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This course aims to give students the tools and the confidence to become successful documentary makers. We put storytelling at the centre of the filmmaking process, while at the same time helping each student to develop their personal voice.

Head of Department Peter Dale won a 2019 BAFTA for his work on Louis Theroux: Altered States.

Our students are regularly nominated for, and win, prestigious prizes around the world. In recent years they have won at the Griersons, Sheffield DocFest, Locarno, IDFA, Royal Television Society, Sundance, Hot Docs, Berlin and many others.

Students collaborate with those in other specialisms to make several films and participate in practical projects, developing the skills they learn throughout the course – with all production costs met by the School.

What you will study

Students will direct and shoot at least three films during the course of the MA. The first year consists of four practical exercises, increasing in length and complexity.. These focus on the techniques and approach of a specific documentary genre: observation, sound and music, character–led narrative and an enquiry. Students collaborate with editors, sound recordists, sound designers and composers, and are encouraged to build relationships with cinematographers and producers. They are also expected to know how to work alone.

The second year includes three projects: a graduation film in which students synthesise what they have discovered in the first year, and use it to challenge conventional approaches to documentary; an MA dissertation in which they reflect on a documentary topic that has intrigued them during the course so far; and finally the opportunity to develop a project to take into the professional arena.

The final term also consists of visits to a film festival, broadcasters, independent producers and other relevant institutions, together with seminars dealing with the commissioning process, legal requirements, finance and distribution.

Download programme specification

Download course outline

How to apply

Please apply with the following:

  • A short film (20 minutes max) which you have conceived and directed: Please submit your work via Vimeo links. Please note, that if you wish to submit a longer film, only the first 20 minutes will be viewed. If dialogue is not in English, you should enclose a dialogue transcript in English.
  • A written proposal for a different film of any specified length (no more than four sides of A4 paper, typed and double spaced) which should include the basic premise, a description of the characters and locations and most importantly, the developing narrative. 

Visit the Directing Documentary - MA page on the National Film and Television School website for more details!

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