“Teaching Documentary” – 5 titles to look out for

Five books to add to your reading list: three explicitly on the subject of teaching documentary, and one  – the most recent – on the history of the film school. The two oldest titles are out of print, but you may still find them second hand.

Educating FilmmakersEducating Filmmakers by Duncan Petrie & Rod Stoneman (2014).

A book in two halves: in the first Duncan Petrie offers a well-researched but selective history of the film school in the US and Europe, focusing on the main institutions and their relationships to the industry. The second half, a conceptual polemic by a former commissioning editor at Channel 4 and the Irish Film Board, asks pertinent questions where the modern film school is heading.


DokumentarfilmDokumentarfilm: Schulen, Projekte, Konzepte Ed: Edmund Ballhaus (in German, 2013).

This title represents an overview of the various approaches of all the major German-speaking film schools in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.





hjortThe Education of the Filmmaker in Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas Ed: Mette Hjort (2013).

Looking at filmmaking in countries such as Nigeria, Qatar, the United States, the West Indies, this title investigates the nature of practice-based film education in well-established film schools as well as studios, clubs, film festivals, NGOs and peripatetic workshops.



Teaching DocumentaryTeaching Documentary in Europe Eds: Klaus Stanjek & Renate Gompper (German & English Edition, 1994).

A reader created after the first VISIONS model project – a cycle of theoretical and practical seminars held at HFF “Konrad Wolf” in Potsdam Babelsberg in 1994. Contains a useful list of exercises and practical examples.




Cilect ReviewConfronting Reality (CILECT Review Vol. 2 No. 1, November 1986).

Starting with a series of “Personal Perspectives” by familiar names such as Ricky Leacock, Dai Vaughan and Jean Rouch, the second part of this journal explores “Formal, Ethical and Other Considerations” in a selection of pieces on film teaching in individual schools by filmmaker/teachers such as David MacDougall (Canberra) and Kazimierz Karabasz (Lodz).


The appendix “A Provocation” by Colin Young, founder of the NFTS and former President of CILECT, starts thus:

The word documentary has different meanings in different parts of the world. In what follows, we begin by proposing two distinctions.

  1. Documentary and fiction are not the same thing (although they overlap and have much in common)
  2. Documentary and film or television journalism are not the same thing (although they both are aspects of non-fiction).

Food for thought…discuss!

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