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Digital Documentary

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Digital Documentary

  • Option 1 year full time
  • Year of entry 2020
  • Campus Central London

The course

Please note that this course has changed title from MA Documentary by Practice to MA Digital Documentary.

Documentary stories are being told in cinemas, on TV, in galleries, on tablets and on mobile phones. Whether you want to make a non-fiction feature film, podcast, or 360° project, there are boundless ways to bring your documentary idea to life. Creative technologies are constantly evolving, exposing new content to fresh audiences. At Royal Holloway we nurture a talented new generation of creative and innovative non-fiction directors, producers, cinematographers, editors and commissioners.

Whether your aim is to make a high-end feature documentary or a no budget short, this is your opportunity to receive expert advice from industry leaders who will help you shape your story and find your audience and platform. Key Skills you will learn:

  • How to develop documentary stories which are truly multi genre and multi platform.
  • How to innovate and experiment
  • Edit technique and shaping your story
  • Strategies for finding your vision and audience
  • Advanced technical skills in camera and editing for film and 360
  • Sound recording for podcasts 
  • An introduction to VR
  • New contacts and ideas for raising finance
  • Pitching your idea to commissioning editors
  • Different funding routes, from traditional broadcast to DIY options
  • Advice on distribution, marketing and networking
  • Knowledge and understanding of a new world of exciting non-fiction content.

This programme is primarily run from our newly refurbished central London campus in the heart of Bloomsbury. 

 The MA programme is taught by:

  • Professor Victoria Mapplebeck  , BAFTA award winning writer, artist and director. Victoria has been experimenting with the frontiers of documentary and creative technology for the last two decades. Her smartphone short  Missed Call was the first commissioned film to be shot on the iPhone X and has won numerous awards including a BAFTA. Her latest VR piece The Waiting Room won The IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling and was selected for Forbe's Top 50 XR experiences of 2019
  • Marc Isaacs, who has been making shorts and feature docs since 2001. Marc has won RTS and BAFTA awards for his work and recently a collection of his films has been released by Second Run and featured in Sight and Sound.
  • Helen Littleboy, a Grierson and BAFTA nominated director and executive producer whose recent work includes the acclaimed and impactful BBC documentary Hospital which in 2018 won the Royal Television Society award for Best Documentary Series.

Core Modules

  • This module will introduce you to the practice of authored documentary film making - exploring eclectic notions of the genre, from the conventional to the experimental. You will explore ways of translating observations and ideas into imagery – both visual and aural. There will be an emphasis on experimental forms of narrative. You'll also receive technical workshops in film production, audio storytelling and 360 camera and VR techniques. 

    The module is generally delivered via weekly all day Development Labs at our central London campus. These development labs will enable you to learn through Practice . You will be encouraged to present new material each week, which provides an important opportunity for you to assess your work in a critical but supportive environment. 

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of commissioning institutions and their political and financial structures. You will look at contemporary forms of distribution, from the internet to theatrical, and consider the three fundamental stages of production management in for documentary films - pre-production, production, and post-production.  You will gain practical experience in the production of short taster tapes and the writing of proposals and treatments, covering the basics of budgets, schedules, copyright, legal compliance and marketing. You will also have the opportunity to participate in a number of field trips and attend sessions with industry experts.

  • You will produce a substantial documentary production of 20-minutes in length. You will develop an understanding of documentary film genre and its changing boundaries, as well as emerging technologies and their impact on genre. You will look at the process of making a documentary film, from initial concept to final form, and the various stages of production. You will consider the current and changing platforms for documentary film, including cinema, television and the internet, and examine the ways in which the documentary industry is being reinvented.

Optional Modules

All modules are core

Assessment is carried out by a variety of methods including project work, photo essays and written production papers.

This MA Digital Documentary is 100% practice. Throughout this twelve month course you will create interesting projects in the medium of either film, audio-only or 360/Virtual Reality, as well as giving presentations. Part of your final assessment will also include the creation of a Director’s Website, which will stand as a fantastic showcase for your productions after you graduate. You can look forward to receiving an exciting programme of discussions, exercises, technical workshops, development labs, talks and screenings. The whole course is tailored to develop your storytelling skills and challenge your creativity.

You will also receive guest lectures from high profile commissioners and directors. Previous and forthcoming speakers include:

  • Charlie Phillips from Guardian Films
  • Matt Shaw from The Lush Film Fund
  • Adam Gee, former Head of Multiplatform at Channel 4 and currently commissioner at Red Bull 
  • Chloe Lambourne – Editor of the BAFTA winning documentary feature, For Sama
  • Pawel Pawlikowski Oscar winning Director of Ida (2013) and editor David Charap
  • Jon Bang Carlsen, one of Denmark’s most revered filmmakers
  • Katharine Round, crowd-funding expert who broke records on Indiegogo when raising money for her Netflix feature The Divide
  • Trim Lamda whose innovative multi-award winning Cracked Screen proves no budget is no obstacle to success
  • Catherine Allen, an inspiring pioneer in non-fiction VR,
  • John Smith, Artist/Filmmaker who has created over 50 works for independent galleries and cinemas
  • Jessica Bishopp – award winning short form director. Her films have received numerous Vimeo Staff Picks
  • James Bluemel whose series Exodus used smart phones to tell the hidden story of migration to Europe


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