Documentary Courses at Open City Docs School
Filmmaking, Film Theory and Radio Courses
Since February 2014, Open City Docs School has been running courses covering documentary filmmaking from all angles; from film theory lectures, practical camera training, film editing and workshops with award-winning documentarians.
Below you will find courses that we are currently taking booking for the courses listed below. Previous courses are also listed below and we anticipate that many of these will be running again.
If you would like to register interest or book a place on our current courses please email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Practical Documentary Filmmaking
Course dates: Friday 13th January - Friday 17th March 2017*
Course Tutor: Sandhya Suri for ANTHGS20 and Dieter Deswarte for ANTHGS25
The course is led by award winning directors Sandhya Suri (I for India) and Dieter Deswarte focuses on self-shooting skills, with a focus on the fundamentals of observational filming. Students will shoot, record sound, edit and direct their own film, learning to respond to an undirected actuality and structure their footage into a compelling film.
You will acquire the technical skills needed to complete a 10 minute video project using the cameras, workstations and facilities in the department's visual laboratory. Students will acquire practical, analytical and intellectual skills in using moving image and sound recording equipment and discover how new technologies create new methodologies. During the course students will examine and deploy a range of the technical, aesthetic, and representational dynamics involved in documentary construction. By doing so, participants will become more informed as well as practically experienced commentators on the 'truths', 'fictions', styles, genres, ethics and modes of filmmaking. You will recognise the potential of film to document research, and have explored issues of representation and audience reception.
Students undertaking the course in either term 1 or term 2, will have full access to the UCL Anthropology Audio Visual Lab with Premiere CC and Adobe Creative Suite enabled machines as well as professional camera kits (shared one between two students) for the duration of the course. Students will have a further five weeks at the end of the course to complete their film project.
You can see examples of films made by previous students at our testimonials page.
A reduced lab fee is required for those taking the course for UCL credit (please contact email@example.com for more details). This course is available to external candidates for £1600.
Please note participants are also required to bring two external hard-drives on the course. Cameras are shared with one other person. Students using UCL Anthropology cameras are responsible for any loss, damage or repair costs. Any failure to reimburse the department will result in a debt to UCL.
*There is no formal teaching on ANTHGS25 on Friday 17th November for reading week. Teaching takes place at the following times: 10am - 1pm, 2pm - 4pm. You have access to UCL facilities for a further five weeks after formal teaching on the course in order to complete your film.
- Sound for Self-Shooters
Course Tutor: Tim Bamber
Course dates: TBC
The course aims to give self-shooting filmmakers the confidence to make quick decisions on location to record decent quality sound, when hiring a sound recordist just doesn't factor into the budget. Topics will include the principles of sound recording; different microphone types and when to use them; and choosing suitable locations. You will learn how to produce and organise a good basic sound mix in post-production, to a standard appropriate for small-scale corporate projects, or prior to sending to a sound designer.
Topics will include: track-laying mono and stereo source files; setting volumes and basic compression; using wildtracks to cover dialogue edits; adding voiceovers and 'ducking' music.
These will be taught using Adobe Premiere and Adobe Audition
The course takes place over two consecutive weekends.
Course fees: £250
Maximum 6 students
- Film Theory: Experimental Ethnographic and Documentary Films
Course Dates: Monday 5th of December to Monday 5th of February
This eight-week evening course, lead by Anthropologist Barbara Knorpp, provides opportunities to watch and discuss classic and experimental ethnographic and documentary films in order to critically engage with the politics of image making.
Starting from silent cinema of Robert Flaherty and use of montage of Russian filmmakers in the 1920s to visual video diaries in New York by Jonas Mekas, French cinéma vérité and indigenous filmmaking in Brazil, the course will give a historic overview on how the genre of ethnographic film has changed from seemingly scientific accounts to staged authenticity, fiction films and from experimental modes to collage, made out of found footage.
Below is an indication of what topics and films will be covered over the eight sessions:
- Silent cinema and early ethnographic film
- Peoples without Land: Pastoral Nomads in East Africa
- Jean Rouch and Cinéma Vérité
- Slow Cinema
- USA - Observational Mode and Visual Diaries
- Visual Anthropology and the City
- Experimental Cinema and the Essay Film
- Participatory Video Making
Maximum 25 Students
Price: £125/ £115 Student/ £105 UCL Student
- Shooting Documentary: An Introduction
Course Tutor: Isis Thompson
Course dates: Sat 25thMarch, Sat 1st April, Sat 8th April 2017
Over three Saturdays you will learn the camera skills essential to shooting in the documentary style. Through a series of camera exercises of increasing complexity you should will learn the following skills:
- hand held shooting technique using professional video camera
- using a tripod
- intelligent use of automatic controls
- getting good sound for interviews
- filming a sequence
- filming uncontrolled action
- filming for the edit
Isis will go though the editing process with Editor Helen Lawson who is cutting her current project. They will go though Isis' raw material and explain why certain choice were made in the brining together of a scene.
Course costs: £300 / £270 (student) / £250 (UCL student)
- Making Radio Documentary
Course Tutor: Rob Walker
Course Dates: TBC
Led by Rob Walker (Reporter/ Producer for BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service), this course will introduce students to the range of skills needed to make a radio documentary. Topics covered will include interview technique, equipment, how to structure and edit your documentary, and how to get your work broadcast on the radio. As part of the course you will have the opportunity to complete a short radio documentary recorded on a smartphone. Students should come prepared with narrative ideas if they plan to use the course to make a short audio doc.
The course is aimed at those already working in TV or film who want to expand their skills into radio as well as first-time documentary makers.
One of the previous students of the course is currently in the process of developing the documentary idea from her course with the BBC Radio Current Affairs.
Maximum 12 participants
£180 / £160 for students / £140 for UCL students (Please note student places are limited)
'This was a brilliant introductory course to radio documentary making - informative, practical and inspiring. I'd highly recommend it.' - Ellen Wiles
- Documentary Storytelling
Course Tutor: Catalin Brylla
Course Dates: 11th January - 15th February 2017
This course is targeted towards documentary practitioners who are either preparing, shooting or editing their documentary, scholars who want to analyse or write about documentaries, and people who are simply passionate about non-fiction films. Keeping the balance between the theory OF practice and the theory IN practice, each session will include discussions of how theoretical concepts relate to formal considerations in documentary filmmaking.
The following topics are only indicative:
- Documentary elements
- Soviet montage and conceptual watching
- The Poetic Documentary
- Spatial and emotional impact of shot sizes
- The immersive actuality of continuity
- The Observational Documentary
- Character profiling through interviews
- The function of cutaways
- The Interactive Documentary
- Participatory documentary formats
- Brecht and defamiliarising the audience
- The Reflexive Documentary
- The Hybrid Documentary
- Memory, identity and rhetoric through the archive
- The Expository Documentary
- Narrative structure: story and plot
- Narrative point-of-view and subjectivity
£150 / £140 for students / £130 for UCL students (Please note student places are limited)
- Summer Film School 2017
Dates Monday 3rd July - Friday 21st July
Over the course of six weeks each student will aim to complete a short documentary film of 5 to 10 minutes. With the proliferation of cheap broadcast quality cameras, editing software and powerful computers, self-shooting directors are in increasing demand. As a trained self-shooter you are not only able to make your own films, but you are also employable as a freelance filmmaker. The course is suitable for beginners who have had no formal filmmaking training, however it would also be beneficial for those wishing to expand their skills into the self-shooting mode or those who wish to brush up on their filmmaking skills.
In the first three weeks we will focus on building the technical and analytical skills needed to complete a documentary film project. Through a variety of a practical exercises you will learn to produce, direct, shoot and edit. These are the four core skills you need to master to become a successful self-shooting director. In addition we will have an in depth look at the art of filmmaking and you’ll have the chance to learn from some of the best in the field through several guest lectures.
After an intensive three weeks course, students will then have three weeks to complete their final project. During this period they will have access to the equipment and edit suites available at Open City Documentary Film School. There will be access to support in the forms on one-on-one tutorial during this period. On the last day there will be a final screening where students can share their work.
Please note that you will be required to bring two external hard-drives with you on the course.
Course costs: £1600
Here are examples of some of the films made during some of the Open City Docs School courses:
Love and dementia - by Dominic Sivyer
This film is a shorter edit of a film made during the MA Ethnographic and Documentary Film by Practice 2015 and was published as part of the Guardian online series 'This is the NHS'.
This Islands Mine - by Myriam Rey
This film was made during the course Practical Documentary Filmmaking 2015 and won the AHRC Inspiration Award – Best film inspired by arts and humanities research
Habiba - by Olivia Isaacs
This film was made during the Open City Docs Summer Film School 2015 where students had only three weeks to learn how to research, shoot and edit their film.