Open City Documentary Festival

Practical Documentary Filmmaking

Oct 8 — Feb 4

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 12 sessions. Students will acquire the technical and narrative skills needed to complete a 5-15 minute documentary film using the cameras, workstations and facilities in the department’s visual laboratory. 

The first eight weeks focus on strengthening narrative, camera & editing skills. Each Friday students are set new filmmaking tasks that will prepare them for the production of their final film. Students then get an additional four 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 creative non-fiction made for a range of online platforms by multi-skilled freelancers. During this course, you are encouraged to discover and express your own response to the world around you. In this course we will pay close attention to ideas of authorship and help you to find your unique voice, as well as teach you practical skills that enable you to be 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 non-fiction. We draw on the work of documentarians past and present to explore how we can create a “cinema of the real”, exploring character, form, emotion and much more. 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. You 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 The New York Times Op Docs and The Guardian to other ‘clients’ in need of non-fiction films. These clients could be brands, public or arts organisations.

You will also learn about how non-fiction 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 an award winning 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. Her films have 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. She has worked as a filmmaker for the Emmy and BAFTA award winning Channel 4 News Film Fund where she makes short films exploring online radicalisation and internet democracy. Her films for broadcast include ‘Conviction’ (Channel 4 2020), ‘Internet Warriors’ (Channel 4 2019) ‘The Kids are Alt-Right’ (Channel 4, 2017/Sheffield Doc/Fest 2017) and ‘The Battle for Batley and Spen’ (Channel 4 2016). Her mid length film ‘Speak to Me’ was selected for the 2018 British Council presentation of films, and her 2015 short ‘Here We Are’ was showcased at BAFTA when she was selected as a BAFTA Star of The Future.

Alongside her film practice she is on screening committees for True/False Film Festival and Camden International Film festival. She is currently one of two non fiction directors to be selected for the 2021 BAFTA x BFI New Talent programme and is a recipient of the 2021 SPACE Artist Award. IN ANOTHER LIFE is her debut feature, and has received development support from Catapult Film Fund, Points North Institute, UnionDocs, BAFTA and The British Council.