Course Title: Develop factual narratives

Part B: Course Detail

Teaching Period: Term1 2011

Course Code: COMM5931

Course Title: Develop factual narratives

School: 345T Media and Communication

Campus: City Campus

Program: C6088 - Advanced Diploma of Screenwriting

Course Contact : Brendan Lee

Course Contact Phone: +61 3 9925 4368

Course Contact

Name and Contact Details of All Other Relevant Staff

Teacher: Brian McKenzie

Nominal Hours: 70

Regardless of the mode of delivery, represent a guide to the relative teaching time and student effort required to successfully achieve a particular competency/module. This may include not only scheduled classes or workplace visits but also the amount of effort required to undertake, evaluate and complete all assessment requirements, including any non-classroom activities.

Pre-requisites and Co-requisites

Delivery of this course at RMIT requires you to have completed all first year courses.

Course Description

This course involves stimulated and critical engagement with the form of communication known as documentary. It looks at the skills and knowledge required to write the documents and scripts and develop factual narrative - including documentary film or series. It identifies and analyses current types, genres and trends in non fiction documentary screenwriting in establishing a specific project.

National Codes, Titles, Elements and Performance Criteria

National Element Code & Title:

VPAU662 Develop factual narratives


1 Develop concept

Performance Criteria:

A strong, original story is established
Appropriate market is determined
A saleable format is chosen
Necessary research is undertaken
Intellectual property and other relevant legal issues are clarified and resolved.


2 Develop Treatment

Performance Criteria:

A treatment of eight to ten pages in length is developed to industry standards, which clearly conveys an original and engaging story
A one page synopsis is developed which captures the story, the purpose and originality of the project and its potential market.
Major themes of the proposed documentary are clarified
Format is used innovatively and creatively
Potential markets further clarified.
Developmental stages for project clearly detailed
Pitch written in accept industry format and with appropriate use of industry terminology
Visual teasers or pitch tapes developed where needed to enhance proposal


3 Seek Funding

Performance Criteria:

A finance and marketing strategy is developed including contingencies and risk management plan
Creative partnerships are clearly identified
Appropriate investment opportunities identified
Funding applications written to agency requirements
Next draft notes clearly analyse problems and address future development
Potential distributors are identified


4 Write a script

Performance Criteria:

Rework story after footage is filmed
Edit interviews to enhance story
Determine additional footage required
Write linking narration and/or voice overs that enhance the story
Work effectively with creative team

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this course, you will be able to develop a factual narrative into a first draft of documentary film or series.

Details of Learning Activities

In this course you learn through:
1. In-class activities:
industry speakers
teacher directed projects
peer teaching and class presentations
group discussion
class exercises to review discussions/lectures
workshopping of students’ own projects
analysis/critique of writings of students’ work

2. Out-of-class activities:
independent project based work
writing and reading assignments
online and other research
independent study

Teaching Schedule

Teaching Schedule:
There are three components to this course:

From the Lumiere bros to You Tube. We will watch a range of documentaries for an historical overview on the development of approach and to underscore the various aspects of writing and production.
•Historical (The Brooklyn Bridge, Orders From Above)
•Cinema verite (Tosca’s Kiss, Darwin’s Nightmare, To Be and To Have, Chicken Ranch)
•Reality TV. Cooking, lifestyle and other factual formats.
•Personal essay. (The Gleaners and I, by Agnes Varda).
•Agit prop or campaign films (Bowling For Columbine).
•Natural History.
•The diarist. (Video Fool For Love, Sherman’s March)
•Events and concerts. (When we were Kings, Gimme Shelter).
•The documentary poem (Rain by Joris Ivens, Robinsons of Mantsinsaari, Blood of the Beast by Georges Franju)
•The documentary series
•Dramatized documentaries. (The War Game, Culloden by Peter Watkins. Battle For Haditha, Touching the Void).

The components of documentary
The set up, the story arc, the examination of theme and issue. Interview technique. Visual style and format, new trends and hybrids. Atmosphere, light quality and music. Use of archival material.

Who’s on first?
Roles and artistic collaborations for directors, producers, writers, composers, sound recordist etc.
Relationships with those appearing – ethics and protocol.

The professional model
Financing projects. The market place. Working with broadcasters, government agency projects managers, legal departments, local government, and unions. international sales. Clearing Copyright. Contracts.

Project submissions Concept development and treatment writing. The pitch. Seeking support.

Craft skills
The camera, reading light quality, recording sound, interviewing, running an edit program. Using music. Editing.


Written exercises set in class that relate to course work and to documentaries viewed and discussed. They will include pitching presentations, autobiographical narration assignments, and exercises in writing, directing and camera craft. These are designed to be presented and reviewed in class time.

One to one contact weekly regarding each student’s preparation and production of a documentary. To be filmed, edited and presented within the parameters of the one semester documentary course.

Learning Resources

Prescribed Texts

Extracts, readings and additional references are provided throughout the course.


You are advised to look at the course Blackboard site for ongoing updated information.

Other Resources

You will need access to a computer and the internet. Other resources are supplied by the university.

Overview of Assessment

 Assessment for this course is ongoing throughout the semester. Your knowledge and understanding of course content is assessed through participation in class exercises, oral presentations and through the application of learned skills and insights to your writing tasks and practical project.

Assessment Tasks

To demonstrate competency in this course, you will need to complete the following pieces of assessment to a satisfactory standard. You will receive feedback on all assessment.

1. The completion of a personal project.
Project Specifications:
Any length, filmed in any format with any camera or device (eg mobile tel.) according to what is appropriate and available. Must be edited with a sound track at least in part recorded separately to visual scenes. The project is to be presented in class at a nominated session toward end of term. Due June 2 (70%)

2. Written research report
Written research report on subject of your choice – topic to be discussed with teacher Due May 26 (10%)

3. Class exercises (20)%
For further information on the grading system and criteria used, please refer to the course blackboard site.

Grades used in this unit are as follows:

80 – 100% HD High Distinction
70 – 79% DI Distinction
60 – 69% CR Credit
50 – 59% PA Pass
Under 50% NN Fail

Assessment Matrix

The assessment matrix demonstrates alignment of assessment tasks with the relevant Unit of Competency. These are available through the course contact in program administration

Other Information

You will receive spoken and/or written feedback from your teacher on your work. Where appropriate this feedback also includes suggestions on how you can proceed to the next stage of developing your projects.

Late Submissions
Please refer to the course blackboard site for policy information including information on late submissions and plagiarism

RMIT has a strict policy on plagiarism. Please refer to the website for more information on this policy.

Special consideration Policy (Late Submission)
All assessment tasks are required to be completed to a satisfactory level. If you are unable to complete any piece of assessment by the due date, you will need to apply for an extension.
Please refer to the following URL for extensions and special consideration:;ID=qkssnx1c5r0y;STATUS=A;PAGE_AUTHOR=Andrea%20Syers;SECTION=1;

Course Overview: Access Course Overview