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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Below are some recent tutors for Open City Docs School courses.
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 email@example.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 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.
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.
Regine Brandtner - Summer Film School - 2019
“If I learned one thing then that it is a long way from a topic to an engaging film – the tutors provide you with everything you need to take on this challenge, and to create your best possible film and experience!“
Amy Ryles - Summer Film School - 2018
“This course is one of the best things I’ve ever done. It was an immersive, challenging and enlivening experience. Katharine encouraged (and pushed!) me to make a film I never imagined I’d have either the technical skills or courage to make. The deeply personal process of making it – and watching the heartfelt films my peers made – gave me a new perspectives on filmmaking and on life itself. If it’s not already obvious, I can’t recommend this course highly enough.”
Anthony Barlos - Summer Film School - 2018
“The UCL Summer School helped me understand in depth how documentaries are made and think like a documentary filmmaker. The course was really great, the teaching was outstanding and the friendships I made long lasting. This six weeks program felt like a mini MA in documentary filmmaking. I gained lots of confidence, it kick-started my freelance career and now I’m collaborating on a short documentary with a fellow student that I met in the course. I cannot recommend this program highly enough as it’s a life changing experience.“
Helen Waddell - Summer Film School - 2018
“The course was a fantastic experience. There are few courses out there which dedicate this much time to preparing you technically but with also understanding how to consider narrative and character development. Each lesson we were set tasks to build up our technical skills and approach to filmmaking. We had to get stuck in straight away and it was the best way to learn. The course gives you a rounded experience, it prepares you in production, filming, sound, editing – each skill makes you better at the other. Katharine and her guest tutors were encouraging and really cared about helping you develop and gain confidence.”
Andrew Brown - Summer Film School - 2018
“The Summer School was genuinely transformational: as a very ‘thinky’ person it allowed me to express a more intuitive, artistic side of myself; it gave the know-how to be able to independently make my own short films; and it has led me to seriously consider pursuing documentary film-making on a longer term basis”
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.