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MA Ethnographic and Documentary Film (Practice Based)

Documentary filmmakers need to understand the world they live in – this unique MA programme in Ethnographic and Documentary Film Practice provides students with the full range of skills needed to achieve this, whilst building a diverse portfolio of work through the course. This programme is based out of UCL but run by leading film practitioners in the Open City Docs School, ensuring that students not only receive the highest-quality, practice-based learning, but do so in a top-level university research environment.

Building on the methodology that the Open City Docs School at UCL has developed since 2008, the core of the teaching programme for this practice-focused MA is practically-oriented training in all the technical issues surrounding the preparation, production, editing and distribution of visual image.

There are a choice of four studios offered by the MA in Ethnographic and Documentary Film Practice: ‘Cinematic Non-Fiction’, ‘Broadcast Documentary’, ‘Cinematic Reportage’ and ‘Immersive Factual Storytelling (VR/AR)’. Each are led by unique tutors and offer a distinct opportunity, catering to the varying interests and requirements of students entering this programme.

Students will be taught not only how to create powerful, engaging and technically professional film narratives but also to think about the fundamental question of ‘why’ films are, and should be, made. Creative engagement with questions of form is fostered, allowing for a reshaping of the social realities that film research brings into being.

All students have full access to an array of quality filmmaking equipment throughout the year and the space and resources necessary to complete their film projects. Our various Mac and VR Suites enable both small group teaching and larger cohorts of students to work together in comfortable and supportive environments.

A core course provides practical training (see studio tabs for detailed description), with additional options providing supplemental teaching and opportunities. Students are able to complete further courses in film theory and history alongside weekly screenings and seminars, as well as dedicated courses on narrative and staged photography.

Those on the ‘Cinematic Non-Fiction’ studio are encouraged to take ‘The Story and I – Finding the form’ (ANTHGF03) as well as another option within Anthropology – concentrating their training in appropriate areas. Those doing ‘Cinematic Reportage’ are encouraged to take a course in ‘Understanding and Researching the Social World’ (ANTHGF02). Those joining the VR studio and are encouraged to take ‘Experimental and Interactive Storytelling - Form and Narrative’ (ANTHGF06).

This MA will allow students to benefit from UCL’s unique position in the heart of London, from the many activities in film within the Department of Anthropology, and also those offered by The Slade and The Bartlett – both of which have established moving image programs. Students may also benefit from collaborations with the Film Studies Programme and SSEES.

All students have access to UCL’s camera and editing equipment, the extensive film collections in UCL Libraries and the Visual Anthropology laboratory. Each student has their own full camera kit which they keep throughout the year – avoiding the need to check equipment in and out. We have two dedicated editing suites, one with 40 iMacs and one with 25.

With guidance from the course tutors, students will produce 3 documentary films in various modes to build a diverse portfolio of work, before producing a graduation film of 15-25 minutes in length. 

Open City Docs

Founded at UCL by Dr. Michael Stewart in 2010, Open City Docs is dedicated to developing and supporting non-fiction storytellers. The organisation nurtures the next generation of filmmakers, audio producers and VR filmmakers through training programmes, the annual Open City Documentary Festival, and other screening projects throughout the year and is home to several projects in the world of documentary.. 

Students will benefit from access to the festival, held annually in London, and to a range of Open City's year-round screening and workshop events. MA students will also benefit from our connections and partnerships with organisations across the documentary industry both in the UK and internationally, and be provided with opportunities to attend festivals and events such as the RAI Film Festival and the Essay Film Festival. Students accepted onto the ‘Cinematic Reportage’ studio will receive a free annual membership to the Frontline Club.

Open City Documentary Festival

Open City Documentary Festival takes place over six days in venues across London and the programme offers a chance to see the best in contemporary, international documentary as well as filmmaker Q&As, industry panels, workshops, networking and parties. The eighth edition of the festival will take place between 4th - 9th September 2018. 

Cinematic non-fiction students will be exploring the breadth of form available within documentary and ethnographic film with a focus upon observational, past/participatory and essay film. The aim is to give a firm grasp of the creative possibilities of non-fiction storytelling in film, with a critical awareness of how students' emerging practice stems from creative models in film, ethnography, and theory. Students will develop, research and produce films with a keen focus on the art of filmmaking. The form the film takes is of equal weight to the subject it explores. We intend, as artist filmmakers, to be exploring, revealing, and communicating something of the human condition in our work. The core course will give students the skills to realise their vision. In addition this strand will include study of the various modes of production non-fiction filmmakers have employed in the century and more that film has existed, and the theoretical and philosophical positions these modes imply. The course culminates in students directing their own non-fiction films, mentored by leading filmmakers, intended to be calling cards for your cinematic voice. The course will also include how to write and pitch film ideas for funders and explain the business of independent non-fiction filmmaking.

Core Course:

The course is designed to teach camera and editing skills in a context of enquiry into the social world. It is delivered in eleven hours a week of lab practice in the first term and five hours per week in the second. As well as occasional seminars and tutorials in both terms, there are further screenings and masterclasses concentrated in term two. In total during the core course you will have 144 hours of contact with your tutors. The practical elements of the course are taught in paired sessions – the first being teacher-led and instruction-based. In the second, students’ practical exercises are appraised, with the tutor providing individual guidance and feedback on your film practice.

Students will spend a minimum of twelve hours each week completing camera and editing exercises. You will also be expected to do some additional reading and watching films. Over the course of the two terms you will spend a further 110 hours preparing, filming and editing assessed work that will also prepare you for your graduation film. A total of 600 hours learning is allocated to the core course (one third of all your marks for the MA) and the assessment will combine formative and marked work, building up a portfolio of work over the period October-April. You will be encouraged to use your own computer equipment to allow off-site working (using your personal Adobe CC account) and will need your own external hard drive, but you will use the departmental cameras, radio mics and associated kit, decks, editing suite and workstations.

In summary, the core course structure includes the following elements: Practical/technical issues in Documentary and Ethnographic practice; Equipment, insurance, nature of film, filmic and digital methodology, technical handouts, field notes and Project Diary.

In detail the practical training for non-fiction cinema will run as follows:

Cinematography / the history of the shot

Methods of image capturing – effects and differences (technical and ideological) of camera types, lenses, shot length, composition and framing; shooting styles, history of the shot; history of ethnographic filming techniques and how changing technology has influenced creative outcomes.

Introduction to Digital Camera Functions / Technical

Battery use, tape formats & insertion, timecode, camera caveats, tripod & hand-held, manual white balance control, holding a frame, zoom control.

Advanced Camera Functions / Technical continued

Manual control of focus, depth of focus, exposure, aperture, gain, neutral density, shutter speed; lighting techniques, sequence construction, edit points, and shooting to edit.

Audio Functions / Documentary Sound

Interviewing, framing, composition, backgrounds, techniques & methods. Audio monitoring, manual audio control, modulation, microphone choice & recording technique, Wild & atmos tracks.

Sound Design and Music in Documentary

Use of sound elements and music in documentary. Exercises in shooting to music and using sound creatively.

Ethnographic and Documentary modes

Discussion of the representational capacity of documentary.Examination of a range of the technical, stylistic, aesthetic and representational dynamics deepens. Discussions of the ‘truths’, ‘fictions’, styles, genres, ethics and modes.

Film proposal & narrative structure: the production process, release forms, copyright issues, legal & ethical responsibilities, informed consent. Writing a proposal, budgeting and scheduling. Scripting & storyboarding. Style & aesthetics. Pre-production and preparation.

Pitching

Presenting a film project to diverse audiences: subjects, funders, and broadcasters. Issue of audience and form – matching and challenging expectations and capacities.

Directing

How to direct the production and create own methodology: making a shotlist; interview techniques, styles and ethics; working with production team on location; working as self-shooting PD (producer/director); studio shoots; setting up scenarios; collaborating with subjects; authorship and responsibility.

Editing

Transcription, paper editing, batch capture digitisation, browser administration, subclip creation, storyboarding, and timeline assembly.

Rough Cutting

Narrative structuring, synchronicity, continuity editing, cutaway insertion, transitions, effects, motion controls, key framing, subtitling, sound balancing, laying rough commentary, music and FX tracks.

Fine Cutting

Film pacing, final commentary recording and laying, colour balancing and correction, sound design, foley, music, audio mixing, levels and balance. Captions, subtitles, credits and titles.

Outputting – from Codec to Festival

Rendering, printing to tape, saving image, Blu-ray/DVD burning and authoring, reaching an audience, distribution and festival submission.

Key Learning Outcomes

Generally graduates form the programme will be able to:

  • reason critically
  • devise a visual research project
  • apply anthropological and social science approaches to film work
  • identify and solve problems
  • demonstrate and exercise independence of mind and thought
  • critically view and read, analyse and interpret
  • evaluate and integrate conflicting sources, evidence, theories and interpretation
  • think critically about the relations between form and content in ethnographic/ documentary practice

Practically you will be able to:

  • handle cameras to produce broadcast quality image
  • handle sound recording equipment to produce broadcast quality sound for film
  • master the technical skills to use professional editing programme/s
  • produce different sorts of films, of different lengths for varied audiences
  • manage a film project carried out by oneself
  • manage small scale collaborative film projects
  • critically view and review film material and produce argued justification for an analysis of such
  • devise collaborative film making projects

In terms of transferrable skills, graduates will be able to:

  • make a broadcast quality and more broadly screenable documentary film
  • manage the production of such
  • produce professional camerawork
  • record sound for moving image to a professional level
  • edit moving image to professional level and under pressure of time
  • write analytically well grounded and persuasive analysis of film material
  • work on collaborative film projects in terms of conception, management and delivery
  • produce a budget and learn to ‘pitch’ a film to funders
  • manage a range of IT programs and their integration within a given project

In this strand, students will learn how to make documentaries for broadcast - challenging films aimed at changing the world! Students will develop, research and produce issue-based stories which they feel passionate about, stories they believe can make a difference. In addition to the core course, this strand includes an historical overview of reportage films, research and interview techniques, how to construct a filmic argument, the ethics and different styles of reportage, and working with investigative journalists, with the course culminating in students making their own reportage documentary films. The course will also include writing and pitching film ideas for broadcast commissioners and introduce the market for reportage films on both small and large screen.

Core Course:

The course is designed to teach camera and editing skills in a context of enquiry into the social world. It is delivered in eleven hours a week of lab practice in the first term and five hours per week in the second. As well as occasional seminars and tutorials in both terms, there are further screenings and masterclasses concentrated in term two. In total during the core course you will have 144 hours of contact with your tutors. The practical elements of the course are taught in paired sessions – the first being teacher-led and instruction-based. In the second, students’ practical exercises are appraised, with the tutor providing individual guidance and feedback on your film practice.

Students will spend a minimum of twelve hours each week completing camera and editing exercises. You will also be expected to do some additional reading and watching films. Over the course of the two terms you will spend a further 110 hours preparing, filming and editing assessed work that will also prepare you for your graduation film. A total of 600 hours learning is allocated to the core course (one third of all your marks for the MA) and the assessment will combine formative and marked work, building up a portfolio of work over the period October-April. You will be encouraged to use your own computer equipment to allow off-site working (using your personal Adobe CC account) and will need your own external hard drive, but you will use the departmental cameras, radio mics and associated kit, decks, editing suite and workstations.

In summary, the core course structure includes the following elements: Practical/technical issues in Documentary and Ethnographic practice; Equipment, insurance, nature of film, filmic and digital methodology, technical handouts, field notes and Project Diary.

In detail the practical training for reportage based documentary will run as follows:

Cinematography / the history of the shot

Methods of image capturing – effects and differences (technical and ideological) of camera types, lenses, shot length, composition and framing; shooting styles, history of the shot; history of reportage based filming techniques and how changing technology has influenced outcomes.

Introduction to Digital Camera Functions / Technical

Battery use, tape formats & insertion, timecode, camera caveats, tripod & hand-held, manual white balance control, holding a frame, zoom control.

Advanced Camera Functions / Technical continued

Manual control of focus, depth of focus, exposure, aperture, gain, neutral density, shutter speed; lighting techniques, sequence construction, edit points, and shooting to edit.

Audio Functions / Documentary Sound

Interviewing, framing, composition, backgrounds, techniques & methods. Audio monitoring, manual audio control, modulation, microphone choice & recording technique, Wild & atmos tracks.

Sound Design and Music in Documentary

Use of sound elements and music in documentary. Exercises in shooting to music and using sound creatively.

Reportage and Documentary modes

Discussion of the representational capacity of documentary. Examination of a range of the technical, stylistic, aesthetic and representational dynamics deepens. Discussions of the ‘truths’, ‘fictions’, styles, genres, ethics and modes.

Production and Logistics

Film proposal & narrative structure: the production process, release forms, copyright issues, legal & ethical responsibilities, informed consent. Writing a proposal, budgeting and scheduling. Scripting & storyboarding. Style & aesthetics. Pre-production and preparation.

Pitching

Presenting a film project to diverse audiences: subjects, funders, and broadcasters. Issue of audience and form – matching and challenging expectations and capacities.

Directing

How to direct the production and create own methodology: making a shotlist; interview techniques, styles and ethics; working with production team on location; working as self-shooting PD (producer/director); studio shoots; setting up scenarios; collaborating with subjects; authorship and responsibility.

Editing

Transcription, paper editing, batch capture digitisation, browser administration, subclip creation, storyboarding, and timeline assembly.

Rough Cutting

Narrative structuring, synchronicity, continuity editing, cutaway insertion, transitions, effects, motion controls, key framing, subtitling, sound balancing, laying rough commentary, music and FX tracks.

Fine Cutting

Film pacing, final commentary recording and laying, colour balancing and correction, sound design, foley, music, audio mixing, levels and balance. Captions, subtitles, credits and titles.

Outputting – from Codec to Broadcast
Rendering, printing to tape, saving image, DVD burning and authoring, reaching an audience, distribution and festival submission.

Key Learning Outcomes:

Generally graduates from the programme will be able to:
reason critically
devise a visual research project
apply anthropological and social science approaches to film work
identify and solve problems
demonstrate and exercise independence of mind and thought
critically view and read, analyse and interpret
evaluate and integrate conflicting sources, evidence, theories and interpretation
think critically about the relations between form and content in reportage based documentary practice
Practically you will be able to:
handle cameras to produce broadcast quality image
handle sound recording equipment to produce broadcast quality sound for film
master the technical skills to use professional editing programme/s
produce different sorts of reportage based films, of different lengths for varied audiences
manage a film project carried out by oneself
manage small scale collaborative film projects
critically view and review film material and produce argued justification for an analysis of such
devise collaborative film making projects
In terms of transferrable skills, graduates will be able to:
make a broadcast quality and more broadly screenable documentary film
manage the production of such
produce professional camerawork
record sound for moving image to a professional level
edit moving image to professional level and under pressure of time
write analytically well-grounded and persuasive analysis of film material
work on collaborative film projects in terms of conception, management and delivery
produce a budget and learn to ‘pitch’ a film to funders
manage a range of IT programs and their integration within a given project

The Cinematic Documentary Storytelling studio is aimed at students who wish to engage with issue-based non-fiction storytelling that can appeal to wider documentary audiences. Studio 3 draws inspiration from mainly contemporary documentary film and has a particular interest in the increased presence of the short form on many online journalism platforms.

Over the past decade documentary and real life stories have grown in popularity but smaller and more affordable equipment has led to a huge increase in people creating non-fiction content. Our aim within this studio is to help you stand out from the crowd by offering you the tools to develop cinematic narrative documentary films that reflect an understanding of the world around us.

Like the other studios in the MA Ethnographic and Documentary Film - Studio 3 consists of two learning modules. Firstly, Documentary and Ethnographic Film Practice (ANTHGF05) is the core course of the MA. In this module you will learn through practice how to use the art of cinema to tell real life stories. Within the first 6 months of the course you will make 3 short documentary films that each focus on a unique issue that you are passionate about. This studio distinguishes itself by the way it defines each exercise.

Film 1: The Present Tense

Term 1 begins with producing a short documentary story that takes place in the here and now; stories that are unfolding in front of your camera. For this short film we want you to explore your relationship with your camera and how you can use it to observe the world around you. The skills required for observational filmmaking underlie many documentaries and serve as an invaluable foundation to the craft. Your aim is to tell a story told through scenes that are built around observed action. Sit-down interviews, use of archive material, narration or music are not permitted.

Film 2: Narration

In this second project your voice becomes a tool in telling a story. You can either tackle a more personal issue based story (e.g. a story about your grandfather suffering from dementia) or investigate an issue that you feel passionate about ( e.g. a story investigating a specific queer subculture ). Whether personal or political in both instances your voice or presence becomes a character in the film that needs to be developed.

During this period we will be looking at how you can script your own voice and the challenges of distancing yourself from your onscreen personality. We will also be looking at how to construct a filmic argument for an issue based factual documentary and the ethics involved in doing so.

Film 3: The Past Tense

For this final film we are looking for stories of people or events that have happened in the past. Your challenge is finding creative audio-visual solutions to tell a past tense story. During this period we will be looking at how you can use archive and other visual devices such as reconstruction, animation, graphics, stylised observation and others to illustrate a story. In this exercise we are hoping to see a strong focus on camera and audio skills.

Graduation Film

The year will culminate in the production of your graduation film, which forms the second compulsory module of the Contemporary Documentary Storytelling Studio (ANTHGF99).

Every film that you make should be seen as an opportunity to explore your voice, develop your storytelling skills and push the boundaries of the medium. The initial three documentaries have a required length of 5 to 7 minutes, while the graduation film should be between 15 to 30 minutes. Throughout the year you will acquire a variety of skills (from producing to editing) that will allow you to tell stories in the most compelling way.

But joining this MA should not only be seen as an opportunity to develop your portfolio but also as a way to grow your own network as the people you meet along the way might be the ones you will be working with in years to come. Therefore you will be encouraged to attend Open City Documentary Festival screenings and engage with any documentary events across London.

Led by a senior BBC immersive producer and a team of immersive technology experts, UCL 360 is UCL's unique non-fiction immersive storytelling lab. This pathway of the MA programme provides students with the foundations for work in immersive factual storytelling formats, focused around 360° and CG-based VR experiences.

All students will be given a grounding in immersive techniques for story-telling, film-making, spatial sound recording and post-production techniques. Students will have access to 360° filming rigs throughout the year and be introduced to a wide range of the latest relevant equipment.

Students will be trained by experts from across this emerging industry and will be at the heart of this new, fast-moving media sector. It is widely said that ‘the dust will settle in the VR world in 2018’ – by joining the course this year you will be part of the generation that shapes immersive factual for the future.

We will expect you to be agile, attentive to the latest innovations in the industry and to surprise us each week with new possibilities in this space.

• A core course provides practical training (see below for detailed description)
• Options will allow students to do further courses in interactive and experimental film theory and history, radio production and
story telling in the first person. The course includes regular masterclasses with experts from across the industry.
• Credits taken within Anthropology or in other departments within our school will provide training in understanding and researching the social world

In addition to the core course, this pathway includes an historical overview of interactive media, research and interview techniques, how to construct an immersive narrative and the ethics and different styles of immersion.  The course will also include writing and pitching project ideas for clients and introduce the market for immersive media on various platforms.

Students will also be involved in planning the VR days for Open City Documentary Festival 2018.

All students will use UCL’s recording and computer-editing equipment, the extensive collections in film in UCL Libraries and the visual anthropology laboratory. We have two dedicated editing suites, one with forty iMacs and one with 22 stations as well as a PC gaming suite.

UCL has long been a forerunner in immersive technologies with Mel Slater and Anthony Steed’s ground-breaking research in this field at their laboratory in UCL Computer Science. Students will be expected to take advantage of various collaborative opportunities, including the monthly hosting at UCL of the Augmenting Reality Meetup (with Digital Jam).

Core Course Outline:

The course is designed to teach immersive camera, sound and editing skills in a context of enquiry into the social world. It will also provide students with a basic grounding in a game engine (probably Unity) to allow them to explore interactive and CG/VR based factual storytelling. It is delivered in eleven hours a week of lab practice in the first term and five hours per week in the second. As well as occasional seminars and tutorials in both terms, there are further screenings and masterclasses concentrated in term two. In total during the core course you will have 144 hours of contact with your tutors. The practical elements of the course are taught in paired sessions – the first being teacher-led and instruction-based. In the second, students’ practical exercises are appraised, with the tutor providing individual guidance and feedback on your film practice.

Working in groups, students will spend a minimum of twelve hours each week completing camera, sound, editing, interactive and game engine exercises.

You will also be expected to do some additional reading and watching films. Over the course of the two terms you will spend a further 110 hours preparing, filming and editing assessed work that will also prepare you for your graduation film. A total of 600 hours learning is allocated to the core course (one third of all your marks for the MA) and the assessment will combine formative and marked work, building up a portfolio of work over the period October-April. You will be encouraged to use your own computer equipment to allow off-site working (using your personal Adobe CC account) and will need your own external hard drive, but you will use the departmental cameras, radio mics and associated kit, decks, editing suite and workstations.

In summary, the core course structure includes the following elements: Practical/technical issues in Documentary and Ethnographic practice; Equipment, insurance, nature of immersive film, filmic and digital methodology, technical handouts, field notes and Project Diary.

Who should apply?

If you have a social science or arts and humanities background and wish to undertake training in ethnographic or documentary film production,

If you have a science background but wish to use film to research and investigate the social world and tell stories about it.

If you seek to develop expertise in the practice of factual, ethnographic and documentary filmmaking, rooted in an understanding of the social and aesthetic underpinnings of the creating of factual moving image will find a welcoming home in this programme.

We imagine that this course will attract a wide range of students with diverse interests.

Some of you will be aiming to use moving image as a tool of social research; others will hope to use film to communicate existing research ideas. All students, however, will be trained to use that unique capacity of film to take us deep into unfamiliar places and create new forms of engagement with the social world.

This MA will also work for people engaged in the broad world of media, who wish to take time out to develop their career in a new direction and to train in the unique combination of specialist skills (intellectual and technical) that a film program based in a university environment can offer.

Entry Requirements?

Normally an upper second-class Bachelor's degree in a social science, arts, humanities or science discipline from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. 

Academically weaker applications will also be considered provided that they are supported by experience in visual arts or film-making. Applicants with prior technical knowledge of film-making are asked to send a video portfolio of up to 20’ duration (Vimeo link recommended). Applicants without a video portfolio are asked to complete a photo essay for assessment. 

All shortlisted applicants will be asked to submit a proposal for a film or video project - to consist of no more than four sides of A4 paper, typed and double-spaced. This proposal should include: an outline of what the film is about; the characters and other elements crucial to the narrative and an outline of the film structure/narrative. (You are not committed to the proposal for the final project.)

What can I do with this MA?

The course will offer you professional training that makes you directly employable in today’s booming media labour market.

Career pathways may include

(1) visual anthropology and visual work in parallel social sciences;

(2) mass media – employing ethnographic and documentary skills and methodology to produce research and narratives of broad public interest;

(3) market research where companies like Ipsos Mori employ ethnography units that regularly use moving image as a part of their work;

(4) the many branches of industry where professional film production is an increasingly important part of communication, both internal to a company and externally to its potential customers;

(5) presentation and adaptation of form and content through new forms of distribution and exhibition, from broadcast through web distribution, and from the cinema to the social space.

Key Bibliography
  • DOCUMENTARIES ... and how to make them by Andy Glynne.. Creative Essentials, 2008. 336 pages + DVD disk. (ISBN - 13: 978-1-904048 -80- 0)
  • THE CORPOREAL IMAGE. FILM, ETNOGRAPHY, AND THE SENSES. by David MacDougall Princeton University Press, 2006. 312 pages. (ISBN 0-691-12156-7)
  • FOR DOCUMENTARY: Twelve Essays By Dai Vaughan University California Press, 1990, 215 pages, (0-520-21695-4)
  • DIGITAL FILM-MAKING By Mike Figgis Faber and Faber, 2007, (0-571-22625- 6)
  • THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX OFFICE: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution in the Digital Era, by Jon Reiss. 2009.
Further less practically oriented texts
  • Documentary Film Reader Ed Mark Cousins and Kevin MacDonald
  • Rethinking Documentary, eds Thomas Austin and Wilma de Jong
  • The Politics of Documentary, by Michael Chanan
  • Issues in Contemporary Documentary, Jane Chapman
  • The Essay Film, by Timothy Corrigan
  • The Cinema of Me, ed. Alisa Lebow
  • Killer Images, eds Joram Ten Brink and Joshua Oppenheimer
  • The Personal Camera, by Laura Rascaroli
  • Creating the Witness, by Leshu Torchin

Professor Michael Stewart, founding director of Open City Documentary Festival , is responsible for oversight of the programme design and management.

Leading the MA will be one senior tutor per group (normally 12-16 students) chosen form amongst most skilled practitioners of this craft in the UK. You can get a sense of the expertise of such tutors from the web pages for our short courses. The Senior Tutor will give master-classes each term to all the students, attend film-preparation discussion in the spring term, be involved in assessing second term work. Additional senior tutors are recruited for the mentoring of student graduation films through to completion from end of March till Mid September. 

In 2017-18 the senior tutors for the core course non-fiction cinema will be Sandhya Suri, Richard Alwyn and for Cinematic Reportage Dylan Howitt.

Each group will also be taught by a Teaching Fellow, drawn from a cohort of tutors, with many years of professional film experience. They provide much of the day-to-day assistance and hands-on training for all the students as well as delivering practical parts of the core course. Like all our staff we will expect the course leaders to move back and forth between professional and teaching work.

A series of masterclasses will also be held throughout the year involving filmmakers associated with Open City Docs School and our partner organisations. In previous years we have run a series of weekly screenings with DocHouse and for the reportage based documentary strand this year we will run masterclasses in association with Frontline club where students will also have a discounted (and subsidised) membership option.

Lasse Johansson (Course Tutor)

Lasse 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 (Senior Tutor)

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. She is currently working on her first narrative feature 'Santosh', which was selected for the Sundance Screenwriting and Directing Labs 2016.

James Price​ (Course Tutor)

James Price has degrees in Fine Art (BA (Hons) Newcastle, 1999) and Documentary Direction (MA, National Film & TV School, 2006). His films have been shown on the BBC, Channel 4, and More4, in art exhibitions and at film festivals worldwide. Recent projects include Reading Pepys (Kings College London) an audio-visual experimental history of Deptford’s Pepys Estate; 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 (Editing Tutor)

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, SF Frameline, LA Outfest, Athens International Film+Video Festival, BFI Flare and Fringe! Film Fest.

Ariadna Fatjo-Vilas (Editing Tutor)

Ariadna Fatjo-Vilas is freelance editor with over 10 years experience. She works in UK and internationally mainly on documentaries, fiction and artists films. Her films have played in festivals worldwide (including Berlinale, Sundance and Toronto) and some of the accolades that her films have received include an Oscar nomination (‘The Act of Killing’), a BAFTA award and other three nominations (‘The Act of Killing’, ‘Yours Truly’ and ‘The Last Regal Kingsize’), the Ecumenical and Panorama Audience Award in Berlinale, three prizes at Tribeca (‘Una Noche’), a Grierson Award nomination (‘Estate. A Reverie’) and a British Animation Award. Ariadna’s credits include many of the large T.V. channels in Europe and North America (like BBC, Sky Atlantic, Channel 4, PBS, Canal+, ARTE, RTE and MTV). Ariadna graduated from the National Film and Television School (NFTS) with an MA in editing in 2006. She’s been nominated to the 2016 Jules Wright Prize for Female Creative Technicians. She has also long-term involvement in education, including most recently as Course Leader for Goldsmiths’ MA in editing.

Lucy Sandys-Winsch (Course Tutor, Reportage)

Lucy is a multi award-nominated Documentary Film Director, Series Producer and Executive Producer, with a very strong track record across landmark documentary strands such as Channel 4’s 'Cutting Edge' and BBC’s 'Modern Times’.  Having worked at the BBC and at numerous independent production companies, she has made observational documentaries, biographical, historical, scientific and reportage single films and series for all the major television channels. As well as having been nominated for Griersons and BAFTAs, Lucy has been on judging juries for the Griersons, Student RTS Awards and the Sheffield Documentary Festival New Talent Pitch.

Dinah Lammiman (Course Tutor, VR)

For many years Dinah was a senior broadcast journalist for BBC Radio and TV’s Current Affairs Division, producing and presenting multiple documentaries. During her BBC years she was also closely involved with experimental interactive and digital initiatives at CBeebies. Latterly she’s worked extensively in immersive media, specializing in binaural and other sound concepts for museum and visitor attractions (including the National Trust, the Royal Collection, Oslo’s Fram Museum and ss Great Britain), alongside producing innovative mobile phone games and creating installations for VR/360 experiences.

Michael Stewart (Course Leader)

Founder of Open City Documentary Festival and MyStreet Films. He has worked on or produced ten documentaries for Granada (Disappearing World) and the BBC (Everyman, Timewatch).

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.

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.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.

Gareth Evans ia 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.

Sophie Fiennes is a film director whose feature documentaries for theatrical exhibition include her collaborations with the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, (2006) and The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, (2012), her portrait of German artist Anselm Keifer, Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow, (2010) and her most recent film Grace Jones; Bloodlight and Bami ,(2017), an observational odyssey into the world of the iconic singer and performer. This project came about following Fiennes first feature documentary Hoover Street Revival, (2001), about a Pentecostal church community in Los Angeles, and the sermons of its preacher, Bishop Noel Jones, brother of Grace Jones.Fiennes work for television includes her first short Lars from 1-10, about the Danish film director Lars Von Trier and his ‘Dogme rules’ film manifesto and arts documentaries, The Late Michael Clark, (2000), Because I Sing, (2001) VSPRS Show and Tell, (2005) and Liu Xiaodong Half Street, (2013). She also made a 5 minute fictional short First Row Orchestra, for the Arte’s Hopper Vu Par, (2012). Fiennes' films have received international distribution and screened in festivals from Cannes official selection to Toronto and Sundance. She was awarded a NESTA fellowship in 2001, to develop her innovative approach to film, and the Arte France Cinema Award in 2008, at Rotterdam’s Cinemart.

Christopher Hird formed Dartmouth Films in 2008 to pioneer in the UK new ways of funding, making and distributing independent documentaries, especially supporting first time and emerging filmmakers. His credits as executive producer include The End of the Line (2009) which revealed the threat to the world's oceans from overfishing, Rachel Seifert's Cocaine Unwrapped (2010), which supported the move to rethink the West's attitude to the war on drugs and many films shown at Sheffield including The Flaw(2011), Fire in the Blood (2013), Still The Enemy Within (2014) and In The Shadow of War (2014) – the last two of which were partly financed by crowdfunding, as was The Divide (2015).

Sandhya Suri is 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.

Emily James is originally from the United States, Emily James studied history and philosophy of science at Cambridge University and then documentary directing at the National Film and Television School in the UK, where she continues to live. In her films, Emily combines her interests in history, science, politics and film language with a wry sense of humor and just a little more than a pinch of irony. In 2009 Emily moved into the world of feature documentary, serving as Executive Producer on The Age of Stupid. Her feature directing debut, Just Do It – a tale of modern-day outlaws screened in over 45 independent cinemas across the UK in Summer 2011, alongside a far-reaching community screenings program. The film is now available on DVD, online and as a Creative Commons release. Most recently Emily has completed production on her long-awaited Silk Road, a feature documentary about the infamous dark net black market, often called ‘the eBay for drugs’. With unparalleled access, Silk Road is a thrilling cat-and-mouse crime story for the digital age, bristling with intrigue, mayhem, murder, and moral quagmires. Made for BBC Storyville and A&E Indie Fund, Silk Road is a beautifully shot, elegant, high-production-value feature documentary. Screened on Storyville in August 2017, and queued up to play on A&E later this year, Silk Road is set to be the definitive film on the subject.

Jeff Silvia is a filmmaker, teacher and film programmer originally from Boston. Jeff works across medias and genres but his work shares a kinship with traditions of experimental film and new modes of ethnographic documentary, exploring the quotidian aspects of his subjects lives, often over long spans of time. His most recently completed projects include Linefork (2016), Ivan & Ivana (2011), and Balkan Rhapsodies: 78 Measures of War (2008) have been exhibited at festivals, and museums internationally, including: MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight, The Viennale, BAFICI, Visions du Réel, Valdivia, and Flahertiana. A long-time affiliate of the SEL (Sensory Ethnography Lab) at Harvard University, Jeff helped develop the curriculum and methodology of the program at its inception while a teaching fellow aside founder and director Lucien Castaing-Taylor. Jeff has also been programming documentary and experimental cinema for nearly two decades. In 2000 with Alla Kovgan, he co-founded BALAGAN, an the offbeat and alternative micro-cinema screening series in Boston that continues to present marginalized films to the community.

Liz Mermin Documentary filmmaker (director, editor, DOP, producer) and writer, now running the multimedia/documentary department at the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Started career in New York and came to London 2006. Directed seven documentary features (all for broadcast, three for theatrical release) and many TV hours, as well as online shorts & series, promos, and public service announcements. Work has been commissioned by BBC, PBS, ABC, Sundance Channel, various US cable channels and many European public broadcasters (and acquired by many more), screened at top film festivals around the world, and received a variety of awards and nominations. Publications include a cover story for the Indian magazine The Caravan and articles and reviews for film and arts journals. Filmed in India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Balkans, the Gulf, Senegal, Nigeria, and across the US and Europe. Taught and presented work at universities and film programs across the UK and US. Educational background in anthropology (MA), literature, film studies. Originally drawn into film during a year on a research grant in Senegal.

Eva Weber Originally from Germany, Eva Weber is a London-based director working in documentary and fiction. Eva has directed a number of multi-award-winning short documentaries, with international stories at their heart, from the reindeer herdsmen of Finland to the students of Guinea revising for exams bathed in the orange light of petrol stations, to a closer-at-home study of lonely crane operators. Her film The Solitary Life of Cranes was described as “one of the most absorbing documentaries of the year” by The Observer. Her documentary Black Out won Best Emerging UK Director Award for at the Open City Film Festival.

Vanessa Stockley studied Art at Brighton College of Technology and Anthropology at University College London. She directed the film SOLDIER GIRLS: ON THE ROAD TO AFGHANISTAN for Channel 4’s First Cut, a documentary about women training to become officers at Sandhurst, which broadcast in March 2009. Her film THE GENIUS AND THE OPERA SINGER screened at Hot Docs in 2017.

Transferable Skills

We are training you for careers in:

  • Mass media including broadcast, cinematic and web-based moving image
  • Film and TV industry as camera operators, producers, directors, editors, researchers
  • Academia – ethnographic research, visual media and culture
  • Marketing and research
  • Communication and other media
  • Archives as well as cultural heritage organisations

Industry Training

There is strong evidence that the increasing demand for social and scientifically trained moving image specialists in the years ahead will continue if not accelerate (many of the graduates of our existing programmes now work in e.g. Ipsos Mori film unit and for the BBC). We do not intend to provide assessed internships within a one year MA since we don’t think you will have time for them!

Awards of £3,500 will be awarded for the 2018/2019 academic year for EU and UK nationals for studios 1,2 and 3 and £4,000 for studio 4. Each application will be means tested and if you would like to apply please contact Angela O'Reagan at a.o'regan@ucl.ac.uk.