Open City Documentary Festival

7 – 13 September 2022
in London

Practical Documentary Filmmaking

Price £1800

Location Student Central, Malet St, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7HY, Dates  Jan 14 — Mar 25
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.

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



Steph Patten

Course Tutor

Steph Patten has a background in anthropology and theatre and has worked extensively as an ethnographic videographer and editor for the last 10 years producing films full of emotional insight for public bodies, private institutions, research lobbies and third sector organisations. Specialising in a one person approach to filmmaking, she has worked in the UK, US, South Africa and Malawi and as an editor she has produced films from further around the globe. Working in the ethnographic research industry she has produced films for, amongst others, The NHS, The Home Office, The Department of Health, The Department of Transport, The Gambling Commission, IKEA, Barclays, MasterCard, Amgen, Pfizer, Sanofi, The YMCA, The Citizens Advice Bureau and Age UK.