Please note that new student recruitment to this course has been suspended for the September 2020 intake. Applications for 2021 should be made from October 2020.
About this course
- Entry year:
- Course code:
- Film and Journalism
- City Campus
- One year
- Full-time; starts September
- Programme leader:
- Tim Tarrant
- Key fact:
- This exciting and unique Masters degree has been co-designed by UWE academics and producers, directors and production managers from documentary and factual units within the BBC.
Page last updated 15 October 2019
Why study MA Documentary Production?
This course will enable you to develop the skills you need to make documentaries for any platform from cinema, TV to streaming services. And, what better place to learn your craft than in Bristol, a major UK centre for the Creative Industries.
Why study this course?
We prepare you for the industry by putting storytelling at the heart of your learning. You'll develop skills that will help you tell great stories and make intelligent and surprising programmes to captivate and engage audiences.
Each student is matched with an industry mentor from one of the many independent companies based in Bristol. Alongside your course tutor, your mentor will help with career advice and guidance.
This course is based at our Bower Ashton Studios, part of City Campus, where you'll have access to exceptional industry standard facilities and resources including a shiny new post production building and TV studios which opened in 2017.
See some of the work created by our students on our Vimeo site.
Engaging, industry-led teaching
MA Documentary Production is a practice-based course which equips you with the skills needed for all documentary production. This will include directing and producing, self-shooting and editing, research and development of ideas, budgeting and commissioning and writing for all formats and genres.
There's a rolling programme of industry speakers and, combined with live briefs from industry, we help you develop the industry knowledge and entrepreneurial skills you need to succeed in your career.
Bristol is a vibrant and innovative media hub with a thriving independent production sector. We work closely with a wide range of creative and cultural partners, including the Pervasive Media Studio based at Watershed cinema, the BBC Academy and the Encounters Film Festival. This ensures a rich teaching and learning experience.
Watch: The learning and teaching experience
UWE Bristol and the BBC have jointly developed modules, which include:
- Creative Short-form Documentary Storymaking - this module explores the innovative storytelling techniques used in broadcast and online production. You'll be challenged to be imaginative while ethical, and learn how to manipulate production and technical skills in a short film.
- Feature Documentary Storytelling - you will work through the creative process of developing documentary feature film ideas through research into story, structure, character, genre, and audiences - and put it into practice in a filmed project.
- Creative Documentary Development and Execution - taking your original idea you'll develop a visual treatment that pushes boundaries with further development of your craft skills. You'll learn how to apply a creative process into effective research and planning that will allow you to pitch and deliver a professional project. You'll also learn to schedule and budget while pre-shooting elements of your final film.
- Future Documentary - you will develop your knowledge, and production skills, of new forms of documentary storytelling including multi-platform principles and practice; audiences and user interaction; technology and innovation. This module will be delivered by BBC personnel and members of the internationally renowned i-Docs team.
- Professional Practice in Creative Documentary - this module is an extended six-month production module, where you will undertake your own creative projects, showcasing your portfolio of skills for employers. This bespoke module is self-directed, and supported by extensive one-to-one tutorials and sessions with industry mentors.
The University continually enhances our offer by responding to feedback from our students and other stakeholders, ensuring the curriculum is kept up to date and our graduates are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need for the real world. This may result in changes to the course. If changes to your course are approved we will inform you.
Learning and Teaching
This course provides a distinct and bespoke learning experience. Most of the teaching (practice and theory) is delivered by current and former BBC production professionals - the very best in the business and each student is matched with an industry mentor who will act as advisor for the final major project.
You will be taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and expert-led technical workshops in camera techniques, sound, recording, post-production, TV studio work and editing using industry-standard software such as AVID and Premier Pro.
There will be field visits and regular guest speakers from the BBC (around 15 - 20 a year) to enhance learning and bring valuable industry insight.
For more details see our glossary of teaching and learning terms.
This rigorous course is delivered full time over 12 months.You will have 18 hours of contact time a week. The academic year runs from September with study over the summer (main shooting period).
You will be assessed on the production of short films both independently and in teams and the completion of written reports and portfolios of work.
See our glossary of assessment terms.
You will be given the opportunity to volunteer at a series of events including Encounters Film and Animation Festival, the Vision Conference and Digital Bristol Week. In addition, we encourage students to become delegates at other relevant industry events like Sheffield International Documentary Festival and work alongside external clients making shorts films and documentaries.
Teaching will take place at Bower Ashton Studios where our new multi million pound media building encompasses an upgraded television studio, as well as a post-production facility with sound and picture editing, grading suites and a dubbing theatre. There is an extensive range of filming equipment, including specialist industry-standard cameras, lighting and grips.
Studying at Bower Ashton offers an excellent base for students within the exciting City Campus that connects teaching and learning with some of the best creative companies and cultural organisations in Bristol.
Bower Ashton houses the main library supporting the creative and cultural industries, student support services, as well as the extensive resource base that make up the technical resource areas. You will also have the opportunity of studying and accessing facilities at other sites within City Campus. This may include attending lectures, including guest lectures, and seminars at the Arnolfini and Watershed in Bristol City Centre.
Learn more about UWE Bristol's facilities and resources.
Specialist knowledge delivery
Producers, directors, production managers and editors from the BBC and the independent sector will play a key role in delivering specialist knowledge through master classes, workshops, lectures and seminars throughout the year.
Industry designed 'real world' assignments
Industry professionals will help to design production exercises to prepare you for professional commissions, whether for the BBC, C4 or a commercial client. From the start you will work as part of a 'production team', dealing with everything from pre-production to post production. You will be expected to develop projects to an industry standard.
You will be matched with an industry mentor who will act as an advisor for your professional development and give guidance on the development and production of your final major project.
BBC career guidance, training, events and learning resources
Throughout the course you will be offered career guidance and job preparation advice through specially organised events. You will have access to industry produced learning resources and will also be invited to industry hosted events throughout the year.
Careers / Further study
We aim to produce ready and able graduates with the skills and understanding suitable for entry-level posts in the documentary sector including documentary, factual formats and non-scripted programmes.
Successful students secure work in production companies and post-production facilities as producers, assistant producers, development researchers, technical and edit assistants, and camera operatives.
There are also options to teach and to progress to PhD study at UWE, Bristol and elsewhere.
Our award-winning careers service helps you develop your employment potential through career coaching, a vacancy service for internships, placements, jobs, global opportunities, volunteering and community activity plus support for entrepreneurial activity, and access to employer events.
There is currently no published fee data for this course.
Supplementary fee information
The additional costs listed are those that students could reasonably expect to incur during their studies and are for items not covered by the standard tuition fee. These could be materials, text books, travel, clothing, software or printing.
See our funding pages for more information.
An honours degree in a related subject area is required, but applicants with substantial relevant professional experience will also be considered.
We accept applications throughout the year. However, as there is a high demand for this course and an interview process, we would recommend that people apply at least one month before the start of the course. The course starts on the third week of September, so applications received close to the start maybe rolled over to the following year.
Short-listed candidates will be invited to an interview. Prior to the interview, we will ask you to submit a single document (48 hours before the interview date) with the following information:
- A proposal for a documentary that you would like to make (with a title, a one sentence summary, a short description of the characters, and the beginning, middle and the potential end of the story). This should describe sequences that would tell the story, not only describe the idea. No more than 500 words.
- A shortlist of 10 factual programmes that have inspired, informed and, importantly, entertained you. At least one of these programmes should be what you watch for fun. You should include a short paragraph (30-50 words) on why they have made your short list.
You should upload this document to the 'My documents' section of your Welcome website.
We will also ask you to compile a portfolio of material that you can bring to interview, which illustrates your editorial and technical ability. (An undergraduate degree in media production or clear evidence of media production experience/employment are preferred in either editorial or technical roles). This should be from your current course, employment, or other work produced in the last 3 years. URLs / links to audio-visual work on Vimeo, Youtube or Dropbox etc should also be available before interview. This work must include email addresses of the key team members so we can verify your role in the production as we do not rely on on-screen credits.
This portfolio could include photographs, screen based work of factual or fiction films, development work, sketchbooks, research material etc. to provide evidence of your production process, and personal areas of interest. You should bring a digital copy of your portfolio on a memory stick or lap-top in case of temporary online limitations. Please make sure drives will play on a standard PC and that the films are exported in their entirety.
UWE Bristol's International College
International students who do not meet the academic or English language requirements to study this course can qualify by completing preparatory study at our International College.
Entry to the MA programme is very competitive due to our external collaboration with Broadcast companies. You will need to demonstrate at interview an extensive knowledge and a passion for factual film making and a strong desire to tell stories for a visual medium. You must be able to show that you are highly motivated about entering this field, are already engaged in some form of relevant activity and/or building relevant experiences. We are looking for aptitude to enter the industry and assess if you will be able to flourish within the programme.
Please note, we are unable to allow applicants with offers to defer their entry to subsequent years.
How to apply
If you are applying to organisations for funding, they may have application deadlines by which time you will need to know if you have a place on a course. You should build this deadline into your application process and if you are working to a funding deadline then please let us know.
For further information
- Email: Admissions@uwe.ac.uk
- Telephone: +44(0)117 32 83333