MP5028 - Advanced Approaches to Documentary

What will I learn on this module?

Building on skills and knowledge learned at Level 4, you will examine narrative and storytelling in film and TV documentaries. This will include learning about the history, theory, and practice of existing influential documentaries, developing skills in identifying a strong factual storyline, and then learning how to research, 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, for example: the key elements of narrative documentary, researching your subject, 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 a 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 to work in a team.

How will I learn on this module?

The student-centred learning of a module such as this dictates a cycle moving from reflective critical analysis of the work of contemporary industry professionals, through to the completion of individual skill exercises, and a production project, back to reflective self-assessment, viewing the work produced with the benefit of a heightened critical awareness of professional practice. The module is delivered through a combination of lectures, workshops, tutorials, and independent research - all structured around the production schedule of the practical project within the module.
Lectures are delivered in the early part of the semester in order to lay the foundations of theory, critical awareness and the foundations of creative practice before students move into their productions and work as a member of their production team in a given role /rolls i.e.: writer / director. As the module develops, lectures progressively give way to practical work which the student carries out independently or as part of their team. Feedback is given on this work. Once the work is complete, the student will reflect on the process in an individual critical evaluation, and through their personal learning portfolio. Throughout the process you are treated as budding professionals, and will also learn timekeeping, interpersonal and organisational skills to prepare you for professional employment.

Outside of the taught sessions, you will be expected to engage with module-relevant reading or viewing, in preparation for the sessions. An electronic reading list is supplied via the e-Learning Portal, which will guide you towards appropriate resources, although you are encouraged to explore the wider library catalogue to engage with additional sources too. During your independent working time, it is also expected that you will apply the ideas raised in the reading and the taught content to expand and inform your own practice.

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 eLearning Portal is a significant source of support material throughout the module. This contains important documents pertaining to each stage of the production process, e.g. ‘How to…’ guides on completing schedules, Budgeting et al. The PowerPoint slides from each session will also be made available soon after each session. The module features a range of teaching and learning strategies that encompass seminars and tutorials. You will be supported by the module lead; they will introduce the module at the start of the semester and offer advice and guidance throughout. Your learning is mapped out via documentation on Blackboard Ultra, the Northumbria University online electronic learning portal; this is accessible online on and off campus. The e-Learning Portal will include guidance notes and key dates to help you organise and plan your time. It will also include teaching materials, announcements and updates, and detailed information on assessment. You will have a university email that we contact you through.

We support your learning by providing on-going feedback (Formative and Summative) through the range of teaching and learning approaches offered. We ask you to submit your work electronically, and we will supply feedback via Turnitin. You will be able to compare your feedback across modules so that you can assess your development as you progress through the programme.

Formative assessment is offered throughout the module, and summative assignments will receive written feedback within 20 working days of assignment submission. Every tutor has set weekly feedback and tutorial drop-in hours, wherein you can seek advice on your academic progress.

Where appropriate you may also be directed to engage with our Skills Plus or other resources offered through the University Student Support Services such as Dyslexia Support. Guidance tutorials also provide opportunities for students to discuss, in confidence, their academic progress on the programme.

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:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:

1. Demonstrate an understanding and critical awareness of the theories surrounding documentary research and development / documentary techniques / contemporary documentary and documentary history.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:

2. Demonstrate the development and refinement of individual creative, craft and practice skills in relation to your role, illustrating your critical awareness and analysis.

3. Develop and pitch documentary ideas with enhanced presentation skills and understanding of the commissioning/funding process.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):

4 Display that you value collaborative working practices by making an effective contribution to a team project. Demonstrating an understanding of the importance of relationship-building, trust, diversity, and ethical behaviour in terms of consent, privacy, copyright, and representation, where applicable.

How will I be assessed?

FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT: To prepare you successfully to undertake the summative assessment(s) on this module, formative assessments will be set by the module team. These may take the form of in-class tasks or projects, developmental activities undertaken between classes, or learning exercises/activities set over a longer period. Feedback (written and/or oral) will be provided to help you learn from, reflect on, and develop in light of these formative assessments.

The summative assessment is contained in one Portfolio broken down as below:

The portfolio will contain:

A working hyperlink to the finished documentary film.
Weighted at 50%

Evaluation of your Role –
Weighted at 50%

This contains materials pertaining to the student’s key role within the production, which demonstrate and evidence research, creative engagement along with a demonstratable critical and analytical approach to the role. Depending on the role this could include:

Interviews / Screen Tests / Rough Edits / Sound Tests / Shot Lists / Contributor forms / Consent forms etc.

An evaluation which discusses your approach, research, and methodology behind your role in a critical and analytical way, with references and a bibliography.
Also included should be a learning / production diary outlining your work on the entire production.
Formative feedback will be provided through tutorials and students are expected to attend each of these sessions.

Feedback will explicitly draw attention to the ways in which students can improve their work and working practices.





Module abstract

This module takes an advanced approach to research, development and production practices in the contemporary film & television industries when making a documentary film. You will develop an understanding of the theories, practice, and practical skills employed by working in a production team to make a short documentary film.
The module is delivered through a combination of lectures, workshops, tutorials, and independent research. You will learn how to develop an idea through from initial concept to a treatment by pitching story ideas in class. This will enhance your presentation skills and understanding of the commissioning/funding process of making a documentary film. You will work in a production team to bring the idea from script into pre-production, production, and post production, by taking on a key role or combination of roles within that process, such as producer, writer, researcher, director, director of photography, editor, or sound recordist. These skills, while specific to the project are also transferable to a wide array of vocations within and without the screen industries. You are encouraged to reflect on the MLO’s and processes by also writing a critical evaluation and a portfolio relevant to their production role within the team.

Course info

UCAS Code P315

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 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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