MI5001 - Film Production 2 - Documentary

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What will I learn on this module?

You will learn about narrative and storytelling in film and TV documentaries. This will include learning about the history, theory and practice of existing influential documentaries, developing your skills in identifying a strong factual storyline, and then learning how to pitch, plan, and produce a short documentary film. You will also learn how to reflect critically on your own film and those of others. The module includes sessions on: consideration of contemporary trends in factual production and commissioning, the relationship with the ‘real’, the key elements of narrative documentary, observational filming techniques, establishing the documentary idea and creating a successful proposal or pitch, building a relationship with your contributor and planning a successful shoot, shooting script development and scheduling, copyright, consent and legal issues, keeping your storylines on track, managing the logistics of production and logging, creative documentary – and the blurred line with fiction, critiquing a documentary and writing a reflective commentary, editing for story and truth, and tracking and recording your own insights and learning.

How will I learn on this module?

The module group is set up as a film-making community that works together to support learning as a team and prepare you for professional working practices.

In lectures, the module tutor will introduce you to key concepts, theories and practices of documentary film-making. Timetabled screenings give you the chance to watch influential documentary films, which will feed into discussion in seminars about specific techniques used, and help you to develop your own critical abilities as well as your film-making skills. In seminars, you work in smaller groups, which provides a greater opportunity to discuss concepts introduced in lectures at a deeper level, but also to discuss progress with your group productions and individual learning logs. Technical workshops develop your camera, sound and editing skills, while the e-learning portal enables you to share your work with other students and receive comments online. In between sessions, you are set independent tasks, including reading around the subject of documentary, tasks which keep your production on course, and keeping a learning log up to date. The assessment gives you the experience of making a film, as part of a small group of students, and this is reinforced through the process of writing critically about the film, reflecting on its success and analysing your individual learning in your learning log. Throughout the process you are treated as budding professionals, and will also learn time-keeping, interpersonal and organisational skills to prepare you for professional employment.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

This module provides many forms of support – both from the tutor, from your fellow students, from technical support and from online resources. The tutor provides extensive support through feedback, especially in seminars, on group productions and ideas; some of this time is devoted to conversations with individual production teams. The tutor is also available during published office hours on a weekly timetable to take individual queries on a drop-in basis. Technical expertise is available in the form of workshops and ongoing technical support throughout the module, with technician contact details made available to you, and the range of equipment available to you can be accessed through the Technical Resource Centre, which also manages a straightforward online booking and risk assessment system. The module itself forms a support community and at several stages in the module, you are invited to share your work with other students to get ideas and suggestions that will help you improve it. Extensive module resources, such as templates for key production files, and a detailed assessment briefing, are available on the e-learning portal, as is a discussion board to enable group conversations about the module. The tutor will also introduce you to the marking criteria on the module and give you the chance to apply them yourself to existing pieces of work, so that you can then learn to develop your own work with a clear knowledge of these criteria. Tutors will also respond to emails.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
• 1. You will show knowledge and understanding of the pre-production, production and post-production processes on a documentary project, from initial concept through development to safe completion
• 2. You will demonstrate an enhanced awareness and critical understanding of documentary as a genre, together with an increased knowledge of influential contemporary and historical documentary films and film makers.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
• 3. You will research and pitch an idea using appropriate presentation skills. You will be able to demonstrate the development and application of individual technical, creative, interpersonal craft and editorial skills through practical production to tell an effective factual story
• 4. Record and reflect on your knowledge and skill development, and demonstrate critical ability in writing a critique of your own production.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
• 5. An understanding of the importance of relationship-building, trust, diversity, and ethical behaviour in terms of consent, privacy, copyright, and truthful representation, are all central to documentary film production.

How will I be assessed?

The final assessment consists firstly of a group film production and associated production paperwork, leading to a shared group mark representing 30% of the module, and demonstrating your knowledge of production processes, interpersonal skills, technical ability and storytelling skills (MLOs 1, 3)

The second element is an individual personal learning portfolio representing 70% of the mark. This includes marks for the idea pitch, showing research and pitching skills (MLO 3); for a learning log, showing your craft skill development (MLO1,3); for a reflective commentary, showing your critical skills (MLOS 2, 4) and for an element of peer review (MLO 3). You will also receive feedback and comments on your ideas and your production progress from tutors and fellow students throughout the module, including sessions where unedited rushes, and rough cuts of your films, are viewed in class, with feedback from other students being shared via a discussion group in Blackboard.


Either MP4001 or MI4001, or an equivalent basic level of factual media production experience



Module abstract

Pioneering film-maker John Grierson dubbed documentary ‘the creative treatment of actuality’. This module gives students the chance to learn and practice that creative art form, through the research, pitching, and production of a short documentary film - a film that must identify and capture an engaging character-driven narrative. Through lectures, seminars, technical workshops, and documentary screenings, the module will provide you with the theoretical knowledge, the understanding of the genre, the craft and editorial skills, and the broadcast-quality equipment to undertake such a production. This is a skill prized in factual film and television, where many can tell a story after the event, but fewer have the skills to spot one before it happens, and track it as it evolves. The main element of assessment is an individual reflective portfolio documenting your learning, together with a group mark for a 10 to 12 minute film.

Course info

UCAS Code P310

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Arts

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2019 or September 2020

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