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MA Documentary by Practice

MADBPThis is an exciting time for Documentary directors and producers.
Documentary stories are being told in cinemas, on TV, in galleries, on tablets and on mobile phones. At Royal Holloway we nurture creative and challenging Filmmakers. The course offers a launch pad for outstanding careers in a growing field of filmmaking. Students gain:  

  • Hands on tuition, classes, workshops and ongoing support from award winning directors, producers, editors, commissioners and film programmers
  • A challenging and dynamic production environment in which they'll meet other aspiring directors, writers and producers, creating contacts and support that could last a lifetime
  • The chance to workshop, develop and produce creative and original documentaries
  • The skills, knowledge and contacts to see those projects go from idea to screen
  • An in depth knowledge of documentary commissioning, across all platforms of distribution and exhibition
  • An exciting MA programme, taught predominantly at our central London site in Bedford square, a Georgian building right next door to the British Museum in the heart of Bloomsbury
  • 24/7 access to Final Cut Pro in our editing rooms and media labs, recently equipped with the latest Mac Pro and IMac computers. We also have a large body of professional quality production kit, including 20 Sony PMW-100 XDCAM cameras, 20 Sennheiser radio mics, which can be used extensively for both domestic and overseas shoots.
  • Access to work opportunities and internships in TV, cinema and cross platform production.  Our students and alumni have worked on productions at BBC Storyville, Channel 4 and Reuters.

The MA programme is taught by award winning documentary Directors and Producers, Marc Isaacs, Helen Littleboy and Victoria Mapplebeck. They are  active filmmakers with excellent industry contacts . Collaborating with these tutors gives students a unique learning opportunity that will provide genuine vocational experience. 

Guest Lectures - Confirmed and past Guest Speakers include:

  • Nick Fraser – Commissioning Editor - BBC Storyville
  • Clare Paterson – Commissioning Editor - BBC Documentaries
  • Ollie Lambert – Award Winning Director
    Films include: The Tea Boy of Gaza, Mum and Dad are Splitting Up and Syria ; Across the Lines
  • Pawel Pawlikowski – Award Winning Writer and Director
    Films include: Ida, Last Resort, My Summer of Love , The Women in the Fifth and Tripping With Zhirinovsky

During these guest lectures and Q and As, our cohort has a direct link to industry professionals, gaining from their substantial experience and expertise. Several of our invited commissioners have subsequently worked with our graduates on developing their documentary projects.


Our students have gone onto become award winning Directors, Editors, Animators and Producers. Recent graduates have been nominated for and won many awards, including The London International Film Festival, BBC Storyville, International Women’s Film Festival, Open City Docs, CineGlobe and The One World Media Award. 

Recent Graduates include:

Iris Lebrun - Whilst at Royal Holloway, Iris won a One World Broadcasting Award. Her film Feeding The Void, won First Prize at Open City Docs Fest. Iris was also selected for Mini Meet Market at Sheffield Doc Fest 2014 . Since graduating she has interned at BBC Modern Times and worked as an Editor on Text Me, a cross platform Documentary which won the 2014 Pixel Lab Award.

Masumi Higashi – Masumi’s film Motorbike Midwifes won a One World Broadcasting Award whilst she was at Royal Holloway. Motorbike Midwifes went on to win twenty Awards, including, BBC Storyville Prize for documentary narrative excellence at CineGlobe , Winner of the International Short Documentary Garden State Film Festival and The Gold Award Winner at the California Film Awards.


Jeong One Park.  Her film Kung Fu Grannies won a One World Broadcasting Award and was nominated for a One World Media Award. Kung Fu Grannies went on to win: First Prize at the International Women’s Film Festival, Best Short Film at the Society for Visual Anthropology Film Festival and Best Short Film at the Cineffable France. Since graduating Jeong One has worked as an Editor and Producer at Channel 4, BBC and Reuters.


For further information on how to apply visit:


Or Contact Angela Godden, Post Graduate Administrator:

Email: Angela.godden@rhul.ac.uk

Tel: (44) 01784 443734

We have had regular lectures from industry professionals. Recent guest speakers include award winning Director Olly Lambet and Editor David Charap.

Guest commissioners provide students with knowledge of and links to current commissioning strategies. Several of our invited commissioners have subsequently worked with our students on developing their projects.

PhotographerThe Media Arts Centre offers you 24/7 access to Final Cut Pro in our editing rooms and media labs, recently equipped with the latest Mac Pro and iMac computers. On weekdays, our Location Store provides an equipment loan and advisory support service with a lending stock that includes twenty Sony PMW-100 XDCAM cameras, twenty Sennheiser radio microphone kits and a selection of professional quality sound recording and lighting equipment.

With access to the latest digital recording and editing equipment, the MA in Documentary by Practice offers you an in-depth study of creative production, taking you from conception through commissioning to research, composition and exhibition.

You will be provided with excellent tuition in self-shooting documentary filmmaking techniques. You will be able to meet the growing demand for self-shooting directors and producers in both the independent and commercial documentary industries.

From Idea to Screen introduces the practice of documentary film making - exploring eclectic notions of the genre, from the conventional to those more associated with fine art. Idea to Screen is a seminar, tutorial and development lab based course, which will explore the conceptual and formal challenges of creative Documentary Filmmaking.

At Royal Holloway we are continually looking for ways to consolidate lecturer’s professional practice and student learning. These research led teaching initiatives create an important synergy between staff research interests /industry experience and student learning outcomes. The course tutor begins with case studies linked to their own professional practice. Their work is deconstructed across all its constituent parts idea, conception, pre-production planning, and research, shooting and post-production. Idea to Screen will explore ways of translating observations and ideas into imagery – both visual and aural. There will be an emphasis on experimental forms of narrative – at time crossing the boundaries between fine art and documentary.

Foundations of Production – consists of Development lab days, seminars and guest lectures. It aims to give students across the whole range of documentary practice, from reportage to experimental, the research and producing know-how they need to complement their skills as directors in order to support their work now and beyond university. The emphasis of Foundations of Production is on the researching and developing of ideas and the filming of development material: skills that are immediately relevant as students begin preparations for their dissertation film.

Foundations of Production will build expertise in the production of short taster tapes and the writing of proposals and treatments, whilst covering the basics of budgets, schedules, copyright, legal compliance and marketing. As well as looking at the skills required to pitch an idea - and beginning to prepare for the live pitch assessment which will take place at the beginning of the summer term – students explore the commissioning process, the role of the broadcaster and their commissioning editors in funding programmes as well as the other sources of money for emerging documentary directors. Students will learn about finding useful contacts and opportunities for new talent and address how to find the right partner, such as a production company, to develop their project whilst protecting their intellectual property.

Major Documentary Production – Dissertation

Developing out of study, research and practice from previous units, you will direct and produce a substantial documentary production. This is the largest assignment in the course and is appropriately weighted. The unit is tutorial based.

On completion of the course graduates will have:

  • Invaluable experience of both authored and commercial documentary production
  • The ability to develop their own ideas, preparing them for the documentary industry but also finding ways to reinvent it
  • An understanding of documentary film genre and its changing boundaries as well as the changing technologies and their impact on the genre
  • An advanced understanding of the processes of making a documentary film from initial concept to final form and the various stages of production.
  • An awareness of the institutions and mechanisms of the UK film and television industry
  • A critical knowledge of the current and changing platforms for documentary film, from cinema to television and the internet.

View the full course specification for Documentary by Practice (MA) in the Programme Specification Repository


Assessment includes three films, a documentary proposal and budget, and two written production papers.






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