Documentary Storytelling

  • 15 hours
  • 6 evenings (6:30 to 9pm), over 6 weeks


This six-session evening course focuses on the art of storytelling in documentary film.

Each session will include discussions of how theoretical concepts relate to formal considerations in documentary filmmaking - keeping the balance between the theory of practice and the theory in practice.

It runs over six Wednesdays, 6:30 to 9pm, and is delivered using classroom-based interactive lectures.

This course is run by the Open City Docs School, based in UCL's Department of Anthropology.

Course content

The following content is an example of what will be covered, but is only indicative.

Session 1

  • Documentary elements
  • Soviet montage and conceptual watching
  • The poetic documentary

Session 2

  • Spatial and emotional impact of shot sizes
  • The immersive actuality of continuity
  • The observational documentary

Session 3

  • Character profiling through interviews
  • The function of cutaways
  • The interactive documentary
  • Participatory documentary formats

Session 4

  • Brecht and defamiliarising the audience
  • The reflexive documentary
  • The hybrid documentary

Session 5

  • Memory, identity and rhetoric through the archive
  • The expository documentary
  • Narrative structure: story and plot
  • Narrative point-of-view and subjectivity

Session 6

  • Documentary comedy and distantiation
  • Parody and reflexivity
  • The mockumentary
  • The investigative documentary comedy

Who this course is for

This course is targeted towards:

  • documentary practitioners who are either preparing, shooting or editing their documentary
  • scholars who want to analyse or write about documentaries
  • anyone who is simply passionate about non-fiction films

There are no pre-requisites required to apply for this course.

Cost and concessions

This course fees are:

  • £180 - full price
  • £160 - students
  • £150 - UCL students

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Course team

Dr Catalin Brylla

Catalin is practice-led film scholar and Senior Lecturer in Film at the University of West London.

Course information last modified: 14 Feb 2019, 11:22