Open City Documentary Festival

Limitations As Strength: Embracing Restrictions When Making Non-Fiction Films (Online)

Mon 20 April
Wed 22 April
Fri 24 April

Since the invention of cinema, non-fiction filmmakers have worked with ‘limitations’. Learn how to overcome restrictions and make the complex become simple.

This course will be delivered via online distance learning, and has been created with this situation in mind. Students will require their own computer or other internet connected device to take part. 

Notice: filmmakers Pawel Lozinski (You Have No Idea How Much I Love You, Father and Son) and Jon Bang Carlsen (Phoenix Bird, Jenny) are confirmed as guest speakers.

Since the invention of cinema, non-fiction filmmakers have worked with ‘limitations’.

Whether these bars and blocks have been self-imposed for specific creative reasons or enforced from outside through budgetary constraints, problems of access or conflict, there is a rich history of films that offer us valuable insight into thinking positively about limitations when making non-fiction films. Over the course of three days, students will be exposed to a range of works designed to inspire them to think about their own personal projects in new ways.

Through a series of workshops led by leading filmmakers, whose own body of work embraces constraints, students will learn how to focus their ideas so they are not only realisable but formally inventive, bold and unique. If you want to discover how to make the complex simple this course is for you.

Day One

Session 1  – 10-1pm

Introduction to the course – what makes art, why do we make films.

Session 2 –  2-5pm

An overview of documentary cinema – are all films “limited”? The role of setting rules and restrictions in a film

Watch list provided for discussion in day two

Day Two

Session 1 – 10-1pm

Limitations through circumstance – the filmmakers’ response to access, budget, and situation

Session 2 – 2-5pm

Limitations through choice – focussing narrowly to elevate meaning

Practical exercises set for day three

Day Three

Session 1 – 10-1pm

Frames and rules: Poetics and unity of form & content

Seeing the meaningful and universal in the everyday

Session 2 –  2–5pm

Guest session – a breakdown of the process plus discussion



Katherine Round

Course Tutor

Katharine Round makes creative documentaries for broadcast & cinema exploring the essence of being human with warmth and humour. Her work is variously described as "tender and evocative" and “poignant and viscerally enraging”.


Marc Isaacs

Guest Tutor

Since his debut film, Lift (2001), Isaacs has made more than fifteen creative documentaries. His films include Calais - The Last Border, All White In Barking and Men of the City made for broadcasters such as the BBC, Arte and channel 4. His works have won Grierson, Royal Television Society and BAFTA awards as well as numerous international film festival prizes. In 2006, Marc had a retrospective at the prestigious Lussas Documentary film festival in France and his work has been included in numerous documentary books and academic studies. In 2008, Marc received an honorary doctorate from the University of East London for his documentary work. Marc is a guest tutor at numerous universities and film schools in the UK and overseas. In 2017, he produced his first video installation work, Out of Time, and in 2018 his complete film works was released by Second Run DVD along with an accompanying book.