BA Film Studies and Russian / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Introduction to Documentary Film Practice

Course unit fact file
Unit code DRAM21091
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course introduces the craft and theory of documentary storytelling. You will learn how to create powerful 5-minute documentary films that respond creatively to a set brief. Throughout the course you will develop your own narrative and filmmaking approach through practical and theoretical instruction in the tools and techniques of digital film production. These include principles of camera and sound, interviews and narration, multi-media archival research and use, editing with Adobe Premiere and lo-fi graphics and animation. These practical creative skills are developed alongside a critical investigation of documentary technique and the art and ethics of storytelling.

You will work individually or in small groups under the close supervision and guidance of the tutor to develop, pitch, research and produce your own film. Students will also learn how to reflect on their own developing creative practice and the responsibilities and sensitivities of working with contributors and a range of multimedia content.

The course is preparatory for third level courses on practice-based research in film and screen studies and documentary and docufiction film practice.



Pre-requisite units

Any L1 Drama (DRAM) course unit


Co-requisite units

Any L2 Drama Core Study module - Theatres of Modernity; Screen Culture and Society




  • To give students an introduction to documentary film preproduction, production and postproduction
  • To develop students understanding of narrative craft and theory
  • To develop students’ ability to apply documentary film and narrative theory to their own developing practice
  • To equip students with a grounding in how to work responsibly and effectively with archival sources, contributors and external partners (where relevant)
  • To stimulate students creatively to produce short films with impact


Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate a basic contextual understanding of documentary film theory
  • Demonstrate a capacity to use a range of documentary film production processes to produce their own films
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how to work to a set creative brief
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how to establish and maintain relationships with participants in filmmaking and research practice
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the critical issues surrounding narrative agency and storytelling


Intellectual skills

  • Demonstrate their abilities in critical documentary film analysis
  • Demonstrate an ability to use reflective practice in order to develop and evaluate their own practical work in film-making


Practical skills

  • Demonstrate their skills in the research, development and pitching of documentary film
  • Demonstrate their skills in the production of documentary film, including the use of camera and sound equipment and archival research and compilation
  • Demonstrate their skills in the postproduction of documentary film, including the use of Adobe premiere editing software


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Work to a professionally set brief
  • Demonstrate a good level of interpersonal communication and team-working skills
  • Demonstrate creative individual and group-work skills (problem-solving, thinking innovatively, drawing on creative approaches of others, evaluating creative approaches of others, giving and receiving feedback, time-keeping)
  •  Use effective leadership and group-work skills to solve problems and sustain a creative process
  • Perform with confidence and precision for specific audiences/contexts, making use of diverse creative approaches and media as appropriate to the module)
  • Exercise ethical and social responsibility when working with externals partners and individuals 

Employability skills

Analytical skills
A good level of skill in managing a group-work process ¿ leadership skills, ideas-sharing, giving and receiving feedback, taking initiative, negotiation, flexibility, compromise, collaboration, making contributions, reliability, time-keeping et cetera
Group/team working
Ability to work independently and/or as part of a group to conceive, plan, undertake and evaluate original, well-developed responses to a professionally set brief (overseeing a creative process from inception through production, post-production and evaluation)
Maintaining professional standards as regards self-presentation, including ability to speak to an audience with confidence and precision, and to effectively adapt presentation and material to specific contexts
Oral communication
A good level of ability to use reflexivity and emotional intelligence when working in groups (maintaining balance between taking initiative/leading and developing the ideas of others, supporting and challenging, ability to empathise with multiple perspectives, ability to adapt to distinct contexts etc.)
Entry level industry-standard training in camera, sound, archive use and editing software

Assessment methods

Documentary Film 60%
Essay 40%
Film Pitch NA (formative)


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Film pitch


Documentary film - written


Reflective essay - written


Ongoing feedback during workshops –peer to peer and tutor to student - oral



Recommended reading

Bernard, S. C. 2007 (2nd ed.). Documentary Storytelling: making stronger and more dramatic nonfiction films


Bernard, S. C. and Rabin, K. 2009. Archival Storytelling: A filmmaker’s guide to finding, using and licensing third party visuals and music

Millerson, G. 2012 (5th ed.). Video Production Handbook

Nichols, 2017 (3rd ed). Introduction to Documentary


Rabiger, M. 2014 (6th ed.). Directing the Documentary

Rosenthal, A. 2016 (5th ed.). Writing, Directing, and Producing Documentary Films and Digital Videos



Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Sophie Everest Unit coordinator

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