Open City Documentary Festival

across London
Oct 5 — Dec 14 There are no new dates for this course. Please check back at a later date.

Practical Documentary Filmmaking (In-person)

11 Thursdays, 10-5pm

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

Price £1850

A short practical documentary filmmaking course in 11 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 Thursday 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, we will encourage you 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 for Learners

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. There will also be a rough cuts screening (12th January), an edit tutorial (19th January) and a fine cut screening (26th January) before the hand-in deadline. The final film hand-in deadline is 14h February 1pm and the Critical Evaluation deadline is 21st February 1pm. 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.

Future dates:

If you’d like to be notified about this course’s future running dates, please fill in this quick form. If you have any questions about the course, get in touch with



Lucy Sandys-Winsch

Course Tutor

Lucy Sandys-Winsch is a multi-award-nominated Documentaries Director, Executive Producer and Development Producer who has made films for all the major broadcasters. She created and taught UCL’s Broadcast Documentary MA for four years, with her students and mentees achieving enormous success in winning national documentary awards and gaining work in the industry. She is currently teaching a number of documentary courses at UCL.