Creative Documentary by Practice MFA

London, Stratford (UCL East)

The MFA offers the opportunity for students to develop an understanding of non-fiction film as a research practice. It opens with an extended piece of work during which you will be encouraged to reconceptualise what 'documentary film' is. Drawing on broad based anthropological thought about the social and cultural world we aim to produce filmmakers who are imaginative, risk-taking and intellectually engaged: pushing boundaries in the field.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2023/24)
Overseas tuition fees (2023/24)
21 months
Programme starts
September 2023
Applications accepted
All applicants: 17 Oct 2022 – 30 Jun 2023
Applications close at 5pm UK time

Applications open

Entry requirements

A minimum of a lower second-class Bachelor's degree from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard, or a pass at a non practice based Masters. We require an example of your film work to support all applications. We will accept applications from practitioners whose portfolio of work and CV demonstrates communicative and artistic achievement to the level of BA.

We would like to see a portfolio of your film work with a total duration of up to 20 minutes. This could be single film or multiple shorter films - and it should include your role in the credits. Please also submit a short text about a film project you would like to make with illustrative images or photos.

How to submit your portfolio

You can submit the film project proposal by attaching a PDF in your application. You can submit your film work by including a link to an external site of your choice at the end of your personal statement).

The English language level for this programme is: Level 4

UCL Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English courses are for international students who are aiming to study for a postgraduate degree at UCL. The courses will develop your academic English and academic skills required to succeed at postgraduate level. International Preparation Courses

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

Equivalent qualifications

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below. Please note that the equivalency will correspond to the broad UK degree classification stated on this page (e.g. upper second-class). Where a specific overall percentage is required in the UK qualification, the international equivalency will be higher than that stated below. Please contact Graduate Admissions should you require further advice.

About this degree

The MFA offers the opportunity for students to develop non-fiction filmmaking as a creative research practice. It opens with a series of exercises designed to reframe their approach to documentary as a conceptually-led practice - and then develop film work which interrogates and explores the contemporary world. You will learn and explore diverse forms of creative non-fiction filmmaking, including how to collaborate with researchers from other fields. Drawing on broad based anthropological thought about the social and cultural world we aim to produce filmmakers who are imaginative, risk- taking and intellectually engaged: pushing boundaries in the field.

Who this course is for

We are looking for practitioners who can demonstrate communicative and artistic achievement to the level of BA. We will review your portfolio of work and CV to assess your suitability for the programme. Students without any filmmaking experience are encouraged to apply for the MA in Ethnographic and Documentary Film.

What this course will give you

We live in an increasingly audio-visual world. In the 19th century the novel was the form. Today it is moving image. If you want to show people new ways of looking at the world, if you want to use cameras, microphones, the possibilities of montage, to find new ways of representing the lived world, this degree is for you. We have no ideology and promote no house-style. We want to help you find your own voice in an artistic form that is in its earliest days - where 'anything goes'. If that sounds like your home then this degree is for you.

Over two years you will learn to: i) handle cameras and sound recording equipment to produce non-fiction image and sound as well as mastering the technical skills to use professional editing programme/s and post production processes; ii) you will be able to experiment with different forms of moving image, with work of different lengths for varied audiences, learning to take risks; iii) under the highest quality supervision, you'll manage a large moving image project (up to 90 minutes of film) carried out independently; iv) you'll devise a short collaborative visual research project with persons not trained in moving image.

UCL Public Anthropology is an integral part of the creative environment of the 21st century in which the university provides a privileged space for creative work that can only rarely take place outside of its walls. Our studios are therefore a site of creative and collaborative creation, linking the creative industries and university life. Since 2008, and together with Open City Documentary Festival, we have explored how the teaching of creative non-fiction story telling can best be taught. We have pioneered practice-based teaching by practising (part-time) professional film makers.

This programme is based at our brand new UCL East campus in East London, forming part of the School for Creative and Cultural Industries. Students will benefit from cultural and educational connections with our East Bank partners such as the V&A and BBC, as well as state-of-the-art facilities including exhibition, performance and curating spaces, conservation studios and a 160-seater surround-sound cinema.

The foundation of your career

The programme equips students for careers in:

  • academia, ethnographic research, visual media and culture
  • marketing and research
  • communication and other media
  • archives, as well as cultural heritage organisations
  • film and TV industry as camera operators, producers, directors, editors, researchers


Graduates of the programme will develop a series of practical and transferable skills including:

  • Solving complex problems - developing lateral thinking and creative questioning
  • Managing time and production flows in complex projects and effectively integrating research into film practice
  • Communicating effectively and succinctly
  • Being able to pitch and sell stories/product to potential funders
  • Being able to find the moving image form best suited for a particular field of investigation

Teaching and learning

This practice-based programme is delivered through seminars, masterclasses, practical workshops and tutorials followed by supervised project work. Across the MFA you will spend significant time completing camera and editing exercises, building up a portfolio of work as well as watching numerous films.

All work is assessed, either formatively or formally, by the MFA teaching team.

In the first term you will spend two days a week in tutorials and in the second and third terms one day a week. You will have additional masterclasses and screenings most weeks in the first year. You will spend at least two days a week across the whole year in self-directed film making. In the second year you will have tutorials one day a week in the first term and then critical reviews across the period completing your graduation project.

The compulsory modules typically involve around 360 contact hours (a mix of 2h & 3h seminars, 1 hr tutorials). Optional modules (15 credit) usually amount to 54 contact hours (assuming 2h weekly seminar) but will vary depending on the choice of modules.


In the first term and second term of the first year, you will spend two days a week in classes and tutorials, and in the third term you will spend one day a week in tutorials. You will have additional masterclasses and screenings most weeks in the first year. You will spend at least two days a week across the whole year in self-directed film making. In the second year you will have tutorials one day a week in the first term and then work-in-progress screenings and tutorials across the period completing your graduation project.

During the first year, you will also take the compulsory module: Short Collaborative Practical Film Project and Sustained Reflection – researching and independently making a short documentary film on a subject you have developed with a collaborator. The latter can be an academic, a research team, or any other practitioner in another field who is willing to engage with you on a collaborative film project. This project work will be supervised by the module tutors and will provide you with the chance to develop a film based on your collaborator’s pre-existing scholarship, or work with them to produce an entirely new research project.

In the second year you will independently make your graduation film project: a creative documentary film/moving image project on a subject of your choosing. You will begin work on this project towards the end of the first year of the MFA, keeping work in a Research Book. Production begins in the second year supervised by the module tutors and project mentors who will provide you with the chance to develop and express your professional level skills in the production of creative documentary film. The module and all its associated studio training will solidify the intellectual grounding in social and historical research that you have acquired and allow you to use these skills to further research the social world and then produce non-fiction film work about this research. You will also produce a written text reflecting on the entire work process.

Alongside these compulsory modules you will also take optional modules offered by the documentary film programme within Anthropology, including film history courses and others designed to develop story-telling capabilities; film history modules from the Film Studies suite and other options from across UCL – where possible – and where relevant to the research for their final film.

Please note that the list of modules given here is indicative. This information is published a long time in advance of enrolment and module content and availability are subject to change. Modules that are in use for the current academic year are linked for further information. Where no link is present, further information is not yet available.

Students undertake modules to the value of 300 credits. Upon successful completion of 300 credits, you will be awarded an MFA in Creative Documentary by Practice.


There is no formal fieldwork but almost all film projects will involve working off-site.


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support & Wellbeing team.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time
Tuition fees (2023/24) £18,000
Tuition fees (2023/24) £32,100

This is a 2-year programme, comprising 300 credits in total. The full-time fee quoted is for Year 1 only; the fee in Year 2 will be subject to UCL's fee increases of up to 5% annually.

The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Where the programme is offered on a flexible/modular basis, fees are charged pro-rata to the appropriate full-time Master's fee taken in an academic session. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website:

Additional costs

All full-time students are required to pay a fee deposit of £2,000 for this programme. All part-time students are required to pay a fee deposit of £1,000.

You will need to have two hard drives capable of securely storing your film material. UCL provides one of these in exchange for you buying your own private licence of Creative Cloud for home use. UCL runs Creative Cloud on the edit computers so there is no need for a personal licence but some students find this useful.

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.

Funding your studies

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.

Aziz Foundation Scholarships in Social and Historical Sciences

Value: Full tuition fees (1yr)
Criteria Based on financial need
Eligibility: UK

UCL East London Scholarship

Deadline: 29 June 2023
Value: Tuition fees plus £15,000 stipend ()
Criteria Based on financial need
Eligibility: UK

Next steps

There is an application processing fee for this programme of £90 for online applications and £115 for paper applications. Further information can be found at Application fees.

When we assess your application we would like to learn:

  • why you want to study Creative Documentary by Practice at graduate level
  • why you want to study Creative Documentary by Practice at UCL
  • what particularly attracts you to this programme
  • how your personal, academic and professional background meets the demands of a challenging programme
  • where you would like to go professionally with your degree

Together with essential academic requirements, the personal statement is your opportunity to illustrate whether your reasons for applying to this programme match what the programme will deliver.

This program is targeted at students who already have made film work, but now wish to push themselves creatively. We expect students to arrive with an understanding of how to shoot and how to edit, with a good working knowledge of Adobe Premiere Pro.

We would like to see a portfolio of your work - with a film/s of up to 20 minutes duration that you have shot and edited yourself. Please provide a short text about the film project/s with illustrative images or photos. We are interested in reading about your intention in making the film/s, and to what extent you feel that you have achieved these aims.

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes (or one application for the Law LLM) in any application cycle.

Choose your programme

Please read the Application Guidance before proceeding with your application.

Year of entry: 2023-2024

Got questions? Get in touch

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