Working With 'The Real': Documentary Film History, Theory and Practice, basic, 30 credits (739G31)

Working With The Real: Documentary Film History, Theory and Practice, basic, 30 hp

Course description

Documentary film embodies a wide area of production within its distinguished history. Parallel to developing a documentary film, the aim is to survey documentary film history and theory, doing so from a perspective that accounts for the cinematic art produced within this rich cinematic tradition. Aiming to blend theory and practice, the course supports the following thesis: films are texts that we read, and we should consider even academic writing as taking shape in cinematic form. Here, filmmaking is intellectual as well as creative work. The course should be of interest to both cinema-studies students, and those interested in beginning or continuing a documentary film practice. Advanced students can bring in an already existing project, or develop a new one in the course.

At the conclusion of the course, students will have an understanding of the different modes of representation available to the maker and how they relate to documentary film history. Finally, students will understand how the ‘digital revolution’ has opened up new possibilities. 

Friday - Sunday one weekend per month.

Main field of study

Culture and Media Production


First cycle

Course type

Single subject course


Mike Jarmon

Course coordinator

Mike Jarmon

Available for exchange students

Course offered for Semester Weeks Language Campus VOF
Single subject course (Half-time, Weekends) Autumn 2019 v201934-202023 English Norrköping
Single subject course (Half-time, Weekends) Autumn 2019 v201934-202023 English Norrköping

Main field of study

Culture and Media Production

Course level

First cycle

Advancement level


Entry requirements

At least one year of undergraduate studies including at least one semester of media production or art education, or the equivalent level in job related work experience within media production.

English corresponding to the level of English in Swedish upper secondary education (English 6/B).
Exemption from Swedish 3/B.

Intended learning outcomes

After completion of the course the student should be able to:
- Show a completed documentary film treatment and production, based on an idea generated within a specific 'frame' provided by the teacher.
- Demonstrate basic knowledge about documentary cinema from a historical- developmental view that includes films from the beginning of cinema through to recent examples, with a focus on the artistic production within this broad historical range.
- Make use of the typologies of ‘documentary modes of representation’ as laid out in contemporary film theory, and apply the knowledge gained to films seen as well as films made.
- Demonstrate and apply basic knowledge of the production work-flow used in documentary film making, from the development of filmable ideas to a developed treatment and shooting script, and finally, to a completed film.
- Verify progress made through the development of a production logbook, used in conjunction with course evaluation and reflection to self-critically judge the strengths and weaknesses of a production’s process.

Course content

The practical side of this course will include work on developing: film ideas from short pitches through to developed treatments; shooting scripts and production plans; different interview techniques, camera and editing styles; and finally, a (limited) focus on funding and distribution, and what to do with a finished film. Students will be provided a frame within which to develop their film idea, as with a commissioned project.

The film historical arc of this course will be broad, starting literally with the ‘first films’, proceeding through the development of the term ‘documentary’ itself, and continuing through subsequent developments in the field up to current times. Moving through different modes to genres like the compilation and essay film, the course will focus more and more toward what Michael Renov discusses in his book, The Subject of Documentary, as ‘the turn to the subject,’ or works that take into account a ‘history of subjectivities’ that much of documentary film and video has been invested in for the last twenty years or so. This will bring us up to contemporary periods that take up identity politics, and other cultural studies and critical theory oriented areas of production as subjects of documentary exploration.

Teaching and working methods

Teaching will consist of lecture/screenings, where students will actively contribute with oral presentations and discussion, laboratory workshop/exercises in different documentary techniques, and individual and/or group project work. Self-motivated learning, will be facilitated by careful guidance given by the instructor, guest lecturers and project advisors. Language of instruction: English


Active participation in lecture/screenings, workshops and exercises is required to pass the course. Students are required to develop a documentary film project, from pitch to final treatment, and to make a video production related to the 'commissioned' subject. A production logbook will be kept and turned in. Students will also write one short essay applying a theoretical/analytical frame to a specific film. The essays, production synopsis-treatment and logbook are to be written in English (or Swedish). A combination of self-assessment, peer-review and teacher-professional assessment will be used in grading student work.

Students failing an exam covering either the entire course or part of the course twice are entitled to have a new examiner appointed for the reexamination.

Students who have passed an examination may not retake it in order to improve their grades.


Three-grade scale, U, G, VG

Other information

Planning and implementation of a course must take its starting point in the wording of the syllabus. The course evaluation included in each course must therefore take up the question how well the course agrees with the syllabus. 

The course is carried out in such a way that both men´s and women´s experience and knowledge is made visible and developed.


Institutionen för studier av samhällsutveckling och kultur


Nichols Bill, (2017) Introduction to documentary 3 Rev ed Indiana University Press

ISBN: 9780253026347

Rabiger, Michael, (2014) Directing the documentary. [Elektronisk resurs] Sixth edition. Burlington, MA : Focal Press, 2014.

ISBN: 9781317963899,0415719305,9780415719308

Additional literature


Nichols, Bill, (2010) Introduction to documentary. [Elektronisk resurs] 2nd ed. Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 2010.

ISBN: 0253222605,0253355567,9780253222602,9780253355560

EXA1 Examination U, G, VG 7.5 credits
EXA2 Examination U, G, VG 7.5 credits
EXA3 Examination U, G, VG 7.5 credits
EXA4 Examination U, G, VG 7.5 credits

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