Short courses


Practical Documentary Filmmaking

  • 1 day a week
  • 12 weeks


On this short practical documentary filmmaking short course you'll learn the technical and narrative skills needed to complete a 5-10 minute documentary film.

This course will teach you how to become the adaptable and practical freelancer filmmakers commissioners and clients need in today’s’ media landscape.

You'll learn self-shooting skills, with a focus on the fundamentals of observational filming.

You'll shoot, record sound, edit and direct your own film. You'll learn to respond to an undirected actuality and structure your footage into a compelling film.

Classes are held on Fridays, from 10am to 5pm. After the first 8 weeks of workshops, you'll have a further 4 weeks to complete your film project.

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

Who this course is for

This course is open to UCL Master's students and external candidates of all filmmaking abilities.

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

Course content

During the course you'll acquire the technical skills needed to complete a five to ten minute video project using the cameras, workstations and facilities in the department's visual laboratory.

You'll learn practical, analytical and intellectual filmmaking skills by using moving image and sound recording equipment, and you'll discover how new technologies create new methodologies.

You'll examine and deploy a range of the technical, aesthetic, and representational dynamics involved in documentary construction. By doing so, you'll become a more informed, as well as practically experienced, commentator on the 'truths', 'fictions', styles, genres, ethics and modes of filmmaking.

You'll recognise the potential of film to document research, and explore issues of representation and audience reception.

Structure and teaching

The course runs from 10am to 5pm every Friday.

The first 8 weeks focus on strengthening narrative, camera and editing skills. Each Friday you'll be set a new filmmaking task that will prepare you for the production of your final film.

You'll then have an additional 4 weeks to shoot and edit your final film. During this time you'll also have support through one-to-one editing tutorials. There will also be a rough cut screening an a screening of your final film on the big screen (Covid permitting).

Facilities and equipment

You'll have full access to the UCL Anthropology Audio Visual Lab, including computers with Premiere CC and Adobe Creative Suite.

You'll also have use of professional camera kits (shared one between two students) for the duration of the course.

You'll be able to access the UCL facilities for a further five weeks after the formal teaching on the course so you can complete your film. 

Those using UCL Anthropology cameras are responsible for any loss, damage or repair costs. Any failure to reimburse the department will result in a debt to UCL with the standard consequences.

You'll need to bring two external hard-drives on the course.

Cost and concessions

The standard fee is £1,800.

There is a reduced fee for UCL students who are taking the course for credit - please contact shortcourses@opencitylondon.com for more details.

Course team

Grace Harper - Course Tutor

Grace Harper - Course Tutor

Grace is a British filmmaker using creative non-fiction to explore how socio-political contexts embed themselves into daily experience and the structures (both internal and external) that we create and fight against in order to move within the world.

She came to film from a background in literature and creative writing and her work crosses modes, moving between documentary, personal, journalistic, archival. It's political and psychoanalytic but always laced with warmth and humour.

Her work has screened at international film festivals and gallery spaces including The BFI, Sheffield Doc/Fest, The Barbican, St Louis Film Festival, The Institute of Contemporary Arts and The British Library as well as performed live, published online and broadcast on television.

Course information last modified: 30 Nov 2022, 16:01