Duration 2 Years
Next intake January 2023
Application deadline Contact Registry
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 encouraging each student to experiment and 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 been consistent winners at the Grierson Awards, as well Sheffield DocFest, BAFTA, Student Academy Awards, Royal Television Society, Hot Docs, Poitiers and many others.
Students collaborate with students in other specialisms to make several films and participate in practical projects, developing the vital skills of both directing and collaboration. All production costs are met by the School.
All NFTS students can attend Masterclasses. Recent guests include David Fincher (Fight Club), Greta Gerwig (Little Women), Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave), Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), Ben Wheatley (Free Fire), Rapman (Blue Story), Louis Theroux, Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone), Denis Villeneuve (Bladerunner 2049), Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here), Sam Mendes (1917), Asif Kapadia (Senna), Joanna Hogg (The Souvenir), Russell T Davies (Doctor Who) and Alex Gibney (Citizen K).
This course is industry recognised by ScreenSkills, the industry-led skills body for the UK's screen-based industries, and carries the ScreenSkills Select quality-mark which indicates courses best suited to prepare students for a career in the screen industries.
Recent credits and successes
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; and the opportunity to develop a project to take out to the industry.
The second year also consists of a visit to a film festival, meetings with broadcasters and contact with industry professionals alongside seminars on commissioning, legal requirements, financing and distribution.
Download programme specification (PDF)
Head of Department
The Head of Documentary is former Channel 4 Head of Documentaries Peter Dale.
Current or Recent Tutors
Current and recent tutors include independent film-maker and alumni Jasleen Sethi (Death in Bollywood, Dispatches: Inside a Women’s Refuge), producer/director Sam Blair (Make Us Dream, Captive) feature editor Claire Ferguson (Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, Eyes Wide Shut), executive producer Jessie Versluys (24 Hours in Police Custody, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Modern Times), executive producer Jo Abel (Exodus, Once Upon A Time In Iraq) and producer/director Ilian Metev (Sophia’s Last Ambulance, 3/4). NFTS Fellow in Documentary is Dick Fontaine, whose credits span over 50 years, the latest being Sonny Rollins Beyond The Notes.
Every year, our students make a number of short films.
Students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and have usually had some previous experience of filmmaking, though this may not be at a professional level. All have a strong social awareness and a keen desire to translate that awareness into stories told with a personal voice.
While many applicants will have a degree from a British or overseas university, we will consider applicants who do not have a degree if they have an impressive portfolio, a creative track record or an alternative qualification.
For international students, more information about our entry requirements, including Visa and English language requirements, can be found on our What You Need To Know section of our Students From Abroad page.
As a part of our admissions selection process, following a successful interview applicants are required to attend a selection workshop for four days, which has a fee of £150.
If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to apply
Application deadline: Contact Registry
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.
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