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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : Design

Postgraduate Course: MA Documentary Film Development (DESI11123)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits40 ECTS Credits20
Summary( Semester 1 40 credits)

This is a practice-focused course that introduces skills of researching and developing ideas for a short documentary. This is the first stage of working on a short film which you will film in Semester 2 and edit in your final semester.

The course will encourage explorative, original approaches to documentary film as well as teaching practical skills to implement these ideas. You will learn how to use camera and sound to communicate ideas for your documentaries and develop an awareness of current international approaches to narrative structure in documentary film.
Course description This course introduces you to ways of developing practical and aesthetic approaches to documentary storytelling that are innovative and rigorous. You will develop ideas for your short documentary film through intensive research and learn the professional skills of communicating these ideas through a written treatment, filmed trailer and verbal pitch.

You will develop your documentary making skills through:

- making a series of 4 exercises or "microfilms" which explore different approaches to directing
- developing an idea for your own short documentary through intensive "on the ground" research
- communicating ideas for your films through a public pitch, a filmed trailer and a written treatment

The learning is orientated around weekly tutorials or group seminars which develop the important skills of verbal communication and critical thinking. These weekly sessions alternate between feedback for the exercises and development of ideas for your short films. Alongside this, lectures analysing current practice form a crucial component of the course, exploring contemporary approaches to international documentary cinema.

Practical workshops in camera and sound also support this learning, ensure safe, skilful use of equipment and industry readiness. The course is accredited by ScreenSkills in recognition of the practical and professional skills which are taught at a level that meets current industry standards.

Development of ideas and research for your own films is assessed through a 3 minute trailer and 1400 word written treatment which will outline your aims and give a sense of your creative approach to your subject. You will also pitch your ideas at the end of the first semester to potential collaborators from other areas of the University including students from Composition for Screen, Sound Designers, Graphic Designers, and other undergraduate film students.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs Any costs of production have to be met by you apart from filming, sound and editing equipment. You will need a hard drive for storing footage which costs approximately £60. Any travel costs to film also have to be met by you but this can be kept to a minimum if the subject is local.
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  26
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 400 ( Lecture Hours 18, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 40, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 36, External Visit Hours 3, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 4, Formative Assessment Hours 1, Summative Assessment Hours 7, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 8, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 283 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) There are 3 components of assessment which are weighted as follows:

1. A trailer for your short film (maximum duration) of 4 minutes. (33.3% of overall grade, assessed against Learning Outcome 1).

2. A written treatment conveying the creative approach to your film. The treatment should be approximately 1400 words and should include appropriate visuals. (33.3% of overall grade, assessed against Learning Outcome 2).

3. A verbal pitch delivered to potential collaborations from across the university. The whole pitch should take 7 minutes. (33.4% of overall grade, assessed against Learning Outcome 3).
Feedback You will be given regular verbal feedback throughout the course including group seminars and individual tutorials.

In terms of formative assessment: you will receive verbal feedback in Week 5 on a short treatment for your documentary film idea and two microfilms. This will give you an indication of how you are doing at a midway point in the course. You will also be requested to reflect on your own challenges and aims and at the end of the feedback session, will write up intended action points.

In terms of summative assessment: you will receive written feedback via Learn 15 days after hand-in and then given as a verbal feedback in individual tutorials at the start of semester two.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. To develop an innovative and autonomous use of the tools of cinema through the making of a trailer for a short film.
  2. To formulate an original concept for a short documentary demonstrating a critical awareness of international documentary film context through the creation of written treatment.
  3. To communicate and present to peers, colleagues and specialists, a multi-media presentation of an original idea for a short film appropriate professional methods.
Reading List
Rabiger, M. "Directing the Documentary." Focal Press (2004) Essential
Winston, Brian "The Documentary Film Book" BFI ( 2013) Recommended
Cousins and MacDonald. " Imagining Reality" British Film Institute (2013) Recommended
Bresson , Robert . "Notes on Cinematography" Paperback . ( 2016 ) New York Review Books Classics) Essential
De Jong, W. "Creative Documentary" Longman (2012) Recommended

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The course fosters the following graduate attributes through engagement with practical workshops, lectures,
group seminars and tutorials. On engaging with and completing this course, you will be able to fulfil the following skills which comply with SCQF Level 11.

Knowledge and understanding:
-Develop documentary ideas which show a critical understanding of current international documentary practice including professional approaches to research, filming and editing.

Skills and abilities in research and enquiry:
-Plan and execute significant research of an original idea through a pitch and written treatment.

Skills and abilities in Personal and Intellectual Autonomy:
-Understand how to apply originality of thought and approach to an idea
-Develop a film language which is appropriate to the subject and unique to your creative vision of the filmmaker
-Display an originality of approach to filming including how to creatively use all aspects of cinematography and sound.

Skills and abilities in Communication:
-Communicate an idea for a documentary film to classmates and potential collaborators both in written and verbal form
-Pitch a film idea to potential collaborators, using a trailer and verbal presentation
-Make an original documentary film, to communicate on many levels to an audience

Skills and abilities in Personal Effectiveness:
-Plan and execute a documentary film production based on research and exploration of a theme, idea or subject
- Apply a professional approach to all aspects of the production process
KeywordsDocumentary; research; collaboration; trailer; pitch; sound design; composition for screen
Course organiserMrs Ling Lee
Course secretaryMr Aidan Cole
Tel: (0131 6)50 2306
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