Film Directing - MFA/MA


This programme takes a project-led, practice-based approach to studying for an MA/MFA in Film Directing which specialises in documentary making. It integrates analysis of contemporary film practice with practical film making. Students choose to make a creative documentary or a “hybrid” film which defies genre definition and pushes the boundaries of narrative.  We develop these through workshops and tutorials. Our students work within an integrated framework that helps them question the form of their films and enables them to find the right language for their storytelling.

The programme encourages ways of working as a film community that foster the important exchange of ideas, with inspiration from international visiting film makers through Scottish Documentary Institute and support from our team of documentary practitioners. As part of the Skillset Screen Academy Scotland we also offer mentorship within the industry and ensure that all tutors are leading professionals working internationally. Many of our students already work in the industry and we aim to encourage a fresh approach to emerging technologies.

Graduate films do well internationally regularly winning BAFTAs, RTS Awards and awards at international festivals. Over the last five years students have received an Oscar nomination for an MA film made here and an Oscar shortlist for a film made by a recent graduate. We work closely with the Scottish Documentary Institute, the University’s internationally-acclaimed research centre in documentary film making.

The aim of the Film Directing programme at ECA is to:

  • challenge boundaries, encourage original thought, and develop intellectual and critical approaches to making films
  • combine the contemporary energy and discipline of current creative approaches to film practices with the professionalism of industry practices, in order to produce innovative and grounded work
  • facilitate the interrelationship between different cultural traditions, traditional and emerging screen technologies, and classical and non-traditional cinematic genres and conventions.
  • provide postgraduate education in film making that constitutes a clear progression from undergraduate education whilst maintaining distinctiveness from industrial training- that gives scope for taking risks
  • foster filmmakers able to work and compete internationally


This programme is project-led and delivered through workshops and regular individual tutorials. It integrates practical studio work with theoretical and written studies from the Context department, including professional practice elements.

The first semester is organised round a series of micro-films which lead to a growing awareness of film language and enhancement of technical skills to creatively support filmic vision. Cinematography and sound workshops are delivered by visiting lecturers. Directorial voice is built up also through tutorials in which an idea for a graduating film is developed and evolved. Awareness of current international documentary practice is built through weekly seminars and screenings also supported by Scottish Documentary Institute. This is also to inspire students to push boundaries in their approach to narrative structure and visual language and not to get locked in conventional approaches. We want to encourage bold work that takes risks. At the end of the first semester all students pitch their films using a trailer or short excerpt from their research material. They also develop a treatment with feedback from tutorials.

Semester two is spent preparing and shooting the graduate film and is backed up with edit tutorials as well as project support from weekly meetings with a tutor. Students also receive seminars in production process including contracts.

Semester three is when the film is edited and finished with input from group crits and tutorials. Students also attend or often volunteer with Edinburgh Film Festival and the Edinburgh Pitch in order to observe and engage with key players from the international documentary world through hearing feedback from commissioning editors.

Alongside the ECA learning structure, students also have Professional Practice support and careers mentoring through Screen Academy as well as access to visiting lecturers and a pool of potential collaborators from Screen Academy Napier including the possibility of working with cinematographers, editors and producers.


Our students go on to a wide range of roles, including director, producer, cinematographer, editor, researcher, assistant director, distributor or journalist. Graduates have found work directing for the BBC and making work internationally for top broadcasters and film funds. Related fields include advertising, community films, academia or film development agencies.

Creative Skillset

MA/MFA Film Directing has been awarded the Creative Skillset Tick, the industry kitemark of quality, following a rigorous assessment process by experts working in the Creative Industries. The Creative Skillset Tick is awarded to practice-based courses which best prepare students for a career in the industry. Screen Academy Scotland is one of only 3 Screen Academies in the UK along with National Film School and London Film School.

Student work


Julie Bills, Film & TV technician; Cinematographer; Camera operator

Julie Bills is a Cinematographer and Camera Operator with almost 20 years' experience working in the Film and TV industry in Scotland and the UK. She has worked on some of Scotland's best known TV and film productions.  Julie originally studied painting and worked as an artist and documentary photographer for 10 years, developing her eye for lighting and composition, before making the switch to moving images. She is experienced in digital, 35mm and 16mm camera. She has worked on feature films such as The Railway Man, The Eagle, Neds, The Last King of Scotland, Sweet Sixteen, My Name is Joe, Ratcatcher, and television dramas Rebus, The Book Group, and Queer as Folk. Most recently she was shooting for Nae Pasaran a documentary feature coming out in 2017.

Emma Davie, Postgraduate Programme Director; Reader | View staff profile >

Emma Davie's research area is documentary filmmaking. Her work explores approaches to narrative structure and form and how ethical questions affect this. Her most recent film is the feature I am Breathing (2012).

She has been making documentaries for 15 years including What Age Can You Start Being An Artist? for Channel 4 (2004, nominated for Grierson Award); Gigha: Buying Our Island, a one-hour film for BBC/Scottish Screen; and Flight, a BBC/Canadian co-production (2000). She has also directed short experimental work including 71˚N ( nominated for best short at Edinburgh International Film Festival).

Emma's experience in experimental theatre and performance gave her a background in questioning form and of a collaborative creative practice. She helps filmmakers develop their work internationally, and has been invited to teach with the European Documentary Network, IDFA Summer School, StoryDoc, Norwegian Film Institute, Discovery Campus, DocMontevideo, and has given talks or contributed to workshops in Athens, Ramallah, Shanghai, Leipzig, Brussels and more. She also taught at the European Film College in Denmark.

Prof Noe Mendelle, Director of Scottish Documentary Institute and PhD Supervisor for Documentary Film; Postgraduate organiser and tutor | View staff profile >

Noe Mendelle has worked in Film & TV for over 30 years (including Channel 4, BBC, ARTE, RTP, RTBF) as a producer/director. She is a research professor at Edinburgh College of Art, where she supervises MA & PhD students by practice in Documentary Film. Her research and her practice takes her to different parts of the world to explore people’s stories, and she is currently working on a four-part series about the Bijagos people for the broadcaster RTP (Radio Televisao Portugal), Gulbenkian Fondation, Unesco & Creative Scotland.

She set up the Scottish Documentary Institute (SDI) in 20 03 and over the years devised several talent ladder award winning schemes: Bridging the Gap, BtG+, This is Scotland, Stories & The Edinburgh Pitch. She Executive Produces most films going through SDI productions (Libya in MotionWhere You’re Meant To BeSeven Songs for a Long LifeSculpting the SpiritsNorfolkI Am Breathing) working with a wide range of emerging and established talent. Sculpting the Spirits won the Best Film Award at Parnu International Documentary & Anthropology Film Festival in 2015. She has served on juries and panels at festivals around the globe as well as running documentary workshops in Africa and the Middle East.

Anna Wyatt, Screen Academy Administrative Assistant | View staff profile >

Additional tutors

  • Dr Amy Hardie, PhD supervisor & MA tutor; Scottish Documentary Institute; Documentary director; Documentary producer. Dr Amy Hardie is a documentary director and head of research in the Scottish Documentary Institute, University of Edinburgh. She graduated from the National Film and Television School in 1990 with the BP Expo prize for best student documentary (Kafi's Story). Her debut feature The Edge of Dreaming is the first Scottish feature documentary to be selected for competition at IDFA in 2009 and was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at Kiev International Film Festival "For the artistry and masterful combination of cinematography varieties in the personal confession of the artist." It screened in auteur cinema slots on television such as ‘La Lucarne', Arte, and VPRO, Netherlands and has been translated into 12 languages. Her science feature, Stem Cell Revolutions, received the Tam Dalyell award for public engagement. Her most recent feature, Seven Songs for a Long Life (2015), a passionate and touching film about uncertainty, about the future that faces all of us, has been shown on BBC Scotland and screened at festivals around the world, including SxSW. | View staff profile >
  • Sonja Henrici, MA tutor; Co-Director of Scottish Documentary Institute; Producer. Sonja’s most recent film is Seven Songs for a Long Life, 2015 | View staff profile >
  • Ali Murray, Sound tutor; Sound designer. Ali Murray is a sound designer who makes, records, mixes and generally plays with sound. He also writes and records music and works as a drummer. Ali provides sound post-production for film and animation, including sound design, ADR, Foley, editing and mixing. The most recent film Ali has provided the post production sound for, Mark Cousins’ STOCKHOLM MY LOVE starring Neneh Cherry, has been picked up by Fortissimo Films. Ali has an MSc in Sound Design from Edinburgh University and teaches at Edinburgh College of Art and New College Lanarkshire.


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Scholarships & bursaries

Scholarships available for one academic year of postgraduate study at Edinburgh College of Art. (£5,000)

Open to British citizens undertaking MA/MFA Film Directing or MSc Composition for Screen at ECA. Scholarship of up to £12,000 towards tuition fees, BAFTA mentoring support and free access to BAFTA events around the UK.

News & events


Photo of Wayne Mazadza
Wayne's film is in pre-production and is currently untitled.
Photo: Egle Blue, Cinnamon Sky Photography

Wayne Mazadza secured the funding from South London Shorts after several competitive pitch stages.

Still from "Mouth of Hell".png

Still from "Mouth of Hell"
Still from "Mouth of Hell"

Samir Mehanović has received the nomination for "Mouth of Hell", which he directed and co-wrote.


Anna Wyatt, Administrative Assistant