Short courses


Directing Documentaries for Broadcast & Theatrical Release

  • 8 hours
  • 4 evenings (7pm to 9pm) - over 4 weeks


This online evening course is for assistant producers looking to make the move into directing, or new filmmakers looking to gain the knowhow and knowledge needed for making documentary films for broadcast and online.

You'll learn practical tools such as how to present yourself and your ideas, how to think like a director, shooting for the edit and the importance of story.

It's led by Katie Buchanan, an RTS Broadcast and Grierson winning Executive Producer with over 25 years' experience.

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

Course content

Session 1

How to market yourself as a director. Making your cv work for you. Bring your own cv to workshop.

Coming up with ideas and researching them. Tips on casting and negotiating access.

How to pitch. Pitching your idea to the group.

Homework – shoot some footage showing a central character for your idea.

Session 2

Feedback on your footage.

What is your story? The importance of narrative in documentaries and how to build it.

Treatments and tasters. The inside track on how successful commissions were built.

Homework – write a treatment for your idea.

Session 3

Feedback on your treatments.

Thinking like a director. What is your stylistic approach? Is it authored or observational, unfolding or retrospective?

How to approach your shoots to make sure you get the most out of them.

Homework – shoot and cut some footage to illustrate your idea.

Session 4

Workshop and feedback on your footage.

Storytelling in the edit. The importance of preparation.

Troubleshooting and problem-solving. How to get yourself out of tricky places.

Course structure and teaching

This course will take place on 4th Floor, 40 Bernard Street, London, WC1N 1LE. If you have any questions or concerns about this, please get in contact at shortcourses@opencitylondon.com

Sessions will be held online on Thursday evenings, from 7pm to 9pm, over 4 weeks.

You'll also be expected to complete tasks in between sessions.

Course team

Katie Buchanan

Katie Buchanan

Throughout a 25 year career in television Katie has worked to the highest editorial standards, producing one-off documentaries, documentary series and social experiments, often with complex access, compliance and duty of care requirements. Her programmes have won numerous awards including Broadcast, RTS and Grierson Awards and she's worked extensively with emerging directors including being the executive producer for nine First Cuts for C4 and mentoring and promoting young female directors.

Course information last modified: 2 Mar 2023, 11:43