Documentary Courses at Open City Docs School

Filmmaking, Film Theory and Radio Courses


Since February 2014, Open City Docs School has been running short 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 james@opencitylondon.com

Practical Documentary Filmmaking
Film Theory: Experimental Ethnographic and Documentary Films
Shooting Documentary: An Introduction 
Making Radio Documentary
Documentary Storytelling 
Documentary Concepts and research
Summer Film School 2018
Introduction to 360° Spatial Audio Production
Introduction to Interactive VR 360° Film
Introduction to 360° Film Production Workflows

Current Tutors

Grant Gee

Grant Gee is a self-shooting filmmaker and occasional freelance director. His most recent film Innocence of Memories, with original script by Nobel Laureate, Orhan Pamuk, premiered at the 2015 Venice Film Festival and received theatrical release thoughout Europe. He also collaborated with Pamuk (providing 7 screens of video installation) on the exhibition The Museum of Innocence at Somerset House, London in Feb 2016 .

From 2012 to 2015 he collaborated (as Video Director) with theatre director Katie Mitchell on many hybrid theatre/film projects at flagship European theatres and museums including productions of Herta Muller’s Travelling on One Leg at Scahubuhne, Hamburg, Michael Handke’s A Sorrow Beyond Dreams at the Burgtheater, Vienna, The Yellow Wallpaper at Schaubuhne, Berlin and the film/painting installation Sickert and The Three Graces for the Victoria and Albert museum.

In 2012, his film Patience (After Sebald) - about W.G. Sebald’s notoriously unclassifiable literary work The Rings of Saturn - premiered at the New York Film Festival and had successful theatrical releases in the UK and US.

His documentary Joy Division, premiered at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, and won the Grierson award 2008 for Best Cinema Documentary and the Mojo Vision Award 2009, CPH:DOX festival’s (Copenhagen) Sound and Vision award for Best Music Film (2008) and the Audience Awards for Best Film at both Gdansk and ‘In-Edit’ Barcelona  (also 2008).

Also in 2007 his film The Western Lands, a portrait of climber/writer Jim Perrin’s climb of The Old Man of Hoy, won best short film at the Banff Film Festival.

In a previous life he directed many music videos including for Radiohead’s No Surprises. He also directed the acclaimed feature documentary Meeting People is Easy (1998) about the band.


Penny Woolcock is a writer and director working across documentary, fiction and opera. Her fiction feature films include 1 Day, a hip-hop musical that led to One Mile Away, a documentary that was instrumental in negotiating peace between two inner city gangs. She wrote and directed Mischief Night, The Principles of Lust and The Margate Exodus and directed a film version of John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer. Her television fiction includes Tina Goes Shopping, Tina Takes a Break and Macbeth on the Estate. She has a special interest in marginalized communities and her documentaries include eight months On the Streets with homeless people, The Wet House about a hostel for drinkers, The Five of Us and Shakespeare on the Estate. From the Sea to the Land Beyond is an archive film in collaboration with the BFI and British Sea Power. Her recent documentary Going to the Dogs explores contemporary dog fighting. She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera with Adams’s Doctor Atomic, also staged at ENO and directed The Pearl Fishers at Eno in 2010 and 2014 which will travel to the Met in 2015.  She is currently working on The Only Place I can Breathe a major installation for the Roundhouse in August 2015 and has several films in development.Awards include Prix Italia, the Royal Television Society award, the Banff Television award, Toronto Women in Film Award, Broadcast best Drama award, the Brussels Special Jury Prize, the Grierson Trustees Award 2010, the Liberty Human Rights Award for Arts 2011, the Sheffield DocFest Inspiration Award 2012, the Edinburgh Festival Award for best British Film (2012) and the Women in Film and Television Achievement of the Year Award 2013.

Lasse Johansson

Lasse Johansson, is a self-shooting documentary director and media trainer with a background in fine art and sociology. Apart from making his own independent films Lasse works as a freelance cameraman and editor making films and online content for a variety of charities, non-profit and educational organisations. He also works internationally as a media trainer on projects aiming to empower local voices and media organisations. Over the past 4 years Lasse’s work has explored issues around urban regeneration in Hackney, the part of London where he also lives. This work has produced a large-scale public art installation, a publication and a number of short films documenting the lives of local people. Lasse’s interest in film also include how the process of filmmaking in itself can be used as an educational tool to help marginalised groups unlock, discuss and express issues that impact on their lives. For this purpose Lasse is currently exploring different ways of using film when working with groups of young people not in full-time training or work.

Sandhya Suri

A graduate in Pure Mathematics and Languages, Sandhya Suri received a scholarship to study documentary at The National Film and Television School. Her subsequent feature documentary, 'I for India' screened in World Competition at Sundance Film Festival and at over twenty international film festivals, winning several awards internationally. The film was also released theatrically in the UK. After 'I for India' Sandhya spent several years working in international development, heading up the Film Unit at Oxfam GB and travelling the world filming across a wide range of issues and realities from D.R Congo to Vietnam. She has a particular interest in participatory video and has worked as a media trainer with youth in India, Thailand, Indonesia and London. She has also worked on projects using media as a tool for conflict resolution in Nepal (Search for Common Ground) and Macedonia (Saferworld). She is currently developing both fiction and documentary projects.

James Price has degrees in Fine Art (BA (Hons) Newcastle, 1999) and Documentary Direction (MA, National Film & TV School, 2006) and is undertaking a practice-based PhD into social responses to climate change and the implications of the Anthropocene for observational filmmaking at UAL supervised by William Raban.

Price's films have been shown on the BBC, Channel 4, and More4, in art exhibitions and at film festivals world-wide. Recent projects include Chandigarh Corrections Omissions (Linköping University) an investigation of aesthetics and discipline in Le Corbusier's planned city; Diamond Street, Estuary: Working Lives, and Study for the Estuary (ACE, 2011-present); ongoing collaborations with writer Rachel Lichtenstein exploring place and identity in London and the Thames Estuary; The Body Adorned (Horniman Museum, 2012-3) a multi-screen installation anthropology of London dress, and What is Freedom? (Channel 4, 2009) a semi-serious attempt to find the freest person in the USA. Other projects include A Piece of the Moon (Channel 4, 2008) an exploration of people who have ‘bought’ land on the Moon, and the businessman who made millions selling it to them. The People In Order series (Channel 4, 2006) has gone on to be shown at festivals in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Australia, and the USA, won awards at some of these, and was selected by Channel 4 as one of their highlights of 2006, the first series of 3 Minute Wonders to achieve this accolade. The first program in the series, Age, went to the top of the Viral Video Chart in January 2008 and has had over a million views on YouTube and other video websites.

James has also exhibited installations and photography in the UK and beyond. His 2006 installation and film, Conversation, an exploration of the hidden judgements we make of each other, has shown in the UK, Canada, the USA, and Iran. This work is being distributed as an educational aid in the UK, Australia and North America.

He also produces arts biography films for the Tate, the National Trust, the Southbank Centre, the Photographers’ Gallery, and Channel 4, and collaborates extensively with London AV artists, the Light Surgeons, with whom he developed his video practice from 1999 until embarking on his Masters at the NFTS. 

Bonnie Rae Brickman

Bonnie Rae Brickman is a New York born, London based Film + TV Editor with over twenty-five years’ experience, accumulating a diverse and extensive list of credits including Julie Andrews’ Opening Night on Broadway, American Playhouse, and Shining Time Station.

She has been honoured with four New York Area Emmy Award Certificates during her ten years at WNET/thirteen, Highly Commended at Underwire's In The Cut: Best Editor Award 2015 for BOOTWMN, and shortlisted for the Kevin Spacey Foundation Artists of Choice Award 2016. Her work has screened on US, UK and Australian television and at film festivals worldwide including Clermont-Ferrand, HotDocs, Open City Doc Fest, London Short Film Festival, SF Frameline, LA Outfest, Athens International Film+Video Festival, BFI Flare and Fringe! Film Fest.

Along side her editing work, she has taught editing and post-production at SUNY/Oswego and currently teaches editing on the Ethnographic & Documentary Film MA programme at University College London.


Catalin Brylla

Catalin Brylla is a lecturer for fiction and documentary film at the University of South Wales. He works as a freelance documentary filmmaker and editor, and specialises in transnational documentaries and short films that have been screened and broadcast internationally. As a practice-based film scholar his research encompasses a variety of disciplines, such as ethnography, audience reception, aesthetics, cognitive psychology, phenomenology and cultural studies. He is currently doing his PhD by Practice at Goldsmiths College, exploring alternative representations of disability in documentary films by placing particular focus on space, artefacts and the quotidian.

Freelance Profile


Academic Profile

Havana Marking

Havana Marking, a British journalist and filmmaker, Havana Marking’s latest feature doc Smash & Grab: the Story of the Pink Panthers, has its festival premier in Nov 2012 and will be released in cinemas in 2013. Funded by the BFI and BBC Storyville this part animated film reveals the world of a Balkan diamond thieving mafia. Her first feature documentary, Afghan Star, won both the Directing and Audience awards in Sundance 2009, The Grierson award for ‘best doc on a contemporary issue’ and the Prix Italia. She has subsequently made films for HBO (Silencing the Song), and More4 (Vote Afghanistan!) and Channel 4 (Michael Johnson: Survival of the fastest). She was recently voted a “Reel Screen Doc Hot shot 2012’: representing the future of feature-length non-fiction.

An Executive Producer on numerous films, notably To Hell and Back Again (dir Danfung Dennis), which was nominated for an Academy Award 2012. Marking is one director of the British independent film company Roast Beef Productions, whose ‘business plan’ was only to: “Get a studio, fill it with talented people and see what happens”… Finally her articles and photographs have been published in the Guardian, The Observer and the Telegraph.

Mark le Fanu

Mark Le Fanu (Senior Tutor in Film History) film history at the National Film and Television School and, for a number of years, at the European Film College in Denmark . Latterly (along with stints as an English and History tutor) he was on the media faculty at Aarhus University. He is a long-term contributor to Sight & Sound  and to the French monthly Positif.  Research interests, besides documentary, include Russian, French and Japanese cinema, and the cinema of the silent epoch. He is the author of the first English-language study of Tarkovsky (BFI Books 1987). A book on Kenji Mizoguchi (Mizoguchi and Japan, BFI Books, 2005) was nominated for the Krazsna-Krausz Moving Image Book of the Year. He is currently engaged in writing a short, essayistic study about cinema and religion. 

Xiaolu Guo

Xiaolu Guo is a British Chinese filmmaker, novelist and essayist. She has written and directed several feature films and visual essays. Her feature She, A Chinese received the Golden Leopard Award at Locarno Film Festival 2009. UFO In Her Eyes premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, received Best Script Award at Hamburg Film Festival. How is Your Fish Today was in official Selection at Sundance and received 1st prize at the International Women’s Film Festival France, 2007. Her documentary The Concrete Revolution received Grand Prix at the Human Rights Film Festival in Paris. Once Upon A Time Proletarian premiered at Venice Film Festival and TIFF 2010. We Went to Wonderland was selected for New Directors at MoMA in NYC. She also directed a film essay about Britain’s underclass society – Late At Night, which premiered at BFI London Film Festival 2014. Her most known novels include A Concise Chinese English Dictionary for Lovers and I Am China. Her latest book is Once Upon A time In the East. In 2013 She is named as a Granta’s Best of Young British Novelist.

Gareth Evans is a London-based writer, curator, presenter, producer and Whitechapel Gallery’s Film Curator. He is also co-curator of Swedenborg Film Festival, Estuary 2016, Whitstable Biennale and Utopia 2016 at Somerset House.

He created and programmed PLACE, the annual cross-platform festival at Aldeburgh Music, is Co-Director of production agency Artevents and has curated numerous film and event seasons across the UK (e.g. J.G.Ballard, Portugal, Roma Cinema, Armenia) at the Barbican, ICA, Institut Francais, Arnolfini and Watershed among many others). He conceived and curated the cross-arts London season John Berger: Here Is Where We Meet in 2005 and co-curated All Power to the Imagination! 1968 and Its Legacies in 2008. He regularly hosts events at institutions nationally and internationally.

He produced the essay film Patience (After Sebald) by Grant Gee as part of his nationwide arts project The Re-Enchantment (2008 - 2011) and has recently executive-produced the feature-length works Erase and Forget (Zimmerman, Berlin Panorama 2017), Unseen (Dryden Goodwin for Royal Museums Greenwich); By Our Selves (Andrew Kotting and Iain Sinclair for Soda Pictures); In Time: an Archive Life (Lasse Johansson) and is in development with Fly Film and the BFI for The Lighthouse (directed by Grant Gee and written with Sasha Hails). He commissioned Things by Ben Rivers, which won the 2015 Tiger Award at Rotterdam International Film Festival.

He worked on the film pages of Time Out from 2000-20005, edited the international moving image magazine Vertigo from 2002 – 2009 and now edits Artesian and co-edits for Go Together Press and House Sparrow Press. He has written numerous catalogue essays and articles on artists' moving image. Recent and forthcoming monograph pieces include Melanie Manchot, Siobhan Davies, Bill Morrison, Joshua Oppenheimer and Mark Boulos.

Previous Tutors

Chris Martin

Chris Martin began filmmaking by shooting and editing skateboard videos, before heading out to Central and South America to work as a photojournalist, contributing to a number of UK publications.  On his return he studied anthropology at UCL and started working for television production companies.  In a bid to learn as much as possible he alternatively worked in the editorial, production and technical sides of the industry.  He became a producer and director of photography, producing and shooting documentary films for Channel 4 and the Discovery Channel from Guatemala to Turkey.  This work included: Location Producer - The Search [Guatemala and Peru] (Channel 4, 2006), Shooting Producer - Worlds Greenest Homes (National Geographic Channel, 2007) and Director of Photography - The Woman Who Talks To Animals (Discovery Channel, 2008).  In 2008, after receiving funding from the Channel 4 young directors programme, Chris decided to set up his own company and embark on a project to re-live George Orwell’s 1928 study of urban poverty: Down and out in Paris and London.  This phenomenological approach led to him working in hotel kitchens in Paris and living for six months on the streets of London, all the time documenting his experiences.  The experiential technique led to an interest in applied anthropology and filmmaking.  Chris continues to make documentaries, music videos, short films and work as a cinematographer.

Mike York

Dr. Michael Yorke (Senior Tutor), is an anthropologist who specialised in South Asian tribal people at SOAS. In mid-career he joined the BBC Ethnographic Film Unit. With a mission to empower the indigenous voice, he made a number of award-winning films for the BBC2 ‘Under The Sun’ series in the 80s and 90s. His “Dossers” film was selected for a BAFTA nomination. “Dust and Ashes” won the National Geographic Earthwatch Award. “The End of Eden”, about the demise of the Marsh Arabs under Saddam Hussein, won the United Nations Environmental Award, and “Eunuchs – India’s Third Gender” won the San Francisco Golden Gate Award and was broadcast worldwide. After becoming a freelancer, he masterminded Channel 4’s big series “Kumbh Mela – The Greatest Show on Earth” in 2001, which received 6 international awards. It was broadcast daily ‘as-if-live’ for three weeks. Made with a team of 67, it heralded a new format of event-driven ethnographic film on primetime television. He has also directed documentaries for National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Arte, Canal+, Carlton and NHK. With the increasing commercialisation of television, Michael now provides masterclasses for the new generation of concerned filmmakers. He continues to make his own personally motivated single operator observational films for the narrowcast market.

Mick Csáky

Mick Csáky – documentary film writer, producer and directorSince leaving the Film & Television School of The Royal College of Art in 1972 Mick Csáky has directed more than 100 documentary films and produced a further 600 productions – all for broadcast television, with some for cinema and DVD release - mostly in the areas of human stories, history, current affairs, biography, music and arts. 

His productions have won many international awards, including a US National Emmy and an International Emmy. In 1998 he was awarded a Fellowship by the Royal Television Society  “in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the furtherance of television.” 

He is Chief Executive and Creative Director of his own independent production company Antelope South Limited. To visit his company website and see his CV:www.antelope.co.uk

He is a trustee of One World Media: www.oneworldmedia.org.uk

To view three of Mick Csáky's past documentary film productions click on the following links: 

  • “THE GODMOTHER OF ROCK & ROLL: Sister Rosetta Tharpe” (2011)  A one-hour documentary about the influential music of African-American gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe: 
  • “GEIKO GIRL” (2000)  A one-hour documentary about a geisha girl working within the Gion district of Kyoto, Japan:
  • “CARAVANS OF GOLD” (1983)  Episode 3 of the 8 x one-hour documentary series AFRICA presented by the historian Basil Davidson:


James Dawson is an award-winning freelance factual and documentary filmmaker. He made the first Secret Millionaire broadcast which won the Rose D’or. He also worked on the BAFTA and Grierson winning documentary series The Trust. Recently James directed Making Faces about the work of the Maxiofacial Lab at QE Hospital in Birmingham and before that a BBC documentary Up In Flames: Mr Reeves and the Riots following eighty-year-old Maurice Reeves, owner of Croydon's Reeves Furniture store, who had to watch his 144-year-old family business go up in flames in the 2011 riots. The film follows him in the aftermath of that night. Time Out said: “Against all odds, a genuinely uplifting tale.”James devised and taught on London Metropolitan University’s MA modules in documentary film-making; he’s also taught at UCL on the introduction to documentary short courses and tutored on DV Talent’s two day camera intro workshops. 

Olly Lambert

Olly Lambert graduated in English Literature from Durham University, and worked his way up as a researcher and Assistant Producer of documentaries before making his first film for Channel 4 in the UK in 1999. "Four Weeks to Find a Girlfriend” was a candid account of his own search for love as a London 20-something, and was nominated for a Grierson Awards for Best Newcomer, as well as a BAFTA for Best New Director. Since then, he has filmed, produced and directed over 25 documentaries for broadcasters the BBC, Channel 4 and Sky1, specialising in intimate films about ordinary people caught in extraordinary situations, often in areas of conflict. His films include “The Tea Boy of Gaza” (BBC, UK), a moving portrayal of a young boy who dodges bullets to support his family among the patients and staff at the biggest hospital in the Gaza strip:  “Battle Hospital” (Channel 4, UK), for which he was embedded at a British military field hospital during the invasion of Iraq in 2003; and most recently, "Syria Across the Lines", a shocking account of life on both sides of a sectarian front line in rural Syria. He has won a number of international awards, including the Foreign Press Association award of “Journalist of the Year”.    

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

Editing Suites

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 laurence@opencitylondon.com 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 catalogue for this library is available at the Dept. of Anthropology reception desk.

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
Dept. of Anthropology, Reception Desk, 14 Taviton Street, London W1.
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.

Borrowing rights
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.
Items may be renewed (if there is no hold on it) but they must be renewed in person, during opening hours, with the item present.
Anyone who has an outstanding fine will not be allowed to check out another item until the fine has been paid.
Fines will be £5.00 per item per day. With 'days' counting as opening days.

Digital Library
A digital version of the library will be available soon in the Open City Docs School, South Wing.

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.'

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.