NFTS Scotland: Where Do Documentary Ideas Come From?

Short course


Delivered in the NFTS Scotland Virtual Classroom accessed by Zoom. 

Some lucky people seem to have endless ideas for programmes. The rest of us usually struggle, believing that we’re not an ‘ideas person’. But the ability to find documentary stories isn’t a gift you’re born with - it’s a muscle that gets stronger with exercise.

This one-day course explains where ideas really come from and how you can learn to have more of them. You’ll learn some basic techniques about how to dig out interesting real world stories that have the potential to become documentaries. And you’ll learn how to develop and refine them.

By the end of the day we hope you’ll have the beginnings of your own ‘slate’.

This intensive, practical course covers:

  • Understanding what a documentary idea is
  • How to practice having ideas
  • How to settle on the ‘right’ idea
  • How to develop and refine your ideas

This course is led by Peter Dale, who produced and directed documentaries for the BBC for 18 years before going to Channel 4 as Head of Documentaries. In 2005 he conceived and launched More4, Channel 4’s third digital channel.

His own independent production company Rare Day produces quality documentary and drama for broadcasters and other distributors. He’s now the Head of Documentary at the NFTS, as well as Executive Producer on a number of high-profile documentaries.

The course is aimed at producers at all levels including Development Producers, Edit Producers, Series Producers, Producer Directors, Assistant Producers, and anyone who wants to know more about developing ideas for documentaries.

Fees and funding options

Fees for this course are as follows:

Freelance Rate: £125
Corporate Rate: £210

Online rates are valid until May 2020

Bursaries, supported by the Scottish Government, are also available for those who are eligible.


The NFTS Scotland bursary fund is currently closed for this course and we encourage you to seek alternative avenues of funding to support the cost of this course if required. 

Please read our Alternative Funding Avenues document which points you in the direction of a few other places which may be able to help. Please allow yourself enough time to secure funding when considering your application.

How to apply

Application deadline: Register your interest

This course is not currently open for applications. Please register your interest to be advised of future dates.