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. The gap between the idea and your final film has never been so small. At Royal Holloway we nurture a talented new generation of creative and innovative non-fiction directors, producers, cinematographers and editors.
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 bring your documentary story to life, with or without funds
- How to innovate and experiment
- Edit technique and shaping your story
- Strategies for finding your vision and audience
- Advanced technical skills in camera, sound recording and editing
- 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 course is primarily run from our newly refurbished central London campus in the heart of Bloomsbury and is taught by:
- Victoria Mapplebeck, an award winning film and VR director. She recently directed Missed Call, the first commissioned short to be shot on an iPhone X. Her first smartphone short, 160 Characters, received a Vimeo staff pick and more than a million hits online.
- 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.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the practice of documentary film-making. You will look at eclectic notions of the genre, exploring the conceptual and formal challenges of creative documentary filmmaking, and examine ways of translating observations and ideas into both visual and aural imagery. You will also consider experimental forms of narrative, focussing on the boundaries between fine art and documentary.
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.
All modules are core
Teaching & assessment
Assessment is carried out by a variety of methods including project work, photo essays and written production papers.
The MA course is 80% practice. Throughout this twelve month course you will make three individual films and receive 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 from Real Stories
- 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 Kickstarter 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
- Darren Emerson, an inspiring pioneer in non-fiction VR,
- John Smith, Artist/Filmmaker who has created over 50 works for independent galleries and cinemas
- James Bluemel whose series Exodus used smart phones to tell the hidden story of migration to Europe
UK Honours degree or equivalent, in Literature, Fine Art, Media or a related discipline.
Normally UK 2:1 (Honours) or equivalent in Literature, Fine Art, Media or a related discipline but we will consider high 2:2 or relevant industry experience. Students with degrees in other subjects will also be considered, as will those with creative experience. Where a ‘high 2:2’ is considered, we would normally define this as reflecting a profile of 57% or above. Suitable candidates will be interviewed.
To be considered, you are asked to submit the following documents as part of your application:
- A short documentary or an extract of a film you have made, directed or produced - no longer than 10 minutes in duration. Please send this via link on either YouTube or Vimeo;
- A two page synopsis for a documentary film you would like to make. Give a clear account of the story; describe the narrative approach and visual style; try to make reference to the work of known film makers/photographers/artists as a way of describing your idea.
International & EU requirements
English language requirements
All teaching at Royal Holloway is in English. You will therefore need to have good enough written and spoken English to cope with your studies right from the start.
The scores we require
- IELTS: 6.5 overall. Writing 6.5. No other subscore lower than 5.5.
- Pearson Test of English: 61 overall. Writing 61. No other subscore lower than 51.
- Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE III.
- Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.
For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please see here.
Your future career
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:
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’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
Jeong One's 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.
Fees & funding
Home and EU students tuition fee per year*: £9400
International students tuition fee per year**: £17900
Other essential costs***: Optional field trip approximately £400; memory card costs approximately £100.
* and ** These tuition fees apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis. Students studying on the standard part-time course structure over two years are charged 50% of the full-time applicable fee for each study year. All postgraduate fees are subject to inflationary increases. This means that the overall cost of studying the programme via part-time mode is slightly higher than studying it full-time in one year. Royal Holloway's policy is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see tuition fees see our terms and conditions.
Please note that for research programmes, we adopt the minimum fee level recommended by the UK Research Councils for the Home/EU tuition fee. Each year, the fee level is adjusted in line with inflation (currently, the measure used is the Treasury GDP deflator). Fees displayed here are therefore subject to change and are usually confirmed in the spring of the year of entry. For more information on the Research Council Indicative Fee please see the RCUK website.
*** These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree programme at Royal Holloway. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing, have not been included.