This course aims to give students the tools and the confidence to become successful documentary makers. We put storytelling at the centre of the filmmaking process, while at the same time helping each student to develop their personal voice.

Head of Department Peter Dale won a 2019 BAFTA for his work on Louis Theroux: Altered States.

Our students are regularly nominated for, and win, prestigious prizes around the world. In recent years they have won at the Griersons, Sheffield DocFest, Locarno, IDFA, Royal Television Society, Sundance, Hot Docs, Berlin and many others.

Students collaborate with those in other specialisms to make several films and participate in practical projects, developing the skills they learn throughout the course – with all production costs met by the School.

All NFTS students can attend the School’s masterclasses programme, with recent guests including David Fincher (se7enFight ClubThe Social NetworkMindhunter), Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave), Edgar Wright (Baby DriverHot FuzzShaun of the Dead), Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid's Tale), Stephen Fry, Denis Villeneuve (Bladerunner 2049), Krysty Wilson Cairns (1917), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (FleabagKilling Eve), Asif Kapadia (AmySennaDiego Maradona), and Louis Theroux.

​This course is industry recognised by ScreenSkills, the industry-led skills body for the UK's screen-based industries, and carries the ScreenSkills Select quality-mark which indicates courses best suited to prepare students for a career in the screen industries.

Recent credits and successes

Lola, directed by Miranda Carter-Watson has been selected by the Oscar qualifying HotDocs, the largest documentary festival in North America. HotDocs shares powerful, provocative and personal stories from all corners of the world. Read more.

Isle of Us directed by Laura Wadha and Miss Curvy directed by Ghada Eldemellawy have been nominated for Best Student Film at the One World Media Awards. The festival celebrates under-reported stories that break down stereotypes, change the narrative and connect people from different cultures. Read more.

Graduate Nick Broomfield's credits include Whitney: Can I Be Me, Battle for Haditha and Kurt and Courtney 

Graduate Kim Longinotto's credits include Pink Saris, Gaea Girls and Salma

Graduate Yvann Yagchi won the prestigious Grierson Award for Best Student Documentary for Acta Non Verba

Recent NFTS Directing Documentary MA grad, Kate Stonehill won the RTS Student Television Award for her documentary, Fake News Fairytale - full story here.

What you will study

Students will direct and shoot at least three films during the course of the MA. The first year consists of four practical exercises, increasing in length and complexity.. These focus on the techniques and approach of a specific documentary genre: observation, sound and music, character–led narrative and an enquiry. Students collaborate with editors, sound recordists, sound designers and composers, and are encouraged to build relationships with cinematographers and producers. They are also expected to know how to work alone.

The second year includes three projects: a graduation film in which students synthesise what they have discovered in the first year, and use it to challenge conventional approaches to documentary; an MA dissertation in which they reflect on a documentary topic that has intrigued them during the course so far; and finally the opportunity to develop a project to take into the professional arena.

The final term also consists of visits to a film festival, broadcasters, independent producers and other relevant institutions, together with seminars dealing with the commissioning process, legal requirements, finance and distribution.

Download programme specification

Download course outline


Current or recent tutors

Paul Berczeller

Paul Berczeller

Visiting tutor

Credits include The Secret History of Our Streets

Peter Dale

Peter Dale

Head of Documentary

Peter spent 18 years in the field before becoming Head of Documentaries at Channel 4

Claire Ferguson

Claire Ferguson

Visiting tutor

Credits include Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer and Eyes Wide Shut

Dick Fontaine

Dick Fontaine

NFTS Fellow in Documentary

Credits span over 50 years, the latest being Sonny Rollins Beyond The Notes

Andre Singer

Andre Singer

Visiting tutor

Credits include Night Will Fall and Where the Wind Blew

Vanessa Stockley

Vanessa Stockley

Visiting tutor

Credits include The Genius and the Opera Singer and Wonderland 

Fees and funding options

Fees for this course are as follows:

Home/EU/EEA £14,800 per year (for January 2020 intake)

Overseas £31,000 per year (for January 2020 intake)

The tuition fees for January 2021 intake will be confirmed in June 2020, and are likely to be the same, or very similar to 2020.

We also welcome EU/EEA students on the same rate as our UK students – and those enrolling onto a two-year MA in January 2020 will continue to pay home fees for the second year of their MA. However, we are currently unable to confirm if this will remain the case for those starting their first year in 2021.

In the last year, 8 in 10 UK MA students received support, with more than £800,000 given out in total.

There is a compulsory, non-refundable £60 application fee for each MA application. A non-refundable deposit of £500 is required against the cost of your fees on confirmation of your place. As a part of our admissions selection process, successful applicants are required to attend a selection workshop for four days, which has a fee of £150. 

All production costs are included in the course fees, including the use of School facilities and equipment. Students are expected provide their own laptops and to cover their travel and entrance ticket costs for curriculum-related off-site visits and events.

The NFTS is committed to ensuring it is open to students of genuine ability, no matter what their background or financial circumstances. We don’t want anybody to be put off applying for a place at the NFTS because of the cost, which is why we award more scholarships and bursaries to British students, relative to the size of our student body, than almost any other educational institution in the UK.

At the NFTS you will get far more time learning directly from tutors, in real production facilities and on real projects, than in the vast majority of film schools or universities – and we won’t charge you extra for the cost of productions or materials. The specialist nature of our courses mean that our students gain the relevant skills and experience they need to go straight into the industry.


Every year, our students make a number of short films.


Entry requirements

Students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and have usually had some previous experience of filmmaking, though this may not be at a professional level. All have a strong social awareness and a keen desire to translate that awareness into stories told with a personal voice.

While many applicants will have a degree from a British or overseas university, we will consider applicants who do not have a degree if they have an impressive portfolio, a creative track record or an alternative qualification.

For international students, more information about our entry requirements, including Visa and English language requirements, can be found here

If you have any questions, please email

How to apply

Application deadline: 31 May 2020

Please apply with the following:

  • A short film (20 minutes max) which you have conceived and directed: Please submit your work via Vimeo links. Please note, that if you wish to submit a longer film, only the first 20 minutes will be viewed. If dialogue is not in English, you should enclose a dialogue transcript in English.
  • A written proposal for a different film of any specified length (no more than four sides of A4 paper, typed and double spaced) which should include the basic premise, a description of the characters and locations and most importantly, the developing narrative. 

You can apply online by clicking on BEGIN YOUR APPLICATION below.

We are happy to receive applications at any time up until the midnight of the application deadline date.

Begin your application