Course Title: Develop factual narratives

Part B: Course Detail

Teaching Period: Term1 2012

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:
editing film
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 students’ work

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

Teaching Schedule

There are three components to the course and the teaching schedule will encompass these three components on a weekly basis.

1. Documentary formats.
In this component, students will consider the work of important documentary and social realist program makers. These provide an historical overview and a critical perspective on approach and technique. 
Film screenings will range from the early forms of documentary to the present day. From Vertov’s Man with a Movie camera and Blood of the Beast by Georges Franju to The Gleaners and I, by Agnes Varda and Bowling For Columbine by Michael Moore.

2. Class exercises
Class exercises will focus on the writing aspects and craft components of documentary and factual formats: The set up, the story arc, and the exploration of theme and issue. Interview technique. Visual style, atmosphere and light quality. Camera technique. 

The Industry approach including financing and the market place is also examined, as are creative relationships and the guiding role of the director.

3. Individual projects
This involves developing a concept and writing a treatment, learning presenting and advocacy skills via industry devised pitching formats and exploring a subject in a creative and in-depth fashion.
Students will prepare their projects via individual research, have regular one to one consultations with the teacher and collect the original material for a documentary production.
Roles and responsibilities are considered including artistic collaborations and relationships with those appearing. Ethics, protocol and legal requirements are examined.
Students will learn the basic skills of postproduction including narration writing, the operation of final cut edit program and the fashioning of a story via the editing of selected material.
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Weekly Schedule: Please note that while your teacher will cover all the material in this schedule,
the weekly order is subject to change according to class needs and availability of speakers and resources

WeekContent                                                         AssessmentElements
 1  Writing and preparing the documentary.
The hook. Film openings.
 2 Style and Approach. The Murakami Underground exercise.  1
 3 The Ghoulish Profession. Quest and conflict.  1
 4Interview Techniques.
Basic Camera handling and controls.
 5 The beginning of Documentary – Lumiere, Flaherty, Grierson and Vertov.  1/2
 6 The Diarist / Personal Journey. Agnes Varda and Ross McElwee Assessment 1 due
 7 Agit prop before and after Mike Moore.   2
 8 Camera 2. Exposure and lighting.  2
 9 Docu drama through the years – Broomfield, Watkins, Rouch. The social realists – Bicycle Thieves to the Dardenne Bros.  2
 10 Editing 1. Final cut pro.   4
 11 Joris Ivens, Jean Rouch and the Ethnographic approach.  4
 12 Music and Atmosphere in film.  4
 13 Reality T.V. and high concept factual.  4
 14 Editing 2. Assembly to rough cut to fine cut. The paper edit and story threads.  3
 15 The business. Production finance. Broadcasters and exhibition. Assessment 2 due
 16 Final presentations and reviews.  4

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.

Assessment 1: Written proposal for a documentary (20%)
Your proposal should include synopsis, treatment, pitch, background research, character notes, style notes and permissions. 
Due class 6, March 15

Assessment 2: A completed documentary production (60%)
Your documentary should be delivered on DVD. Its duration can be from 5 to 30 min. This should be an individual project to fine cut stage including sound track.
Due class 15 (May 24, 2012)

Assessment 3: Class exercises  (20%)
Participation in and review and discussion of class exercises

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

Submission of Assessment Tasks
You are required to submit all assessment tasks with a completed School of Media and Communication cover sheet. You are expected to keep a copy of all assignments submitted.

Late Submissions
If you are unable to complete any piece of assessment by the due date, you will need to apply for an extension before that due date..
Please refer to the course blackboard site for information on late submissions and on applying for an extension.

You will receive both spoken and written feedback on your work. Where appropriate, this feedback will also include suggestions on how you can proceed to the next stage of developing your projects.

Academic Integrity
Academic Integrity is about the honest presentation of your academic work. Presenting work that fails to acknowledge other people’s work within yours can compromise academic integrity. For further information on academic integrity and plagiarism, please refer to the following URL.;ID=kkc202lwe1yv

Special Consideration Policy
Please refer to the following URL for information on applying for special consideration:;ID=qkssnx1c5r0y;STATUS=A;PAGE_AUTHOR=Andrea%20Syers;SECTION=1

Course Overview: Access Course Overview