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SEL3347 : Documentary Storytelling: Theory and Practice

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Tina Gharavi
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
  • Capacity limit: 15 student places

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


To have an introduction to the historical developments of documentary practise in the 20th century focusing on more recent 21st century documentary practitioners.

Students will also be taught a range of skills in production to develop an understanding of the practical implications of documentary production to have an immersed understanding of the codes and conventions of the discipline.

Students will be able to critically analyse contemporary documentary work.

Outline Of Syllabus

Through lectures, screenings, technical workshops, production practice and a short series of visiting lecturers, students will have the experience of studying documentary as a genre and becoming aware of its various strands. Students will give presentations on a range of filmmakers whose work will be introduced through the course of the semester, they will analyse methodologies including codes and conventions and be able to make some practical experiments with the medium.

Students will be required to give oral presentations, create a short documentary, and write an essay on an aspect of contemporary documentary practice or, alternatively, will be able to make a proposal to create one of a select number of final projects which can be practice based.

All practice-based final submissions (in lieu of a formal essay) will also have a written element in which students are expected to reflect on their experience of practice, self-analyse their completed production and place their work in a historical and contemporary context.

Not all students may be allowed automatically to follow the practice-based option. There may be a selection process for this according to the quality of applications and the availability of resources.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture113:0033:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork13:003:00This is a class trip.
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity112:0022:00Student-led study groups
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1142:00142:00Self-directed study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

This is a practice-based course that explores documentary film-making in the framework of understanding theory in practice. Students gain practical skills while reflecting on theoretical ideas in contemporary documentary. Where possible, visiting speakers will be invited to present on their specialist topic. There is also one fieldtrip activity which may happen as part of the Academic Skills Activities.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Design/Creative proj2A80OPTION ONE: A practical documentary Practice Film 4 minutes (plus 2000 word reflective commentary) or OPTION TWO: Essay (of 3200 words) about a topic in documentary TBC
Oral Presentation2M2010 minute in class/on-line oral presentation + Participation throughout the semester (including discussions, online discussions and homework)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

There are two options for this course:

OPTION ONE: Students film a 4 minute documentary self-portrait and this material will then be edited using a computer based non-linear editing system, and be submitted with consent forms signed by participants. Students following this option will write a 2,000 word essay reflecting on their own practice and contextualising their work in the practice and ideas of other filmmakers or movements.

OPTION TWO: Students will write a 3,200 word (+/- 10%) essay on a documentary maker and their practice.

Students working in teams also give an Oral Presentation that is assessed. Lastly, attendance and group work are assessed. Attendance is essential as workshops missed are critical skills that are difficult to obtain elsewhere. Also as there is a high degree of teamwork, student attendance is therefore essential.

Reading Lists