Open City Documentary Festival

Making the Move into Directing for Television (Online)

, 7-8PM
Feb 18 — Apr 8

An industry-focused course aimed at Producers and Assistant Producers looking to make the move into directing, or new producers and filmmakers looking to gain the knowhow and knowledge needed for making documentary films for broadcast and online. This course will be taught remotely with 8 x 1 hour weekly webinar sessions and some online assignments.

Led by Katie Buchanan, an RTS Broadcast and Grierson winning Executive Producer with over 25 years experience, it will offer practical and relevant 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.

Session 1

  • CV Workshop – how to make your CV work for you. We’ll explore how to structure your CV and present your experience so it speaks to what broadcasters and production companies are looking for.

Session 2

  • Pitching your own idea – you know you’ve got a great idea, but how do you persuade other people? We’ll examine what goes into a successful pitch and how to write treatments that jump off the page.

Session 3

  • Finding contributors and building relationships. From street-casting to negotiating access to institutions, how do you persuade people to be in your film and what is the psychology behind maintaining relationships? 

Session 4

  • What happens in your film? What is your story? What do you want viewers to think and feel? We’ll explore different methods of building narrative in documentaries. 

Session 5

  • The director’s eye. Being clear about your approach – is this an authored film? How is it shot? What effects are you hoping to convey and how do you achieve them? We’ll analyse examples – what approaches do people like and what don’t they like? 

Session 6

  • Shooting for the edit. Much more than just making sure you’ve got cutaways! We’ll go through how to plan a shoot, then each course member will be asked to share a piece of footage that they’ve shot on their phone and we’ll explore what has worked and what they could have done differently.

Session 7

  • Storytelling in the edit. Knowing how to produce a story in the edit is key. With some viewing set for homework, we’ll break down each film into its constituent parts – how many stories, what length of time does each story take up, how long does each scene last – to understand how you might approach your own edit.

Session 8

  • Troubleshooting. Every film runs into trouble at some point or other and the edit is where these problems come home to roost! Analysing some real examples we’ll explore what the director might have done to get themselves out of a tricky place.

If you’d like to be added to this course’s mailing list for future running dates, please get in touch with



Katie Buchanan

Course Tutor

Throughout a 25 year career in television Katie has worked to the highest editorial standards, Exec 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 has worked extensively with emerging directors including Exec Producing nine First Cuts for C4 and mentoring and promoting young female directors.

As Creative Director at Sundog Pictures Katie’s commissions included the acclaimed Teachers Training to Kill and What Britain Bought for C4, Whatever Happened to Tony Slattery? on BBC2 and two BBC3 series - Big in the Valleys and a forthcoming series on surrogacy – all of which were made by female directors.  

As Head of Docs at Keo Films Katie was responsible for Broadcast, RTS and Grierson Best Documentary series winner, The Romanians are Coming, three series of Skint (Grierson-nominated and rated 3.3M) and real-world social experiments such as Living with the Amish. 

As a multiple award-winning executive producer Katie has worked at Films of Record, Minnow and Lightbox where she was responsible for developing and exec producing over 50 hours of acclaimed documentary series including Grierson shortlisted Absolutely Fashion: Inside British Vogue, RTS and Grierson nominated American Justice, War Child, Love and Drugs on the Street and Grierson shortlisted Excluded: Kicked out of School. 

As a filmmaker Katie’s credits include BBC2’s George Melly’s Last Stand (Grierson shortlisted) and Extraordinary Breastfeeding (achieved ratings of 3.8M). She also worked at RDF Media for 10 years and was part of the original team that developed Faking It and Wifeswap.