Open City Documentary Festival

Shooting Documentary: An Introduction

Jul 20 — Aug 3
The course runs on three consecutive Saturdays, from 11am to 5pm.
£325 / £300 Students / £275 UCL students

With filmmakers Isis Thompson and Helen Lawson Learn the camera skills needed to shoot film in the documentary style.

On this three-day course students will learn the camera skills needed to shoot film in the documentary style.

The course is taught through a series of hands-on exercises that increase in complexity over the three days.

Students will have access to professional camera and sound equipment for the duration of the course, as well as access to the edit suite following the course.

The course runs on three consecutive Saturdays, from 11am to 5pm.

Course content

Through a series of camera exercises you’ll learn the following filmmaking skills:

  • hand-held shooting technique using a professional video camera
  • how to use a tripod
  • intelligent use of automatic controls
  • getting good sound for interviews
  • filming a sequence
  • filming uncontrolled action
  • filming for the edit

The course is led by filmmaker Isis Thompson who, along with editor Helen Lawson, will go though the editing process with Isis’ raw material and explain why certain choices were made in bringing together a scene.

Who this course is for

This course is suitable for beginners.

There are no pre-requisites required to apply for this course.

Benefits of taking this course

Taking this course you’ll:

  • be taught by a professional documentary filmmaker
  • have access to professional camera equipment
  • have unique access to a filmmaker and her editor, who’ll guide you through how footage can then be used in the edit
  • have access to use the media lab and editing software at UCL after the course has finished

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course you’ll have an understanding of how to:

  • use a hand-held professional video camera
  • get good sound
  • film a sequence
  • film uncontrolled action

You’ll also have an understanding of what it means to ‘film for the edit’.

Cost and concessions

This course costs:

  • £325 – full price (external applicants who are non-students)
  • £300 – external students
  • £275 – UCL students

If you have any enquiries regarding this course please contact or please call 02031086696




Isis Thompson


Isis is a filmmaker and audio producer who has made work for BBC and Channel 4, and had films shown at festivals around the world. She also belongs to Kitchen Sink, an established filmmaking collective that seeks to support, provoke and encourage independent filmmakers.


Helen Lawson


Helen Lawson is a London-based filmmaker creating observational documentaries about the arts industries. Her work has been broadcast on Channel 4, ITV & MTV, and featured on homepages at The Sun, The Telegraph, MySpace & Amazon. In 2011 Helen was commissioned to direct, shoot and edit ‘A Summer Hamlet’, a feature-length documentary following Shakespeare’s Globe’s pan-European tour of Hamlet. Other clients include Jessie J, Jamie Cullum, Florence and the Machine, Billy Idol, Historic Royal Palaces, Hampstead Theatre, Restorative Justice Council, Island Records, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Somerset House