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How to make your first documentary: A weekend workshop with Laurence Topham

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Award-winning filmmaker Laurence Topham leads this virtual weekend masterclass in shooting your own documentary.

About this event

If you’ve been using your time to brush up on the extensive documentary box sets available, you might have wondered how you might create your own. Or perhaps you have been holding an idea to your chest for some time, and are looking for a nudge in the right direction.

In this insightful workshop, award-winning filmmaker Laurence Topham will introduce you to the fundamentals of documentary storytelling and video journalism, and then offer unmissable detailed insights into how to see your ideas through from concept through to filming and beyond.

You will receive a detailed breakdown of the key ingredients that blend together to create a compelling documentary, inspired by lessons from the Guardian’s impactful video journalism.

This detailed weekend workshop for beginners also presents the opportunity to put your questions to a leading figure in the field, in real-time. If a nudge is what you’ve been waiting for, this is it.

Course Content

Day 1 – Planning for the unknown

  • Stress testing the format: does your story or idea have the right ingredients to make a compelling documentary?
  • Archive to actuality: understanding the genre of documentary you want to make.
  • Who is your intended audience and why that matters in the digital age.
  • Characters, journeys and high stakes: how to develop your narrative and plan for the unknown.

Day 2 – Shoot and Cut

  • An introduction to the grammar of documentary filmmaking – composition, timing, sequence building, audio and structure.
  • Breaking down a pivotal scene shot-for-shot and learning how to shoot for the edit.
  • How camera technology should serve the storytelling – and not the other way around – no matter how big or small your budget is.
  • Embracing the unknown and learning how to be responsive during the course of making your film.
  • Documentary debrief: how to learn from your mistakes

This course is for…

  • Aspiring filmmakers who want to understand how to approach a documentary project
  • Anyone with an idea for a film who need guidance on taking the next steps to making it a reality
  • Early career filmmakers who are looking for advice on the production process from development to shooting

You will be sent a link to the online workshop 1hr before the start time of 2.30pm (BST).

Tutor Profile

Laurence Topham is an award-winning filmmaker, with over 15 years of experience in documentary production and digital storytelling. Since joining the Guardian in 2008, Laurence has filmed, produced and edited documentaries and digital content all around the world – from Antarctica to the Arctic, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, Russia and all across North America. His work has been selected by major international film festivals such as Tribeca, AFI Docs, Doc Edge and Sheffield Doc/Fest. He currently serves as an executive producer across a wide range of Guardian documentaries, investigations and special projects.

Course Details

  • Date: Saturday 7 - Sunday 8 August 2021
  • Time: 2.30pm-5.30pm (BST)

This masterclass is available globally. If you are joining us from outside the United Kingdom, please use this time zone converter to check your local live streaming time.

All Guardian Masterclasses are fully accessible but please contact us at masterclasses@theguardian.com if you have any queries or concerns.

Full course and returns information on the Masterclasses website

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Welcome to Guardian Masterclasses – a unique programme of learning embedded within one of the world's most forward-thinking media organisations.

Masterclasses offer a broad range of short and long courses across a variety of disciplines from creative writing, journalism, photography and design, film and digital media, music and cultural appreciation.

Harnessing the expertise and specialisms within the organisation, our courses are led by first class and award winning guardian professionals whilst also drawing on the skills and expertise of other leading figures at the forefront of the creative and digital industries.

The programme is aimed at anyone interested in personal or professional development whether that be refining your skills, focusing your ambition or simply broadening your mind and gaining inspiration.


































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