Since 2014, Open City Docs School has been running short courses covering documentary filmmaking from all angles; from film theory classes, practical camera training, film editing and workshops, as well as a number of non-fiction VR courses. All courses are run by active, leading filmmakers
Below you will find courses that we are currently taking booking for. Previous courses are also listed below and we anticipate that many of these will be running again. Please visit UCL Courses for the most up to date course information.
If you would like to register interest, find out more information, or book a place on our current courses please email email@example.com
- Practical Documentary Filmmaking
Course Tutor: Pinny Grylls and Richard Alwyn
Course dates: January 11th - March 15th.
A ten-week practical documentary filmmaking course led by award-winning filmmaker and ethnographer Pinny Grylls. The course focuses on how to direct, shoot, and edit observational documentary films. Students will learn to respond to an undirected actuality and structure their footage into a compelling 5-minute film using the cameras, workstations and facilities in the department’s visual laboratory.
We are rapidly moving away from long-form broadcast TV staffed by full-time single skill workers towards short-form documentaries made for a multiple ranges of online platforms by multi-skilled freelancers. This course will teach you how to become the adaptable and practical freelancer filmmakers commissioners and clients need in today’s’ media landscape.
We will discuss the art of short and longer form of filmmaking, as well as the range of technical, aesthetic, and representational dynamics involved in the construction of different kinds of documentaries. You will learn to shoot, record sound, and edit a short film. By doing so, participants will become more informed as well as practically experienced makers and commentators on the ‘truths’, ‘fictions’, styles, genres, ethics and modes of filmmaking. They will also have explored issues of representation and audience reception.
As the course progresses students will learn to adapt the fundamentals of observational filmmaking for a variety of real-life short form briefs ranging from online documentary platforms like Vice and The Guardian to other ‘clients’ in need of ‘observational’ documentaries. These clients could be brands, public or arts organisations.
You will also learn about how observational filmmaking is being increasingly used in other ways including for ethnographic research both for business and public sector research. In this way, students taking one of the MA courses in anthropology will find the course constructive.
Students undertaking the course 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 have access to UCL facilities for a further five weeks after the formal teaching on the course in order to complete their film.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more details). This course is available to external candidates for £1600.
- Using Video For Ethnographic Film
Course Tutor: Pinny Grylls
Course Dates: November 24th - December 15th
This four-week short course will teach you how to capture authentic human behaviour on video, generating more insightful and meaningful footage for your ethnographic research. You will learn basic camera skills and master the art of distilling a large amount of footage into a short documentary film.
In this course, we will discuss the difference between a conventional documentary making and filmmaking for research. You will learn the basics of observational documentary filmmaking for research, teaching you how to film an undirected reality, record good sound and picture and edit your findings into a film. This course will go beyond the ethnographic interview to learn how to capture authentic human behaviour on video, generating more insightful and meaningful footage for your research. You will learn how to analyse visual data and create a compelling narrative in the edit, and master the art of distilling a large amount of footage into a short film.
As part of the course, you will make a short 5-minute ethnographic research film. You will be provided with a full shooting kit which you will share with a partner.
There are 8 sessions and each session is 3 hours. Sessions 4 and 8 will be mostly self-led however a tutor will be on hand for practical support. Camera and editing equipment will be provided for these sessions.
A full resource pack will be available to you digitally with useful links. A collective Vimeo site and GoogleDocs file will be provided for use during the course. Students must bring with them a notebook, a hard drive (minimum size 500GB) and 2 x 32GB memory cards for use during the course.
Session 1: Introduction to the use of video for ethnographic research
We will discuss the history of the use of video for ethnographic research as well as well as its growing use in business and academic research.
We will learn about the difference between conventional documentary and filmmaking for research, both as a tool and as a way of sharing your findings.
Some example video clips will be shared and discussed.
Session 2: The Matrix/ Research Brief / Participant Contracts
This session will look at how to interpret a research brief/ matrix and plan your ethnographic fieldwork with video in mind. We will discuss how to find key participants, make contact and choose the most revealing moments in their lives to film. We will also discuss the complexity of your relationship with participants, ‘incentives’ and release forms.
At the end of the session, I will share a research brief will you on a subject that will be filmed on campus.
Homework between week 1 and 2:
Interpret your ‘matrix’, find your participants and arrange a time to film with them.
Session 3: Camera and Sound Basics
We will learn the basics of operating a lightweight digital video camera with an onboard microphone and radio mic set. You will learn about choosing the right settings, focus, framing, working with available light, and recording good sound.
We will learn how to shoot great interviews that go beyond talking heads and reveal meaningful insights. We will discuss interview techniques, how to give the subject space to talk, open up and give you more. You will also learn how to shoot B Roll, and capture authentic human behaviour in action on video, generating more insightful and meaningful footage for your research.
Session 4: A practical filmmaking exercise.
Here you will shoot your campus-based research film, including an interview, filming actuality/ behaviour and B Roll with your key participant. At the end of your filming session, you will be sent a fieldwork questionnaire to fill out or you can design your own.
Homework between week 2 and 3
Complete your field notes then watch your footage to see how much of your interview you have remembered!? Share your field notes with your group online and read each others to see how they differ.
Session 5: Analysis Session
We will discuss our participants and do an analysis session around the subject we have been filming. We will discuss what video has added to our ability to capture, remember and interpret findings including insights. This will be rounded up with the group making a group edit plan.
Session 6: Editing Basics
We will discuss the basics of editing using Adobe Premier, including how to categorize and sort through your footage, create bins and timelines according to your edit plan. We will discuss how to make introductory portraits for each participant, and the role of narrative in telling their stories while getting to the truth. You will begin you 20-minute edits and then finish them in your own time.
Homework between week 3 and 4:
Finish editing a 20-minute participant edit and share them with your group on Vimeo. Watch other students’ videos and download onto your hard drives for use later.
Session 7: Analysis Deep Dive
In a group, we will discuss the participant edits and pull out the main themes that are coming through and discuss how we would make an editing plan for thematic films that highlight our findings.
Session 8: Thematic Edits
Each student will take a theme and edit a 3-5 minute film on that subject from excerpts from the 20-minute edits. The course will conclude with an evening screening of the final edits after a short supper break.
If you have any enquiries regarding this course please contact email@example.com or please call 0203 108696
This short course is kindly supported by the Ipsos Ethnography Centre of Excellence.
Price: £400 / £300 (Student) / £275 (UCL Student)
- Shooting Documentary: An Introduction
Course Tutor: Isis Thompson
Course dates: January 12th - January 26th 2019
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:
- handheld 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
The course is led by filmmaker Isis Thompson who, along with editor Helen Lawson, will go though the editing process with Isis’ raw material and explain why certain choices were made in bringing together a scene.
Course costs: £300 / £270 (Student) / £250 (UCL Student)
- Making Radio Documentary
Course Tutor: Chloe Hadjimatheou
Course Dates: Wednesday Evenings 7-9pm from February 27th - March 27th 2019
This course is targeted towards people who want to make the move from video to radio documentaries, those who want to make their first ever documentary and people who are just passionate about listening to radio programmes. This course aims to give you the basic skills you need to get out there and start recording and putting together your own doc. We will study techniques and industry tips and listen to lots and lots of great radio. This is an opportunity to pitch ideas and develop them throughout the course. For those who want to have a go, there will be practical exercises to get you to lose your inhibitions and start recording.
The following topics are only indicative:
Where to go for ideas and inspiration
How to choose equipment
Structuring your doc
Editing using Audacity
Where to take your ideas
Chloe Hadjimatheou is an award-winning BBC reporter and producer whose work includes: Islamic State's Most Wanted, Searching for Tobias, No Place to Die, America Revisited, Why Do People Hear Voices?
Maximum 12 participants
£180 / £160 for students / £140 (UCL students)
- Documentary Storytelling
Course Tutor: Catalin Brylla
Course Dates: February 6th - March 6th 2019
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:
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 (Students) / £130 (UCL Students)
- Documentary Concepts and Research
Course Tutor: Catalin Brylla
Course Dates: November 21st - December 12th
This course is for documentary practitioners who want to critically frame their filmmaking in order to produce thought-provoking films that have social and cultural implications. It also addresses a broad range of conceptual methodologies that offer a good springboard for practice-led research (e.g. practice-based PhD, visual ethnography, experimental filmmaking, video art, etc.). Although no prerequisites are required, it is generally recommended that participants first do the "Documentary Storytelling" course. At the discretion of the tutor, participants can bring their own material for discussing their research.
Indicative Course Outline:
Session 1: The Mediation of Space and Time
Observational documentary as a record of time
Memory as trace and event
Session 2: The Essay Film
Session 3: Narrative Voice and Embodied Experience
The formal, open and poetic voice
The performative documentary
Session 4: Representation
Social schemas and spectatorship
Case study: undoing disability stereotypes
- Summer Film School 2018
SUMMER FILM SCHOOL - Over Six Weeks
Course Dates: July 2nd - July 20th (Core Teaching)
Experience Level suggested - Beginner to intermediate.
Over the course of six weeks you will aim to complete a short documentary film of 5 to 10 minutes. 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 week course you will then have three weeks to complete your final film. During this period you will have access to the equipment and edit suites available at Open City Documentary School at UCL. Your required commitment following the core course teaching is two one-on-one meetings in weeks four and five with the course tutors to support the making of your film. In the last week of your course you will screen your rough cut on one day and then on the last day, there will be a final screening where students can share their work on the big screen.The course leader for the 2018 edition will be Katharine Round and the senior tutor is Marc Isaacs.
Course costs: £1600
For further information on the course please visit Open City Docs School at UCL
- Introduction to 360° Spatial Audio Production
Course Tutor: Jack Reynolds
Course Dates: November 15th - December 13th
The course leader is Jack Reynolds MEng EEE IET. BBC R&D Interactive and Immersive content. Specialist 360 audio engineer at SohoVR, CEO of Reynolds Microphones, musician and sound designer. President of the UCL Audio Engineering Society.
The course will cover all practical and conceptual aspects of 360 spatial audio recording, mixing and exporting for delivery on multiple platforms such as Youtube, Facebook, and the GearVR. It will concentrate on sound for 360 video production and will appeal to those with some filmmaking knowledge or previous audio engineering knowledge who wish to explore the creating soundtracks for 360 videos.
Over the five weeks, you will learn practical techniques to capture spatial audio, Using industry standard tools including Sennheiser microphones, Zoom field recorders, the Facebook 360 Audio suite of audio tools and Reaper digital audio workstation. You will learn how to record, edit and mix ambisonic spatial audio then combine the finished mix with a 360 video, ready for delivery. The course will be part lecture, part practical exercises, with an emphasis on you being able to create a finished project as quickly as possible.
Week 1: Fundamental concepts of spatial audio
Week 2: Recording audio for 360 video
Week 3: Editing and manipulating 360 audio
Week 4: Spatial mixing, Immersive sound design, Music and Headlocked stereo
Week 5: Exporting, Encoding, and Muxing for Delivery
Course contents overview:
Fundamentals of spatial audio.
Basics of human hearing and psychoacoustics
Key differences between spatial and traditional audio
Ambisonics and other spatial formats
Learning how to identify 'good' and 'bad' spatial audio
Critical listening exercises and understanding what the medium can offer.
Using 360 Audio as a creative storytelling tool for increased immersion.
Learning outcomes: Familiarity with the basic concepts and advantages of spatial audio as well as commonly used terminology.
Materials: These discussions will be covered via slides that will be provided to people attending the course with further detail via links to reference resources including examples of various spatial audio formats.
Recording audio for 360 Video.
Onset, wild-track, and spatial sound design techniques (Sound Particles).
A-Format, and lapel radio microphones and using field recorders.
Spatial foley recording.
Use of voiceover and headlocked stereo (diegetic vs non-diegetic).
Learning outcomes: An understanding of the different approaches required for producing audio for 360 video, with some practical hands-on experience using industry standard 360 audio recording equipment.
Materials: Slides and reference resources will be provided as well as useful links which may further illustrate the topic
Introduction to editing spatial audio with Reaper (Digital Audio Workstation)
Introduction to the Facebook Audio360 Workstation suite of plugins and tools.
Learning outcomes: Familiarity with the layout and toolsets available within Reaper and the FB360 workstation, editing some basic audio examples to fit with a 360 video
Materials: Reaper sessions with preset layouts and example audio and video files will be provided, plus links to video tutorials and additional reference materials.
Spatial Mixing and automation in Reaper
Immersive sound design techniques and resources
Use of reverberation for increased realism
Basics of binaural headphone delivery and speaker arrays
Learning outcomes: mastering the basics of the more detailed controls within Reaper to automate an audio source to follow an object within a 360 video, implementing room simulation and gaining a deeper understanding of the signal flows required for ingesting, editing, spatialising and automating the movement of audio sources in the 360 soundfield.
Materials: Slides and video tutorials will be provided along with example Reaper session files.
Exporting master audio mixes from reaper.
Target output levels, optimisation, and good monitoring practices.
Encoding and muxing for multiple delivery platforms including Youtube, Facebook, and Samsung Gear VR
Uploading, sideloading and checking before final delivery.
Future developments and ways to stay current.
Slides and video tutorials will be provided as well as example movie files, audio files, and Reaper sessions
Learning outcomes: A finalised 3d audio mix will be joined with an example 360 video and loaded onto a Samsung gearVR and uploaded to Facebook and Youtube, showing the variations between the platforms and the considerations which must be taken into account during the creative process, in order for the finished product to perform optimally on the desired target platform. Limitations and some of the difficulties in delivering and publishing will be discussed and methods for keeping up with the fast pace of a newly developing field will be given.
Course costs: £250 / £225 for students / £200 for UCL students
- Introduction to Interactive VR 360° Film
Course dates: October 29th - November 26th
Course Tutor: Jeremiah Ambrose (M.Sc, M.Phil, BA (Hons))Working in the areas of digital art, media futures and experimental practice, Jeremiah's research ideas explored in both his M.Sc in Interactive Digital Media and his M.Phil in Film Theory and History.
A quick overview and access to Gear 360 cameras will be provided on this course.
● (Session 1) Unity Basics
● (Session 2) Creating a 360° Film Scene
● (Session 3) Making an Interactive 360° Film Project 1 (Key Concepts)
● (Session 4) Making an Interactive 360° Film Project 2 (Practice)
● (Session 5) Building and Publishing an Interactive 360° Project
Course Contents Overview:
Session 1 - Unity Basics
● What is Unity?
● Main Windows
● Game Objects
● The Asset Store
● Publishing Builds
● Why Build 360° Film in Unity?
Learning outcomes: Familiarity with the basics of the Unity interface and common terms used in
relation to this software.
Materials: These discussions will be covered via slides that will be provided to people attending
Session 2 - Creating a 360° Film Scene
● Video Sphere - Importing a suitable sphere and positioning it for your scene.
● Shaders - Making a shader that will allow you to view inside of a sphere.
● Main camera - Explaining how the virtual camera becomes the user's body.
● Video Player - Understanding how its components work and playing a scene.
Learning outcomes: Understanding the central components involved in building a scene and
applying these by creating your own 360° scene.
Materials: All of the relevant scripts will be provided along with comments for people to
understand how they work. These will be discussed to give a brief insight into programming
Session 3/4 - Making an Interactive 360° Film 1/2 (Key Concepts/Practice)
● Virtual Gaze Interaction - Define and explain in the context of this course.
● Ray Tracing - Brief overview to contextualise VGI.
● Mesh Colliders - Explain how these work and their role in relation to VGI.
● Scene Activation - Show how to trigger a scene change.
● Build settings - Covering how scenes need to be added to the build.
● VR Reticles - Defining and discussing different reticle approaches.
Learning outcomes: Introduction to the theory and practice of virtual gaze interaction and
applying it to a scene to create movement between a series of 360° videos. This will be done
with invisible object interaction, imported 3D models and discussed briefly in relation to script
Materials: You will be provided with a project folder that will include 360° videos to work with, but this could be combined with material shot from other workshops at UCL.
Session 5 - Building and Publishing an Interactive 360° Project
● Mapping a Scene
● Non-linear / Linear Narratives
● Platforms & Building
● VR Analytics
● Gear VR Publishing
● Key Processes and Troubleshooting for App Building
● OSIG and Application Signing
● Publishing Platforms
Learning outcomes: Either previous work or an example provided will be published as a Gear
VR app. This process will demonstrate the nuanced considerations and processes involved for
error checking and publishing an app this way. People will also be made aware of how the
exporting of an interactive project and its desired platform will impact the overall project design.
Critical considerations of the available platforms will also be introduced.
Working in the areas of digital art, media futures and experimental practice, Jeremiah's research cements ideas explored in both his M.Sc in Interactive Digital Media and his M.Phil in Film Theory and History. Currently he is in the final stages of a practice-based PhD looking at emergent narratives and interaction aesthetics in VR and interactive 360° film at the University of Brighton. He has been involved with talks, workshops and installations at the Brighton Digital Festival, London Science Museum, VR Diversity Initiative and the British Science Festival, amongst others.
He also lectures on the University of Brighton's MA in Digital Media Arts, guest lectures on UAL's MA Games Design and tutors on the UCL Immersive Factual Storytelling (VR/AR) Studio on the Open City Docs MA Ethnographic & Documentary Film.
Catalin is a Senior Lecturer in Film at the University of West London and holds a doctorate in Media and Communications from Goldsmiths, University of London. His research aims for a pragmatic understanding of documentary spectatorship with regards to experience, empathy and narrative comprehension. In a larger context his work also advocates for the filmmaker's understanding of how audio-visual and narrative representation impacts on society's understanding of stereotyped groups, such as disabled people, women and African cultures.
He is currently editing two books, "Documentary and Dis/ability" (with Helen Hughes) and "Cognitive Theory in Documentary Film Studies" (with Mette Kramer). As a practice-led researcher he has just completed two feature documentaries about blindness and the everyday, and another feature documentary: Zanzibar Soccer Dreams (with Florence Ayisi), about Muslim women playing football.
Dieter is an award-winning documentary self-shooting filmmaker and editor based in London. His intimate approach leads to a low-intervention kind of filmmaking that captures human stories with sincerity, creativity and cinematic beauty. For several years now he has dedicated part of his practice to working with local and international charities and arts organisations, ranging from short documentaries on wildlife conservation projects in Zambia to short animations for research on disability related bullying in the UK.
In the past two years he has been working with another charity where he led several collaborative filmmaking projects alongside a number of community groups. He worked with youth offenders, parents who had their children removed from their care, women who suffered domestic and sexual violence, and young people in care. His personal work has gained him awards and screenings at several festivals and galleries worldwide. His most recent film St Helena, An End to Isolation was broadcast on BBC News. He also teaches on the MA in Ethnographic & Documentary film at UCL, leading Studio 3: Cinematic Documentary Storytelling.
Axel is a freelance Immersive audio designer and producer, who has worked on international 360 and VR projects. Some of his recent clients are Mixed Immersion, Visualise, Picture This Production, 1.618 digital, Pebble Studios and more. He is also currently tutoring at the UCL Immersive Factual Storytelling (VR/AR) Studio on the Open City Docs MA Ethnographic & Documentary Film.
Pinny Grylls is an award winning documentary filmmaker and ethnographer. Her short documentary Peter and Ben has had over 350,000 views on YouTube and won a number of awards such as the FourDocs Best Documentary, Best Documentary at Aspen Shorts Fest and The Grand Jury Prize in SXSW Click. Her other much loved documentaries include Mr and Mrs Smith, Who Do You Think You Were? (Channel 4). Specialising in the Arts, Pinny has also made a variety of commissioned documentaries for clients such as the Guardian, BBC, Channel 4, The Arts Council, The National Theatre, The Royal Opera House, and the Tate, as well as commercials for British Gas, Dove and Aldi.
For the last 10 years Pinny has also worked as a freelance video ethnographer for both Ipsos Mori and the U.K. government, filming everything to gypsies and travellers to young carers for studies that have influenced government and corporate polices. She was part of the pioneering and award-winning team at Ipsos Mori Ethnographic Centre for Excellence that developed the use of video for researching and understand human behaviour for both the public sector and commercial brands. Pinny also co-founded the Birds Eye View Film Festival in 2002 and is a published children's author.
Chloe is an award winning BBC reporter and audio producer whose work includes: "Islamic State's Most Wanted", "Searching for Tobias", "No Place to Die", "America Revisited", "Why Do People Hear Voices?"
Marc has made more than 10 creative documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4. His films have won Grierson, Royal Television Society, and BAFTA awards as well as numerous international festival prizes. In 2006 he had a retrospective at the prestigious Lussas Documentary Film Festival in France and his work has been included in numerous documentary books and academic studies. Marc received an honorary doctorate from the University of East London for his documentary work. Marc is a guest tutor at the London Film School, the National Film and Television School and Royal Holloway University.
Helen is a London based filmmaker and editor creating observational documentaries about the arts industries. Her work has been broadcast on Channel 4, ITV & MTV, and featured on homepages at The Sun, The Telegraph, MySpace & Amazon. In 2011 Helen was commissioned to direct, shoot and edit A Summer Hamlet, a feature-length documentary following Shakespeare's Globe's pan-European tour of Hamlet. Other clients include Jessie J, Jamie Cullum, Florence and the Machine, Billy Idol, Historic Royal Palaces, Hampstead Theatre, Restorative Justice Council, Island Records, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Somerset House.
Nina is a composer and audio producer who has been writing music since she was a child. She has been commissioned to compose music for broadcasting, film and performing arts, and is also a published singer songwriter and composer. Since becoming a BBC Radio Drama Composer-in-Residence in 2003, she has also produced radio features for the BBC and international broadcasters (NPR, Radiolab, ABC Radio National Australia, CBC Canada), and in 2012 co-founded the co-operative production company Open Audio Ltd.
She is also a practitioner-researcher and senior lecturer in audio production at Bournemouth University, with a PhD by Publication titled "Music, Narrative, Voice and Presence: Revealing a composed feature methodology".
A well regarded audio specialist, Jack holds a MEng Electronic and Electrical Engineering qualification. He works in BBC R&D Interactive and Immersive Content department, and is a Specialist 360 audio engineer at SohoVR, the CEO of Reynolds Microphones, and a freelance musician and sound designer. He is also President of the UCL Audio Engineering Society.
Katharine is a filmmaker and artist with over nineteen years experience in creative documentary for broadcast and cinema. At the production company she runs with journalist and filmmaker Leah Borromeo, Disobedient, she has worked with the V&A, Netflix, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, and Forma Arts. Her work spans broad themes of economics, society and science, often told through the prism of psychology and character driven narratives.
She directed the critically-acclaimed The Divide, a feature length film on the psychological impact of income inequality, inspired by the book 'The Spirit Level', which received critical acclaim, a UK theatrical run and a release on Netflix, as well as short films for the BBC, Channel 4 and Discovery. She has had work exhibited at leading international film festivals in galleries and at the European Parliament. Katharine is also an accomplished producer and regularly gives masterclasses on film production. She is the co-founder of leading professional documentary filmmakers organisation Doc Heads, supporting documentary through curated events, masterclasses and commissioning opportunities.
Anatole is a co-founder and managing director at Zoya, a Soho based film production company specialising in creative advertising and digital content. I teach production and post-production of virtual reality (VR) documentary films, tutors on UCL's VR Strand on the practice-based MA in Ethnographic and Documentary Film.
Sandhya is a British-Indian writer/director based in London. A graduate in pure mathematics, she received a scholarship to study documentary at The National Film and Television School. Her feature documentary I For India premiered in the World Competition section of the Sundance Film Festival, screened at over 20 international festivals and garnered several awards before being released theatrically to critical acclaim in the UK and the U.S. In 2016 she was selected for both the Sundance Screenwriters' and Directors' Lab with her first fiction feature Santhosh. Sandhya's latest feature documentary Around India With a Movie Camera has just been released theatrically by the BFI, and she has recently completed her fiction short The Field, a Film London and Canal+ co-production produced by Thomas Bidegain and Balthazar de Ganay, which won the Short Cuts competition at TIFF 2018.
Isis is a filmmaker and audio producer who has made work for BBC and Channel 4, and had films shown at festivals around the world. She also belongs to Kitchen Sink, an established filmmaking collective that seeks to support, provoke and encourage independent filmmakers.
Helen de Witt
Helen is an independent lecturer, writer and curator who teaches at Birkbeck University of London, University of the Arts London, and the National Film and Television School, amongst others. Previously, Helen was Head of Cinemas at the BFI, and BFI Festivals Producer for the BFI London Film Festival and BFI Flare. She's a programmer of the BFI London Film Festival Experimenta section for international artists' moving image. She's also a director of The Service Co-op, an independent production company dedicated to making films about social justice, the arts and creative collaborations, and has written extensively on independent cinema and artists' film.
Lucy has worked in documentary filmmaking for more than 14 years after initially training as a print journalist. Directing principally for television in the UK, previous credits include Watch Me Disappear (Channel 4) and Modern Times: The Great British Garden Watch (BBC2). She also produced the critically-acclaimed Notes from the Inside (Channel 4) and Sectioned (BBC4).
After working with Pulse Films on the theatrical documentary, The Possibilities are Endless, Pulse has now produced her BAFTA-nominated first feature-length documentary. Made with the support of the BFI and Creative England, Kingdom of Us, which was premiered at the 2017 London Film Festival where it won the award for the best documentary before launching on Netflix.
Filmmaking Facilities & Services at UCL in the Open City Docs School
Cameras and Filming Equipment
Students on the MA Ethnographic and Documentary Film will be supplied with:
- Sony HXR-NX3 Full HD Camera Kit
- Sennheiser Radio Mic Kit
- Røde Shotgun Microphone
- SD Cards
- Lishuai Lighting Kit
- Professional Sony Headphones
- E-image tripod
Students on our short courses and term-length modules will be supplied with one of the following kits:
- Canon XF100 Camera Kit
- Panasonic HMC41E Camera Kit
(Please note: these kits are normally shared one between two)
We also have available for borrowing and rental:
- Canon 700D DSLR Camera Kits
- Additional Sennheiser Radio Mic Kits
- Additional Lishuai Lighting Kits
- Shotgun Microphones
- Boom Poles and XLR Cables
- SteadyWings Hand-Held Camera Mounts
- Monopods and Tripods
- Pistol Grips
- Other Equipment
Students on courses have access to:
- 60 iMac workstations complete with Adobe Creative Cloud suite
- A 52-inch flat screen playback monitor
Equipment (such as tripods and radio mics) can be booked out by any student taking our courses. They are subject to availability and should be booked at lest 48 hours in advance. The booking form can be found at: Equipment Hire Request Form.
Equipment can also be hired from the department at a cost by those not taking one of our courses. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Video & DVD Library
The department holds a large collection of DVDs of important documentary films that students and researchers can borrow. We have a large number of streamable films that you can see online.
The great majority of items in the library have been purchased with income raised through subscriptions and 'laboratory fees' paid by students on the filmmaking masters modules. Without this income, the library would not exist. Therefore, all users, with the exception of students paying 'laboratory fees', are asked to pay a subscription. Current rates are £25 for all terms, £15 for one term.
All subscribers will be asked to register by completing a simple form with contact and programme details, as appropriate. All subscribers are required to give an email address. Registration can only be done during normal office hours only.
Location & Opening Times
Student Central, 2 Malet Place, Bloomsbury, WC1E 7HY
The Library is only open during normal office hours. Loans are possible over the Easter and Christmas vacation, but the library is closed during the summer.
Users with borrowing rights are only allowed to check out 1 item at a time.
Items must be returned to the receptionist during working hours.
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Sharmin Ahammad - Summer Film School - 2017
UCL Summer School was a fantastic way of learning the skills of filmmaking and editing. You learn from incredibly inspiring, insightful and talented filmmakers and editors. I came away from the course with an enthusiasm and love for making films and equipped with the skills to do so.
Sarah Saey - Practical Documentary Filmmaking - 2016
'Great introductory course that didn't seem to basic. While the course started from the basics the tutors didn't pitch it too low but instead really challenged us. Great value for money compared to other similar course.'
Ellen Wiles - Making Radio - 2016
“This was a brilliant introductory course to radio documentary making – informative, practical and inspiring. I’d highly recommend it.’
Here are examples of some of the films made during some of the Open City Docs School courses:
Love and Dementia by Dominic Sivyer
Dominic Sivyer's grandparents are coming to terms with his grandfather's early onset of vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease. His sense of humour remains intact, but the deterioration of his memory is putting a strain on their relationship. Sivyer's honest account offers a glimpse into a 50-year marriage, filled with pain, love and laughter. Love and Dementia was acquired by The Guardian in 2016.
Dominic is now part of the prestigious BBC documentaries new directors initiative and has made an hour-long film for the BBC following on from his short film called Granddad, Dementia & Me which was broadcast in July 2017 on BBC One
Waste by Min Min Wu
Yanin Ma is an 11-year-old girl living with leukaemia. Her hometown in Shantou has become one of the most heavily polluted cities in the world and is now infamous for its electronic waste recycling industry. The family-run workshops that cover the city burn electronics sourced from all over the world in order to extract the rare metals they contain, a process that fills the atmosphere with dangerous toxins.
The film documents Yanin's recovery having spent the last month undergoing chemotherapy in Guangzhou City. Yanin wants only to go home for the annual Children's Day celebration, but some believe the pollution in her hometown could be the very cause of her illness.
Winner of the prestigious 2017 One World Media Student Award. Min Min is now working in Shanghai developing new projects.
China in Ethopia by Paul Zhou
China in Ethiopia is a documentary that tells the stories of two employees from a Chinese manufacturing company in Ethiopia which produces plastic products; the first subject is an Ethiopian employee called Seifu who is an interpreter of Chinese. A Chinese employee Lei Zhang is my second subject who is the sole resources purchaser for that company. With Chinese investment becoming a major feature, Ethiopia's economy has been growing rapidly in recent years, and Chinese manufacturing companies are the optimal work places for most Ethiopians, as Chinese companies always offer a good salary and working environment; they also attract large numbers of Chinese people to come all the way from China to work there for a higher salary. Seifu and Zhang were two characters who had completely different backgrounds and personalities, but they were living and working in the same place and fighting for the same goal, which was to earn more money for their family. The film recorded the reality of their daily work, after-work activities and revolved around how the value of 'family' influenced both subjects. The film is directed by myself, I am currently a postgraduate student, studying MA Documentary and Ethnographic Film Practice in University College London. China in Ethiopia is my graduation film which was shot independently in Ethiopia, and editing alone in the United Kingdom.
Winner of the prestigious 2018 One World Media Student Award.