Documentary Foundation Certificate

(6 customer reviews)


Next start date: Wednesday 11th November 18:30 – 21:00 UK Time
Duration: 5 consecutive Wednesday evenings
Address: Raindance Film Centre, 10a Craven Street, London, WC2N 5PE

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About the Documentary Foundation Certificate

At a glance:

  • Learn tried and tested rules to help you make a documentary that sells
  • Led by documentary guru Col Spector
  • Five 2.5 hour evening classes

In this five evening intensive practical course, award-winning director and renowned documentary guru Col Spector guides students through his legendary 8 golden rules for how to make documentaries that audiences will engage with and broadcasters will hopefully buy and festivals will select.

In the first part of the course, Spector reveals the tried and true techniques he’s developed over the course of his career making docs for major broadcasters such as BBC, Discovery, and Channel 4. In the second part, he helps the students put these ideas into practice by applying them to their own projects. By the end of the course the participants will have the tools to go out and make a documentary that is both emotionally engaging and commercially viable.

Spector is highly sought after as a one-on-one consultant and his week-long courses at NFTS regularly sell out, so this is a rare opportunity to work with him in an intimate classroom environment.

Who’s it for?

This course is ideal for writers, directors and producers already working in documentary or for those wanting to cross over into non-fiction. Students are encouraged to come with an idea they want to workshop, but are by no means required to do so.

What you’ll learn?

Week 1: How Good is Your Idea?

You think you’ve got a great idea for a documentary but will it really make a film? It’s not enough to just find a subject that interests you. A documentary is much more than that – especially one that people will want to pay money to see. This first class explores how you can find out whether your idea will really make a film and how you can ensure that it does.

• Deciding what sort of documentary you are making
• Getting your documentary to ask a question
• Deciding on an appropriate style e.g. comedy treatment of a serious subject
• Establishing drama in your documentary
• Putting your idea to the test

Week 2: Interview Style and Technique

Having built the all-important foundations of your film in the first class, it’s time to search for the people to inhabit your documentary. Is it better to use regular people or professionals? How do you know who will be right to interview? And how do you convince people who’ve never been in front of the camera to bare their soul in front of a potentially intrusive camera? What are the five big mistakes of interviewing?

• Choosing the right participants
• Deciding if you need a narrator
• Choosing where to put the camera and frame size
• The behaviour of the crew before, during and after an interview
• Coverage during the interview
• Practical interview exercises

Week 3: Camera, Lights and Style

The lighting and camera style will affect the story you are telling. And to decide that style you must first know the story you are telling. Once decided you have to be able to realise that vision on an appropriate budget

• Choosing an appropriate style for your story and budget
• Deciding to go hand-held and without lights
• Filming successful drama reconstruction
• Comparisons of different styles and techniques

Week 4: Editing & Sound

Story telling is an art. I often see well-shot documentaries with interesting characters that are dramatically a mess with no real sense of vibrant story-telling. Once in the cutting room, it may be too late to salvage a badly thought-through film. But then again, with a little additional filming, it could be the making of a film.

• How to use a dramatic arc
• Make them laugh, make them cry, but make them wait
• What to do if your film is not coming together in the edit
• The power of serendipity
• Using sound design instead of music
• Choosing and briefing a composer
• Dramatic analysis of a great documentary

Week 5: Make & Sell Your Documentary

So you think your film is ready to send out into the big wide world of documentary exhibition? But is it really? What have your test screenings told you? Is it time to invite a broadcaster into view a rough-cut? Should it be entered to film festivals before you try to sell it to broadcasters?

Making microbudget documentaries
• What if broadcasters aren’t interested?
• Making your film the best it can be
• When is it better not to be commissioned?
• Utilising film festivals to promote your film and get your next film commissioned

Before you begin

Before week 1 you are advised to take 50 minutes to watch Just Enough Distance on Vimeo

In addition to enhance your appreciation of the rest of the course it is suggested you view:

Man On Wire (2008)  (Director: James Marsh)
Grizzly Man (2005) (Director: Werner Herzog)
Garbage Warrior (2007) (Director: Oliver Hodge)

What will you achieve?

On completion of the Documentary Foundation Certificate, students will have acquired the skills, knowledge and confidence to then undertake documentary filmmaking projects – short, feature of TV series.

How will you be taught?

A mix of lecture-style, discussion and Q&A. There will be time for students to ask the tutor questions, and also be some further watching and additional activities suggested.

What they are saying?

About the tutor

Col Spector is an award-winning director who began his career producing and directing documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4. These include Just Enough Distance, The Lost Supper, The Real Alan Clark, and Trouble At The House.

He then went on to write and direct the short comedy drama New Year’s Eve (starring Stephen Mangan & Keira Knightley) before making his feature debut with the low-budget unromantic comedy Someone Else (starring Stephen Mangan & Susan Lynch) which was distributed by Soda Pictures in the UK and the IFC/Sundance Channel in the US. His second feature, the relationship comedy Honeymooner (starring Gerard Kearns) was also distributed in the UK by Soda Pictures and recently broadcast on BBC1. He is currently in pre-production on a new dramedy feature.

Col teaches the popular Documentary Foundation Certificate at Raindance, and runs a bespoke documentary consultancy service, The Documentary Consultant, for professional and non-professional documentary-makers.

*The intellectual property rights of this course remain the owner of the tutor

Additional resources

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6 reviews for


Documentary Foundation Certificate

  1. Rhia

    I honestly couldn’t recommend this course enough. It was a fantastic five weeks and Col was a great tutor. He was passionate, honest, and gave me a great understanding of what making a documentary really entailed. If you’re interested in making one of your own, then this course answers/gives you the option to ask all those questions that you could never find the answers to on Google. I finished the course feeling completely prepared to make a documentary.

  2. Martin O’Toole

    15/10 for Col’s Spector’s superb style, candour and indeed for sharing his knowledge! Absolute legend.

    We’re making a documentary as a result of what we’ve learnt! So it’s safe to say this course is brilliant.

  3. Leana Hosea

    Doing this course with Col was a great introduction to documentary storytelling and I learnt what elements are needed to make a good documentary. I applied what I learnt to successfully pitch a documentary for the BBC called ‘Rhino Wars’, which played on BBC World TV, Newschannel and cut down versions played on BBC Breakfast, online and I did a radio version for the Today programme. I’m now finishing my fist independent documentary film ‘Thirst For Justice’. This course is really worth it and value for money.

  4. Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba Diop

    I have attended so many documentaries courses and workshops but this one is a must done. I do like the sincerity of the tutor and his way of digging the stories for us. I definitely recommend it to anyone even for the so-called professional ones. It helps you to be more critical about your approach to the reality of the craft

  5. Mohammad Umar Janjua (verified owner)

    Great Tutor , fantastic method of teaching,

  6. iona magnus (verified owner)

    Loved this course and Col is a fantastic tutor. Couldn’t recommend it enough – thanks Col .

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