Open City Documentary Festival

Practical Documentary Filmmaking

Apr 30 — Jul 2

Acquire practical, analytical and intellectual skills in using moving image and sound recording equipment and discover how new technologies create new methodologies.

A short practical documentary filmmaking course in 10 sessions. Students will acquire the technical and narrative skills needed to complete a 5-10 minute documentary film using the cameras, workstations and facilities in the department’s visual laboratory.

The first seven weeks focus on strengthening narrative, camera & editing skills. Each Friday, in pairs, students are set new filmmaking tasks that will prepare them for the production of their final film. Students then get an additional three weeks to shoot and edit their final film including: a rough cut screening, one-to-one editing tutorials and a screening of the final films on the big screen (Covid permitting).

We are rapidly moving away from long-form broadcast TV staffed by full-time single skill workers towards short-form documentaries made for a multiple ranges of online platforms by multi-skilled freelancers. This course will teach you how to become the adaptable and practical freelancer filmmakers commissioners and clients need in today’s’ media landscape.

We will discuss the art of short and longer form of filmmaking, as well as the range of technical, aesthetic, and representational dynamics involved in the construction of different kinds of documentaries. You will learn to shoot, record sound, and edit a short film. By doing so, participants will become more informed as well as practically experienced makers and commentators on the ‘truths’, ‘fictions’, styles, genres, ethics and modes of filmmaking. They will also have explored issues of representation and audience reception.

As the course progresses students will learn to adapt the fundamentals of documentary filmmaking for a variety of real-life short form briefs ranging from online documentary platforms like Vice and The Guardian to other ‘clients’ in need of ‘observational’ documentaries. These clients could be brands, public or arts organisations.

You will also learn about how documentary filmmaking is being increasingly used in other ways including for ethnographic research both for business and public sector research.  In this way, students taking one of the MA courses in anthropology will find the course constructive.

Additional Info

Students undertaking the course will have full access to the UCL Anthropology Audio Visual Lab with Premiere CC and Adobe Creative Suite enabled machines as well as professional camera kits (shared one between two students) for the duration of the course. Students have access to UCL facilities for a further five weeks after the formal teaching on the course in order to complete their film. Please note participants are also required to bring two external hard-drives on the course. Students 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.

Courses run from 10:00-17:00 every Friday.



Grace Harper

Course Tutor

Grace Harper 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 -- and is 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.

Grace is currently making her first feature documentary, IN ANOTHER LIFE, which was selected as a short under it’s previous name, SPEAK TO ME, for the 2018 British Council presentation of films. She co-founded the female-led production company Glow Films, where she produced and directed short films for BBC1, Channel 4, CNN, The Guardian and The New York Times Op Docs. Alongside her filmmaking practice she is on the screening committees for Camden International Film Festival in Maine, USA and True/False Festival. She has received generous support from the British Council, Chicago Media Project, Points North Institute, UnionDocs, BBC Films, Film London and Channel 4 Film Fund amongst others. In 2015 she was selected as a BAFTA Star of Tomorrow, and more recently was awarded fellowships from the Points North Institute and UnionDocs.