feedback, time-keeping).
  • use effective personal initiative and group-work skills to solve complex and often unpredictable problems.
  • perform with confidence and precision for specific audiences/contexts, making use of diverse creative approaches and media 

Employability skills

Group/team working
Ability to work independently and as part of a group to conceive, plan, undertake and evaluate original, well-developed projects that involve complex and unpredictable scenarios. Ability to work independently and as part of a group to solve problems arising from engaging with challenging and unpredictable scenarios
Networking with industry professionals Industry-level research, development, shooting and editing skills Advanced skills in group-work, leadership, reflexivity, planning and project management Understanding of and adherence to industry-level professional and ethical standards in practical work Ability to develop informed critique of professional practice (own and others), drawing on understanding of high-quality standards Development of a professional identity and skills/knowledge base to inform further professional practice, training and learning

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Portfolio 60%
Project output (not diss/n) 40%


  • Formative: Pitch and supporting written proposal (0%)
  • Formative: Ongoing feedback during workshops and on individual reflective journals – peer to peer and tutor to student 
  • Summative : Final film and production portfolio (final proposal; edit script; consent and clearance documentation) (60%) 
  • Summative : Reflective exit interview (40%)(*)

(*) Based on written reflective journal posts made throughout the pre-production; production and post-production process that document and evaluate the relationship between creative practice, theory and research. 


Feedback methods

  • Formative: Pitch and proposal – verbal and written 
  • Summative: Film and production portfolio - written 
  • Summative: Reflective interview - written

Recommended reading

  • Baker, Maxine, Michael Darlow, and Georgia Kennedy. 2006. Documentary in the Digital Age 
  • Bricca, Jacob. 2017. Documentary Editing: Principles and Practice 
  • Bruzzi, Stella. 2006. New Documentary (2nd edition) 
  • De Jong, Wilma, Erik Knudsen and Jerry Rothwell. 2012. Creative Documentary 
  • Fox, Broderick. 2018. Documentary Media: History, Theory, Practice 
  • Kihoon, Jim 2022. Documentary’s Expanded Fields: New Media and the Twenty-First Century Documentary 
  • Marcus, Daniel and Selmin Kara. 2016. Contemporary Documentary 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 144

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Sophie Everest Unit coordinator

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