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Film Practice PhD

Our Film Practice PhD provides you with a unique opportunity to develop your film as a practice-led research project.

You are currently viewing course information for entry year:

Start date(s):

  • September 2024
  • January 2025


Newcastle University has embarked on an ambitious programme of growth in film practice under the name of Film@CultureLab. It’s led by award-winning documentary filmmaker Dr Ian McDonald. Film@CultureLab is committed to developing a distinctive approach to non-fiction film practice pedagogy and research. This is rooted in an understanding of documentary film as a cinematic medium and filmmaking as a means of expression and of challenging, critiquing, and intervening in the social and historical world.

We offer practice-led, practice-based, or theoretical PhDs in Film Practice in the following areas:

  • most areas of documentary/non-fiction film practice (see supervisor profiles for specialisms)
  • creative documentary practices in the UK, India, South Asia, Africa
  • intersections between the documentary and sociological, anthropological, cultural studies
  • sports documentaries
  • feminist film practice
  • social linguistics, translation and documentary practice
  • documentary theory and practice in the USSR / Russia
  • theorising documentary as a critical and creative practice
  • history of the documentary and of documentary movements
  • studies of independent film production and exhibition
  • world cinema
  • Indian cinema
  • film festival studies

Film@CultureLab PhD scholars are based in Culture Lab. You’ll have access to the superb facilities in Culture Lab and join a vibrant community of practice-led PhD scholars in film practice. PhD students are encouraged to regularly present their work to each other as part of the Film Praxis Forum ‘Work-in-Progress’ Series held each year.

Read more about our supervisors.

Supervisors in Film@CultureLab

Dr Ian McDonald is a sociologist and a documentary filmmaker. Ian is interested in supervising doctoral students in most areas of documentary theory and practice. He is particularly interested in supervising practice-based PhDs in documentary filmmaking, especially alternative, political and observational documentaries.

Dr Geetha Jayaraman, known as Geetha J, is a writer, filmmaker and producer. Geetha's research area is primarily film practice, both as director and producer. Geetha is interested in supervising practice-based research in fiction and non-fiction, as well as subjects under Indian cinema, world cinema, women and cinema. Her interests include:

  • film theory and history
  • film journalism and criticism
  • film societies and festivals

Dr Alastair Cole is a documentary filmmaker, whose films have been broadcast, and screened in cinemas and film festivals internationally. His academic interests intersect documentary film practice with research in anthropology, language and politics, with regional interests in:

  • sub Saharan Africa
  • Scotland
  • Southern Europe
  • Oceania

He is particularly interested in supervising any documentary film based research projects that aim to creatively inquire into subjects within the humanities and social sciences.


We currently co-supervise a range of film and film-related projects with academic colleagues from:



Important information

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How you'll learn

Your development

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (HaSS) researcher development programme 

Each faculty offers a researcher development programme for its postgraduate research students. We have designed your programme to help you:

  • perform better as a researcher
  • boost your career prospects
  • broaden your impact

Through workshops and activities, it will build your transferable skills and increase your confidence.

You’ll cover:

  • techniques for effective research
  • methods for better collaborative working
  • essential professional standards and requirements

Your researcher development programme is flexible. You can adapt it to meet your changing needs as you progress through your doctorate.

Find out more about the Researcher Education and Development programme

Your future

Our Careers Service

Our award-winning Careers Service is one of the largest and best in the country, and we have strong links with employers. We provide an extensive range of opportunities to all students through our ncl+ initiative.

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Quality and ranking

All professional accreditations are reviewed regularly by their professional body


As a PhD student in Film@CultureLab, you will be based in Culture Lab. Culture Lab is a centre for film practice and is situated in a Grade II listed building.

Subject to availability you'll have access to modern industry-standard shooting kits and edit suites.

These include a range of high definition cameras and supporting rigs. There's a high-spec PC cluster equipped with full Adobe CC, 27” monitors and TVs, and bespoke edit suites with Apple iMacs and Mac Pros, 27” dual calibrated displays and stereo monitoring. They run the latest Apple OS with Adobe CC, Final Cut and Da Vinci Resolve.

Culture Lab is supported by a team of dedicated film technicians.

Fees and funding

Tuition fees for 2024 entry (per year)

What you're paying for

Tuition fees include the costs of:

  • matriculation
  • registration
  • tuition (or supervision)
  • library access
  • examination
  • re-examination
  • graduation

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Entry requirements

The entrance requirements below apply to 2024 entry.

Qualifications from outside the UK

English Language requirements

Admissions policy

This policy applies to all undergraduate and postgraduate admissions at Newcastle University. It is intended to provide information about our admissions policies and procedures to applicants and potential applicants, to their advisors and family members, and to staff of the University.

Download our admissions policy (PDF: 201KB)
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Credit transfer and Recognition of Prior Learning

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) can allow you to convert existing relevant university-level knowledge, skills and experience into credits towards a qualification. Find out more about the RPL policy which may apply to this course

How to apply

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Get in touch

Questions about this course?

If you have specific questions about this course you can contact:

Film Practice, PhD

Dr Ian McDonald/ Dr Geetha Jayaraman
School of Arts and CulturesTelephone: +44 (0)191 208 3509


For more general enquiries you could also complete our online enquiry form.

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