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A student set up pieces of filming equipment including a large microphone, wearing headphones Photo: Theodor Solin


Film Directing - MA



1 year


This programme takes a project-led, practice-based approach to studying for an MA 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 and support from our team of documentary practitioners. Many of our students already work in the industry but come with the desire to re- invigorate their approach to documentary. 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. 

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

  • challenge boundaries, encourage original thought, and develop intellectual and critical approaches to making documentary 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 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. 

Semester one is organised round a series of set exercises in the form of micro-films which lead to a growing awareness of film language and enhancement of technical skills to creatively support filmic vision. Cinematography, editing and sound workshops are delivered throughout the first semester, using whatever technology is possible. 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. 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 more edit tutorials as well as project support from regular meetings with a tutor. Students also receive seminars in practical aspects of the production process. During this semester, we continue with seminars and screenings . 

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. 

Students also partake in the Design and Screen Cultures course which provides a theoretical context at PG level. See below. 

Design and Screen Cultures provide a range of courses, at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, that serve to situate design and screen practices within contemporary critical debates as well as explore the complex socio-cultural, environmental and political contexts in which these creative practices are produced and used. Central to the department’s ethos is the idea that cultural practices not only reflect the society in which they are produced but also shape the way we think about and interact with the world. Our courses provide intellectual frameworks that enable students in the School of Design to think about their own practices in critically informed ways as well as introduce Design students and those from the wider University to the key themes and discourses within the fields of design and screen cultures. The department promotes an interdisciplinary approach to the analysis of the subject and members of the team come from a range of disciplinary backgrounds including design history and theory, cultural geography, anthropology, film theory and criticism and animation studies. 

Postgraduate students are offered a choice of courses in semester 1, from which they should choose one option. In Semester 2 all MA students take the Disseminating Design Practices course, which is described below. 

Disseminating Design Practices Course: DESI11099

This course is designed to help you develop the practical and theoretical skills to disseminate your practice both within the studio environment and beyond. It focuses on the relationship between the production, distribution, consumption, mediation and exposition of your practice. By addressing the role of dissemination the course will also enable you to critically examine the wider cultural contexts that inform your practice. In doing so you will explore modes of writing and communicating ideas about your own practice, as well as the work of other practitioners in your field and beyond. Further to this the course also considers a range of exposition modes, such as curating, through which your practice can be disseminated.


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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.

Why you should choose this programme


You will find your own voice as a documentary filmmaker, inspired and challenged by award-winning international film making practitioners.


The work our students create is highly acclaimed; recently this has included an Oscar nomination and short listing along with regular BAFTAs and RTS awards.


You will be part of a film community with a wide group of international students, who are all equally passionate about filmmaking.


You will be taught by practicing filmmakers on one of the few film practice programmes in the UK to be awarded the ScreenSkills Tick industry accreditation.


There will be opportunities to intersect with international film festivals including Edinburgh Film Festival, Take One Action, Glasgow Film Festival, Ibero Docs and Africa-in-Motion.

How to apply and entry requirements

If you'd like to study on a postgraduate programme at Edinburgh College of Art, you must apply through EUCLID, our online application system. You can find out how to do this on the University of Edinburgh website, where you'll also be able to:

  • see detailed entrance requirements for each programme on the Degree Finder
  • get information on what to expect after you apply
  • find out about study modes, start dates and fees
  • find out if, and how, you need to submit a portfolio, showreel or research proposal
  • find out where to go for further advice and guidance.

Get in touch

Edinburgh College of Art Postgraduate Admissions
+44 (0)131 650 4086

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