Practical Applications Course in Documentary Filmmaking

NYFA’s Practical Applications in Documentary Filmmaking Course is a fourteen-week, evening course that introduces essential principles and techniques in the craft of documentary filmmaking. Students take classes in theory and get hands-on training, completing a range of intensive projects. Throughout the workshop, students develop, direct, shoot, and edit documentaries of various styles.


In this part-time evening workshop, students gain proficiency in the fundamental tools of documentary filmmaking and undertake multiple film projects. After production and postproduction, students screen their work for classmates and instructors, participating in critiques and discussions. Additionally, teacher-supervised production workshops allow students to practice non-fiction storytelling, producing, directing, shooting, and sound recording.

NYFA also offers the possibility to learn filmmaking from anywhere through various online documentary filmmaking workshops.

This course may be taken for credit. To learn more, please see NYFA’s Course Catalog or request information.


This course can be taken either as a stand-alone workshop course or as part of our BFA Entertainment Media degree program. Students who successfully complete it as a stand-alone workshop course can transfer the credits directly into our BFA Entertainment Media degree program if they choose to continue their studies.

Students will direct 3 short nonfiction film projects over the course of the program. They will also crew on their classmates’ projects, rotating roles such as Director of Photography, Sound Recordist, and Assistant Camera/Production Assistant.

Observational Film
The Observational Film focuses on the fundamentals of cinematic storytelling. In this film, you will tell a nonfiction story on a small scale – something with a beginning, middle, and end—using nothing but moving images. Usually, students decide to film a process, but the door is open to other approaches. The film will have no sound and will focus on telling a story using only moving images. Your challenge is to find something that interests

you in the world and to tell its story clearly and engagingly. The first aim is that an audience can understand what is going on; the second is to capture a beginning, middle, and end, and the hope is that it will be interesting or compelling to a viewer.

Interview Film
Here, we concentrate on the character and will use interviews to tell the story. Each director will find someone who needs something and is trying to overcome obstacles to get what he or she needs. The story can be happening now or can have transpired in the past. What kind of interview will best reveal the story that you are trying to tell? What kind of presence do you, the filmmaker, want in your interview? How do we keep our stories visually vibrant and compelling? How do we incorporate what was learned in the first film – creating a beginning, middle, and end, crafting a visual story, allowing action to reveal character – into a character-driven interview film?

Final Film
This is a chance to marry visual and verbal storytelling to make a film that is important to you. You may choose any subject and use film language to tell an engaging story. Over the course of the program, you will identify what subjects you find compelling, consider what you might want to explore and prepare to produce your film. With it, you may want to fashion a calling card or aim for a film festival run.

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This is generally an evening documentary workshop. Classes generally run on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings from 7:00 – 9:40 PM. There are also two Saturdays during the program where students will have daytime classes/production workshops. The full program runs over 14 weeks, which includes ~12 weeks of instruction + 2 weeks off for their Interview and Final Film Shoots (no classes during those shooting periods).


This course requires the following software and equipment:

  • External hard drive (costs $30-$200)
  • Backup external hard drive (strongly recommended)
  • SD Cards
  • AA Batteries


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