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Digital Documentaries (MA)

  • Duration: 1 year
  • Mode: Full time

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Open day

Find out more about studying here as a postgraduate at our next Open Day.

Why study this course

Our documentary programme integrates both the theory and practice of documentary production, giving you the opportunity to turn your ideas into innovative films for a variety of audiences.

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Industry mentor

You will benefit by being able to pitch ideas to, receive feedback from and engage with a personal mentor in the media industry.

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Telling your story

You will gain a portfolio of documentaries defined by your style of film making in subject areas that have relevance and meaning.

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Practical excellence

Your training will be led by highly experienced documentarists with national and international experience working across global platforms.

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Research excellence

Your studies will take place in one of the UK’s leading journalism research schools, ranked 2nd in the UK.

Documentaries are a vital, successful and constantly evolving media with an ever-growing number of places where they are screened, broadcast and streamed. 

With us, you'll be trained in the craft and technical aspects of filmmaking, producing films of integrity and importance. 

Hands-on film making 

Intensive practical workshops, group sessions and one-to-one guidance will help you locate subjects and stories that matter to you, find a method of making and a mode of encounter with your subject, develop distinct shooting and editing strategies, and evolve your own unique visual language. 

On this degree you’ll gain a range of skills including: 

  • Producing, directing, camera, sound and editing. 
  • Learning how to communicate imaginatively through the moving image. 
  • Researching and writing original non-fiction film. 
  • Developing visual storytelling. 
  • Shooting and editing. 
  • Project management, scheduling, budgeting, distributing and fund-raising. 

We’ll train you to be an all-rounder, with valuable expertise in directing, production managing, camera operating, recording sound, editing, and pitching your projects to funders and promoting your films to festivals.  

The best documentaries are driven by passion 

We support all types of filmmaking, including campaigning and issue-led films, long-form investigative documentaries, observational and character pieces, experimental films and documentaries about the environment.  

In the final Master’s degree project, you'll be able to present either a long form documentary or a portfolio of shorter pieces of work for different platforms and digital media. 

You'll also have the unique chance to work with a mentor from the creative industry, to pitch your idea to them, receive feedback in the making of your film to engage with the documentary industry and improve your CV. 

You’ll be taught by the best 

Our teaching is informed by practice and academic rigour. Our internationally leading faculty consists of academics and programme makers who are at the forefront of knowledge within their field.  

The programme’s tutors have worked in the BBC and internationally, combining a unique breadth of knowledge of both academia and the industry. 

Where you'll study

School of Journalism, Media and Culture

We provide a scholarly environment to help you acquire both the knowledge and skills needed to enter your chosen area of the media.

  • icon-chatGet in touch
  • Telephone+44(0)29 2087 4786
  • MarkerCentral Square, Cardiff, CF10 1FS

Admissions criteria

Candidates will normally be graduates from a recognised university with a minimum of a 2:1: a sliding scale of specific conditions in terms of academic requirement, based around this 2:1 level is also in place as the admissions criteria for most international markets. 

For PGT Programmes:

This Programme is suitable for graduates or experienced practitioners in related disciplines, such as journalism, media or film studies.

Typical IELTS offer:

A score of band 7 on IELTS with a minimum of 6.5 in each category is required for non-native English speakers or those who have not had a substantial part of their education taught in the English language.

Find out more about English language requirements.

Applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK must present an acceptable English language qualification in order to meet UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) requirements

Criminal convictions

You are not required to complete a DBS (Disclosure Barring Service) check or provide a Certificate of Good Conduct to study this course.

If you are currently subject to any licence condition or monitoring restriction that could affect your ability to successfully complete your studies, you will be required to disclose your criminal record. Conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • access to computers or devices that can store images
  • use of internet and communication tools/devices
  • curfews
  • freedom of movement
  • contact with people related to Cardiff University.

Course structure

This course runs from September to September.  Between September and May you will study 120 credits of taught modules: 110 credits will be Core and the remaining 10 credits will be chosen from a range of options.

Following successful completion of the taught stage, you will undertake a Master’s Project which will be supervised until the end of July, and submitted at the end of August.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2021/22 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2021.

In the first semester you will study three modules worth 20 credits each. 

You will learn the practice of documentary film making, how to light, film, record sound and edit your film that is submitted at the end of the first term. The film will be a poetic piece of work that reflects your creativity and understanding of the technical skills required to make a documentary. You will go on to learn the production skills necessary to research, plan, script, budget, and schedule your film, as well as how to use stills to create a story board for a film.

You will also examine the theories of sound, image, ethics, and truth, as well as the issues and debates in the history and theory of documentaries. 

In the second semester you will build on your knowledge of documentary practice, developing your camera, sound and editing skills to make a short film about a real situation or event. You will also begin thinking about your Master’s project and will work with a mentor from the broadcast industry.

At the end of the second semester you will produce a short trailer for your Master’s project: you will pitch your proposal to a panel and then receive feedback from mentors and staff. 

There is also an optional module allowing you to choose subjects of special interest to you from a pool of those available related to journalism and media.

The taught phase concludes in May and subject to successful completion you will progress to your Master’s project where you can go on to make your film, or series of films for your portfolio. The portfolio will be accompanied by a business plan, the relevant production paperwork and a reflective commentary.  This will be submitted at the end of August. 

Module titleModule codeCredits
Masters ProjectMCT58760 credits
Documentary Practice 1MCT58220 credits
Directing the Documentary 1MCT58320 credits
Documentary StudiesMCT58420 credits
Documentary Practice 2MCT58530 credits
Specialist Skills DocumentaryMCT58620 credits

The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

Learning and assessment

How will I be taught?

Most modules involve a mixture of lectures, workshops and practical demonstrations. In a lecture you will be given an overview of a particular aspect of the module content and will have opportunities to ask questions and be reflective.

Classes and workshops enable you to learn the practice of film-making using up to date camera, sound and editing technology. 

How will I be assessed?

Assessment methods vary from module to module but, across your degree scheme as a whole, you can expect a mixture of coursework, essays, practical work, presentations, and individual and group projects. The dissertation project will allow you to develop a film and portfolio on a subject of your choosing.

What are the learning outcomes of this course/programme?

Knowledge & Understanding:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate:

  • a professional sense of what a documentary is and the ability to evaluate and interpret the assumptions underlying it;
  • an understanding of how to develop an idea from paper to screen and understand the requirements of different audiences and markets;
  • an understanding of the need to achieve clarity and precision in the use of language and images, and the techniques by which this can be achieved;
  •  an ability to use standard software packages and hardware in your chosen medium, and be confident about your ability to learn how to use variants
  • a critical awareness of contemporary practices and theories of documentary film making

Intellectual Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate:

  • the critical ability to justify and rigorously apply appropriate methodologies, techniques and practical strategies; as well being sensitive in the context of this application.
  •  competence in synthesising the complexities and unpredictability of researching and producing a factual programme.
  • the capability to experiment with and critically evaluate documentary form with confidence and initiate this to a professional level
  • a pro-actively ethical awareness in film-making through managing ethical dilemmas and finding solutions
  • self-reflective learning in order to improve professional practice and develop autonomy. 

Professional Practical Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate:

  • the ability to identify and construct the building blocks for a narrative
  • competence to write clear, precise, attractive proposals, treatments, and commentary that is appropriate for research, pictures and for all production requirements.
  • capability to budget and to evaluate and apply the resources needed for making a documentary
  • capability in scheduling a shoot taking into account risk and hazard assessment
  • a professional approach in the conduct of interviews with and the ability to evaluate sources for research and on camera;
  • competence to participate effectively in various roles within the production process;
  • the necessary skills to edit video and to work to a broadcast standard;
  • the ability to use a camera to shoot professional TV footage
  • listening and viewing skills to judge and critique documentary output and relate it to your own practice.
  • the ability to record, develop and understand the need for good quality audio in a production;

Transferable/Key Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate:

  • competence to communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively by oral, written and practical means
  • an ability to evaluate quickly a large amount of information and opinion and to adapt this into an audio/visual piece of work
  • an ability to work effectively in a team and as an individual
  • capacity to work under pressure and to a range of timescales to fit the requirements of programme tasks and outputs.
  • awareness of relevant health, safety and ethical guidelines for all media practice.

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2021/22)

Fees for entry 2021/22 are not yet available.

Students from outside the EU (2021/22)

We are currently awaiting confirmation on tuition fees for the 2021/22 academic year.

Additional costs

You will need to cover travel and subsistence costs for the research and production of your films yourself.

Career prospects

The documentary is one of the forms of media which is expanding across all platforms. Most businesses and non-governmental organisations (NGO's) use videos to inform their internal and external audience about what they do.

An MA in Digital Documentaries will offer a wide range of opportunities for those who not only wish to become filmmakers, but those who want to use this exciting medium for a wide range of different purposes.

Funding

Master's Excellence Scholarship

This award worth £3000 is open to UK and EU students intending to study one of our taught master’s degrees.

Postgraduate Master’s Finance

If you’re starting your master’s degree in September 2020 or later, you may be able to apply for postgraduate student finance to support your study at Cardiff University.

Next steps

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