Course Title: Write documentary scripts

Part B: Course Detail

Teaching Period: Term1 2015

Course Code: COMM7322

Course Title: Write documentary scripts

School: 345T Media and Communication

Campus: City Campus

Program: C6125 - Advanced Diploma of Professional Screenwriting

Course Contact : Program Administration

Course Contact Phone: +61 3 9925 4815

Course Contact

Name and Contact Details of All Other Relevant Staff

Teacher: Mr Brian McKenzie 

Nominal Hours: 140

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

Required Prior Study

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:

ASWDOC609A Write documentary scripts


1. Develop concept

Performance Criteria:

1.1 A strong, original concept is established for the proposed documentary
1.2 Appropriate market is determined
1.3 Necessary research is undertaken
1.4 Intellectual property and other relevant legal issues are clarified and resolved


2. Develop treatment

Performance Criteria:

2.1 A treatment which clearly conveys an original and engaging story is developed to industry standards
2.2 A synopsis which captures the story, the purpose and originality of the project and its potential market is developed
2.3 Major themes of the proposed documentary are clarified
2.4 Format is used innovatively and creatively
2.5 Potential markets are further clarified
2.6 Developmental stages for project are clearly detailed
2.7 Pitch is presented in accepted industry format and with appropriate use of industry terminology
2.8 Visual teasers or pitch tapes are developed where needed to enhance proposal


3. Seek funding

Performance Criteria:

3.1 A finance and marketing strategy is developed including contingencies and risk management plan
3.2 Creative partnerships are clearly identified
3.3 Appropriate investment opportunities are identified
3.4 Funding applications are written to agency requirements
3.5 Potential distributors are identified


4. Write a pre-shoot script

Performance Criteria:

4.1 Locations and viable shooting sequence are determined
4.2 Permissions are obtained
4.3 Visuals are delineated using appropriate terminology
4.4 Appropriate sound is determined
4.5 Draft narration is developed


5. Develop post-shoot materials

Performance Criteria:

5.1 Footage is filmed and story reworked
5.2 Interviews are edited to enhance story
5.3 Additional footage requirements are determined
5.4 Footage is edited to meet requirements of reworked story
5.5 Linking narration and sound elements are refined to enhance the story
5.6 Work is undertaken effectively with the creative team

Learning Outcomes

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

Details of Learning Activities

 1. In-class activities:

  • workshops on camera, audio and editing techniques
  • workshops on interviewing skills
  • lectures
  • practical demonstration
  • industry speakers
  • teacher directed group activities/projects
  • peer teaching and class presentations
  • group discussion
  • class exercises to review discussions/lectures

2. Out-of-class activities:

  • independent project based work
  • online and other research

Teaching Schedule

Sem 1. Week    

Class  Content                                                                                                


Course introduction. Production base mixed with presentation of historically significant documentaries, regarding technique and subject matter.


The Pitch. Lumiere Brothers and first documentaries.

3 The Pitch. Lumiere Brothers and first documentaries.  Assessment 1 due
4 Style and content - comparative analysis.

Writing the documentary - the Murakami exercise.

6 Basic Camera controls exercise. Nanook of the North.



The Interview.


 Interview exercise. Radio microphones.

  Please note: there will be no classes from Friday 3 April through to Friday 10 April inclusive.  

The diary or personal journey documentary.


Presentations of draft proposals. The Night Mail.


Camera workshop – composition and visual language.


Elements of story telling. Proposals due. 

 Assessment 2 due

Relations between filmmaker and subject.

14 Final cut pro. Tutorial 1.  
15 Atmosphere and Music. 


16 Individual consultations. Gimme Shelter.


  Semester Break - There will be no classes from Monday June 8 through to Friday 3 July inclusive  
Sem 2 Week Class Content Assessment
1 Legal and copyright issues in documentary filmmaking.  

Legal and copyright issues cont.

3 Final cut pro tutorial 2  
4 Finance and Marketing. Films on war.   
5 Finance and Marketing. Films on war.  
6 Editing and narration  
7 Bread and butter documentaries  
8 Rough cut presentations Assessment 3 due
9 Thesis and campaign documentaries.
10 Documentary meets drama.  
11 Documentary meets drama.  
  Mid Semester Break - There are no classes between Monday 21 September and Friday 2 October inclusive.  
12 Favourite documentaries  
13 Fine cuts  
14 Individual consultation as required  
15 Final presentations  Assessment 4 due
  Please note there is no class on Tuesday 3 November  

Learning Resources

Prescribed Texts


Additional references are provided throughout the course. In addition to hard copy handouts, some material is made available on Blackboard, or can be accessed via the web. Recommended books will be discussed in class. You are advised to visit Blackboard for ongoing updated information

Other Resources

 A limited number of cameras will be available for student use in class and outside RMIT for filming.

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, practical exercises and your documentary project.

Assessment Tasks

To demonstrate competency in this course you will need to complete the following assessment to a satisfactory standard. You will receive feedback on all assessment (refer to Blackboard for assessment criteria).

There are four assessments for this course.

Semester 1:
1. The Pitch
Verbal presentation and  written submission of 1000 words that addresses the proposed documentary’s theme, topic and approach.
Due Week 3, Tuesday 24 February

2. The Proposal
Written submission of 1500 words. This will be a more detailed documentary proposal that includes research materials, background, permissions, production schedule, brief synopsis, outline and style notes.
Due Week 12, Tuesday 5 May

Semester 2:
3. Rough Cut
You will present a rough cut of your documentary for assessment by your teacher in class.
Due Week 8, Tuesday 25 August

4. Project presentation
Your completed documentary will be screened. You will speak to the documentary and address its market potential, as well as assessing its strengths and weaknesses and considering how you will develop your next documentary project differently.
Due Week 15, Tuesday 27 October

Once you have demonstrated competency, your final assessment task will be graded (refer to Blackboard for grading rubric).

HD Competent with High Distinction
CDI Competent with Distinction
CC Competent with Credit
CAG Competency Achieved - Graded
NYC Not Yet Competent
DNS Did Not Submit for Assessment

For further information on the assessment and grading criteria, please refer to the course blackboard site.

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

Please refer to the RMIT student page for extensive information about study support, assessment, extensions, appeals and a range of other matters:


The major learning experience involves studio based exercises, demonstration and production. It is strongly advised that students attend all sessions in order to engage in the required learning activities, ensuring the maximum opportunity to gain the competency. Non-attendance may seriously jeopardise the chances of success in a course. Clearly, non-attendance at an assessment will result in failure of that assessment. Where visa conditions apply, attendance is compulsory.

Cover Sheet for Submissions

You must complete a submission cover sheet for every piece of submitted work. This signed sheet acknowledges that you are aware of the plagiarism implications.

Credit Transfer and Recognition of Prior Learning (web link)

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is a process through which people can gain entry to, or credit in, recognised courses based on competencies gained. The competencies may have been gained through experience in the workplace, in voluntary work, in social or domestic activities or through informal or formal training or other life experiences. Recognition of Current Competency (RCC) applies if a student has previously successfully completed the requirements of a unit of competency or module and is now required to be reassessed to ensure that the competency has been maintained.

Assessment and Feedback (web link)

You will receive verbal feedback during scheduled class times, and written feedback from teachers on your work . Where appropriate, this feedback will also include suggestions on how you can proceed to the next stage of developing your projects.

Student Progress (web link)

Monitoring academic progress is an important enabling and proactive strategy to assist you to achieve your learning potential.

Special consideration for Late Submission (web link)

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. You can apply in writing for up to a week’s extension from your course teacher. If you need a longer extension, you will need to apply for special consideration.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism (web link)

RMIT University has a strict policy on plagiarism and academic integrity. Please refer to the website for more information on this policy go to Academic Integrity

Course Overview: Access Course Overview