UCL Anthropology


Ethnographic and Documentary Film Studio

Ethnographic and Documentary Film (Practical) MA - Ethnographic and Documentary Film Studio

Now led by award winning documentary filmmaker, Richard Alwyn, the Ethnographic and Documentary Film Studio offers a hands-on, practical course in which we are looking for independent-minded students who want to explore and to challenge the documentary form and to find innovative ways to tell universally resonant stories.

Over the past two decades non-fiction film has grown in popularity. Smaller and more affordable equipment has led to a huge increase in people taking up filmmaking. New spaces for the distribution of documentary films have flourished. Multiple online platforms and festivals now complement the traditional outlets for non-fiction film – cinema and broadcast. With this expansion, the opportunities are plentiful today for a fulfilling and creative life as a documentary filmmaker.

This programme will prepare you for those opportunities, drawing inspiration from the best of documentary filmmaking from around the world, past and present.

We will develop your skills as documentary makers, encouraging you to find your ‘voice’ which will allow you to stand out as a filmmaker making films that enhance our understanding of the world around us. Our aim is to nurture a new generation of excellent, singular and distinctive filmmakers.

Over the course of a year, you will learn the skills required to develop, pitch, direct, shoot and edit documentary films. These core technical skills will give you the confidence to go out into the world to make the films that you want to make, in the way that you want to make them. This development will take place in a supportive and creative environment, with your peers and lecturers guiding you along the way.

Students in this strand of the MA are divided into a number of small ‘studios’, each lead by a practising filmmaker-tutor, the details of whom you can find on our Tutor page. During the first 6 months, the programme is structured around weekly filmmaking exercises, which prepare you to make two 7-10 minute films, one in each of the first two terms. Each of these films is a chance to explore different approaches to documentary filmmaking. You will also write short creative reflections on each of your films, encouraging you to think analytically about your filmmaking. You will then make your graduation film which is your major assessed piece of work and should be 18-30 minutes in length. For the graduation film, each student will be mentored by a leading practicing filmmaker who is there to help you throughout the production of your film, from first idea to final cut. The subject matter and the form of the film is for you to decide in consultation with your tutor.

Throughout the year, we host a programme of weekly screenings and masterclasses in which prominent industry figures show and discuss their work with you. It’s an opportunity for you to meet and to learn from (and to challenge) some of the most distinguished practitioners in their field, be they directors, film editors, producers, commissioners etc. You will also be encouraged to attend UCL’s own annual Open City Documentary Festival, participating in its screenings and its discussions about documentary form and the industry that supports it. Equally, studying and living in London means that you will be able to exploit its rich cinema culture in which documentary film is increasingly celebrated.

Joining this MA is both an opportunity to develop a portfolio of work and a way to grow your own network as the people you meet along the way may well be amongst those you will be working with in years to come.

Further Information:


Each student has exclusive use of a professional HD shooting kit for the duration of the MA consisting of camera, sound recording equipment (including radio microphone) and tripod. Additional equipment including lighting kits, reflectors, audio recorders, monopods and boom poles can be accessed on an ad hoc basis.


Films made by students on the MA at UCL regularly screen at film festivals throughout the world (Sheffield Doc/Fest and Encounters, RAI and Aesthetica Film Festivals amongst others). Many have been nominated for and won awards including the RTS Student Award, Grierson Awards and the One World Media Award. Alumni have gone on to work in the documentary film industry at numerous production companies and broadcasters.