Open City Documentary Festival

across London
We do not have any future dates for this course set.

Summer Film School (In-person)

In just six weeks, led by filmmakers Katharine Round and Penny Woolcock, students will build the technical and analytical skills needed to complete their own documentary film project.

Want to make a documentary but don’t know where to start? Or do you have experience, but want hands-on guidance through the process of making your short documentary? Our intensive, practice-led summer school led by acclaimed documentary makers Katharine Round and Penny Woolcock gives you the practical, critical and theoretical skills to make your film.

In this immersive, central London-based course, you will complete a 5-10 minute self-shot documentary from start to finish. You will be encouraged and supported to discover and express your own response to the world around you, explore authorship, form, character, emotion, and much more. 

For the first three weeks the course is full-time face-to-face teaching Monday to Friday. You will go through a series of practical exercises to build the technical and analytical skills needed to complete a documentary film project: to produce, direct, shoot and edit. In addition, we look at the art of filmmaking and students have the chance to learn from some of the most respected names in the industry through several guest lectures.

Once outfitted with the skills they need, participants will go out and make their film with professional camera and sound equipment, provided for the duration of the course. Students will also benefit from access to UCL’s advanced editing suites. The required commitment following the core course teaching is two one-on-one meetings in weeks four and five with the course tutors to support the making of your film. These meetings can be done in person or remotely. In the last week of the course students screen their rough cut. Finally on the last day there is a screening where students can share their work on the big screen.

Through the Summer Film School, students will be challenged to experiment with their voice and to start or invigorate their artistic filmmaking practice while receiving structure and support to guide them through completing a project. Previous students have described the course as “a life changing experience” and “one of the best things I’ve ever done”. 

Students will be provided with camera and sound equipment for the duration of the course. Please note students will need to bring two external hard-drives with them.

Previous students’ work:


The Catch (Lauren Mossman)

I Can Only Love You in My Own Language (Junnie Zhang)

Calypso (Teresa Folhadela)

Two Weeks With Gabriel (Amy Ryles)



“Undertaking this summer film school was a truly rewarding and wonderful experience. It was an amazing opportunity to learn new skills in depth.  This course is fast paced, exciting and challenges you to reflect on your documentary storytelling. The engaging schedule is underpinned by both theoretical and practical content which drives you to explore subjects you had not imagined possible in a relatively short period of time. On a personal level undertaking this course has been one of my best experiences. The support of tutors and peers gave me the confidence to make a personal film that I would not have imagined possible.”  – Naomi Braithwaite

This course was everything I was hoping for, and much, much more. Katharine and the instructors are incredibly knowledgeable about both the theoretical and practical sides of documentary filmmaking, and the course is perfectly structured to impart a lot of information and wisdom in a relatively short amount of time. The seminar-style sessions and workshops allowed for incredibly fruitful and expansive discussions among my fellow students, which fostered the perfect environment for a constant exchange of ideas and creative thinking. This course truly opened my eyes to the richness of opportunities available in the documentary filmmaking arena, and I now feel more inspired than ever to pursue a career in the field.” – Samira Khalifa

“It was a really enriching experience. I felt so thrilled that within a 6-week period, I managed to develop my approach to documentary filmmaking, learn more about the form at large, get more comfortable with the camera and editing software and come out with a short film I am proud of. It truly felt like a small master’s degree! As someone with little previous experience hoping to enter the industry from journalism, it was exactly what I needed to boost my confidence.” – Lara Bullens

I Want to Come See You (Lara Bullens)

“I’ve truly enjoyed this summer course. It was a great challenge that forced me to create something in a limited amount of time and learn by doing rather than sitting in class. I loved meeting and working with classmates that came from such diverse backgrounds in terms of their nationality and age. We have quickly created an environment that felt very safe and supportive where I felt comfortable sharing my opinions, my work and things that were personal to me. And this whole experience was definitely worth coming all the way from Japan! – Mariko Kitada

This course is one of the best things I’ve ever done. It was an immersive, challenging and enlivening experience. Katharine encouraged (and pushed!) me to make a film I never imagined I’d have either the technical skills or courage to make. The deeply personal process of making it – and watching the heartfelt films my peers made – gave me new perspectives on filmmaking and on life itself. If it’s not already obvious, I can’t recommend this course highly enough.” – Course participant

“If I learned one thing then that it is a long way from a topic to an engaging film – the tutors provide you with everything you need to take on this challenge, and to create your best possible film and experience!“ – Regine Brandtner

Daughterhood (Regine Bandtner)

“The UCL Summer School helped me understand in depth how documentaries are made and think like a documentary filmmaker. The course was really great, the teaching was outstanding and the friendships I made long lasting. This six weeks program felt like a mini MA in documentary filmmaking. I gained lots of confidence, it kick-started my freelance career and now I’m collaborating on a short documentary with a fellow student that I met in the course. I cannot recommend this program highly enough as it’s a life changing experience.” – Anthony Barlos

“The course was a fantastic experience. There are few courses out there which dedicate this much time to preparing you technically but also understanding how to consider narrative and character development. Each lesson we were given tasks to build up our technical skills and approach to filmmaking. We had to get stuck in straight away and it was the best way to learn. The course gives you a rounded experience, it prepares you in production, filming, sound, editing – each skill makes you better at the other. Katharine and her guest tutors were encouraging and really cared about helping you develop and gain confidence.” – Helen Waddell

“The Summer School was genuinely transformational: as a very ‘thinky’ person it allowed me to express a more intuitive, artistic side of myself; it gave the know-how to be able to independently make my own short films; and it has led me to seriously consider pursuing documentary film-making on a longer term basis” – Andrew Brown


Terms & Conditions:


This course takes place across 6 full-time weeks in Summer

Cancellations must be received in writing at least two weeks before the start of the event and will be subject to an administration charge of 20% of the course fee. 

You are expected to make your own visa arrangements before travelling to the UK.

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



Katharine Round

Course Leader

Katharine Round makes creative documentaries for broadcast & cinema exploring the essence of being human with warmth and humour. Her work is variously described as "tender and evocative" and “poignant and viscerally enraging”.

In 2016, she directed and produced the critically-acclaimed The Divide which had a successful theatrical release across the UK, followed by a US/UK release on Netflix. In 2017, she produced London Symphony, nominated for the Michael Powell Award at Edinburgh International Film Festival before a successful UK theatrical release including 3 special event performances with a live orchestra supported by Arts Council England, and a VOD release on BFI Player. She is currently working on a trilogy of films with support from EU MEDIA.

She has made films for the BBC and Channel 4, exhibited at leading international film festivals (including Sheffield Doc/Fest, IDFA ,CPH: DOX & Cork Film Festival), in galleries (the Serpentine, the Barbican Centre, V&A) and at the European Parliament in Brussels. Alongside Open City, Katharine has been a guest tutor and speaker at Sheffield Doc/Fest, BAFTA, Royal Holloway and the Roundhouse, amongst others. She is the co-founder of documentary filmmakers organisation Doc Heads, supporting documentary through curated events and screenings, with a focus on independent artistic work.


Penny Woolcock

Guest Tutor

Penny Woolcock is an award winning filmmaker working across different genres, finding the best way to tell the story, documentary and fiction, television, film and opera. Her documentaries include The Wet House, On the Streets, Going to the Dogs and One Mile Away and archive films From the Sea to the Land Beyond and Out of the Rubble. She has also made films to be shown in art galleries and installations at the Roundhouse and Modern Art Oxford. Her fiction is often street cast and based on documentary research from Tina Goes Shopping to 1 Day and Trapping about a young drug dealer currently in postproduction. She was lead director on Channel 4’s Ackley Bridge and has directed operas at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, LA Opera and The English National Opera.