Queen Mary launches first specialist factual documentary MA module in UK university

The Film Studies Department at Queen Mary, University of London has joined forces with production company Mandrake Films to launch the first specialist factual documentary course in a UK university.

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Starting in September 2010, the Film Studies MA module ‘Specialist Factual Documentary in Practice’, will train up to 20 students for 12 weeks to produce ambitious and inspiring science, history and current affairs programmes, and encourage academic presenting talent within Queen Mary.

The budding film-makers will pair up with academics specialising in science, medicine, history, geography and politics. Guided by experienced, award winning specialist factual programme-makers such as Liz Tucker of Verve Productions and commissioning editors such as the History Channel’s Martin Morgan, they will make short pilot films based on cutting-edge research at the College.

The term-long MA module is also available as a one-off short course, to people who have some experience of film making, or who want to change career and use their previous experience to make documentaries.

Lucy Baxter, Director of Mandrake Films, an east London production company, is the driving force behind the new course alongside Athena Mandis, Assistant Technical Director at Queen Mary’s Department of Film Studies.

Lucy explains: “This project will encourage real communication, and mutual inspiration, between university academics and programme makers, forge strong links between education and the media industry and find the presenting talent of the future.”

Trainee programme-makers on the £2,000 course will also receive invaluable practical experience and a brilliant documentary show-reel for their portfolio.

The three- to five-minute films will be tailored specifically for broadcast across various platforms, and streamed on the Queen Mary website and throughout affiliated universities, giving maximum exposure to the research and film makers.

“It’s good to encourage staff to become involved as potential contributors and presenters, learning to communicate their research effectively,” says Athena. “It is vital that universities play a role in bridging the gap between knowledge, practice and industry.”

Mandrake Films will develop a selection of the best pilots into longer documentaries, for broadcast on TV and other media platforms. Students behind the best pilots will also have a hand in the development and production of the extended versions.

Jerry Brotton, Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary, and the presenter of new BBC Four documentary Maps: Power, Plunder and Possession, is backing the course.

“At a time when academics are being asked to consider the public impact of their research,” says Professor Brotton, “a project that allows them to talk openly with film makers and producers about what's involved in turning research into television is a wonderful opportunity for everyone concerned. It’s an exciting initiative.”

To register your interest, or to sign up to the course, please contact Athena Mandis on 0044 (0)20 7882 8788 or