Study options

Master's Programme in Film and Television - Documentary Film

The goal of the major in Documentary Film is to form innovative, critical, and analytical documentary filmmakers for both the national and international arenas. The students will gain a comprehensive understanding of the history and conventions documentary filmmaking. Moreover, the program will encourage students to engage future perspectives of documentary filmmaking as a storytelling, art and research form.

Students will be able to develop their artistic and research skills through creative enquiry, practice and collaboration. They will be able to combine practical mastery and conceptual thinking, increasing their professional competence and situating them at the forefront of the documentary filmmaking field.
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Degree:

Master of Arts (Art and Design)

Application period:

1.12.2021 – 3.1.2022

Language of instruction:

Finnish
English
Swedish

Duration:

2 years, full-time

Eligibility:

Relevant Bachelor's degree

Field of study:

Art and Design

Credits:

120 ECTS

Organising school:

School of Arts, Design and Architecture

Tuition fees:

For non-EU/EEA citizens, €15000/y (Master’s studies)
Applying to master’s programmes

Description

Developers of the field. The goal of the major in Documentary Film is to train visionary documentary film directors and creative professionals who will contribute to the development of the field and its possibilities. Our MA students achieve excellence in professional practice, a deeper engagement with scholarly research, and groundbreaking research methodologies through artistic practice.

Theory and Practice.  In our major, students will deepen their powers of observation, storytelling, and artistic expression. They will develop their own style as documentary film directors through workshop courses and filmmaking exercises. Students will also gain a comprehensive understanding of scholarly and artistic research in documentary film. They will experiment with contemporary expressions in the genre and engage with the history, theory and ethics of documentary film. The possibility of directing a MA diploma film provides an important framework for students to enhance their professional skills and take part in developing documentary conventions.

Multiple viewpoints. The Documentary Film major invites numerous visiting lectures and artists, both from Finland and abroad, who offer multiple viewpoints to our students and enrich their learning experiences. Students have frequent interactions with film professionals, artists and companies throughout their studies, which help them to build knowledge of the film landscape and networks, both nationally and internationally. Through their filmmaking exercises, students develop their collaboration skills and their capacities to work in teams.

Students have also the possibility of producing graduation films with established production companies as well as getting mentorship from industry professionals. These meaningful interactions with professionals prepare our students for entering the professional field after, and even during, their studies.

Language of instruction

The language of instruction in Documentary Film is English. Occasionally, part of the courses might be taught in Finnish. The degree can be completed in English.

Education content

Developing and directing the diploma film and the related written dissertation work are the essential outcomes of the master’s programme studies. Courses and studies in Documentary Film support these creative and research processes.

The teaching in Documentary Film consists of film workshops and lecture modules built around different varying themes. In the film workshops, students will further develop their skills to observe and interpret reality and their willingness to experiment with the documentary mode. Lectures modules will help the students to enhance their critical thinking and their knowledge of documentary film traditions.

Amongst others, students can take advanced courses in different genres, styles and approaches to documentary film, documentary history, theory and ethics, and new forms and formats of contemporary documentary. Film analysis, reflecting on the conditions of one’s own medium, and writing and thinking about documentary are the activities that support practical exercises. Knowledge of experimental and fiction film, ethnographic film, performative documentary, essay film, and interdisciplinary engagements are also a vital part of our program.

Studies in the master's programme include departments joint courses (30 ECTS) which are obligatory. These courses deal with entrepreneurial and working life skills, analytical skills, and provide research skills.

For further details on the education content, see the study guide for 2020-2022.

Career opportunities

The students graduate as independent film directors who have the opportunity to work as filmmakers, teachers, critics and event organisers. They will be able to shape the future of the field while working in film production, film organisations, festivals, and in the broader field of culture. 

In particular, master’s degree studies are a requirement for working in teaching positions. Students who graduate with a master’s degree in Documentary Film are at the forefront of the field in our country and have an important influence as instructors or when working in other sectors. The works produced by graduates of Documentary Film are highly visible at various international festivals.

A graduate with a major in Documentary Film is able to:

  • Work as independent documentary film directors and be employed in applied tasks in the documentary film profession (such as festivals, financing, distribution, production, production of commissioned films, etc.)
  • Achieve major abilities to identify her/his style as a director as well to question and develop practices and traditions in the field.
  • Work on a variety of platforms and environments (theatrical documentary, documentary series, interactive documentary, educational and commissioned films, journalistic, science and institutional documentary, etc.)
  • Work as documentary film teachers and instructors. 
  • Apply for further film studies. 

Post-graduate opportunities

Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture offers doctoral studies in the fields of architecture, art, design, media, film and scenography. For more information about our research groups visit the following link.

 

Internationalisation

Documentary Film major works to find a healthy balance between the internationalisation of the programme and its duties as the national film school in Finland. Documentary Film has a good level of internationalization through an increasing number of both faculty and students coming from abroad, especially Europe.

The Documentary Film major also introduces internationalization in its curriculum through regular (pedagogy driven) collaboration with several film festivals such as DOCPOINT Helsinki Documentary Film Festival, Tampere International Film Festival, Nordisk Panorama, IDFA and CPH:DOX. Our students regularly visit these national and international film festivals and forums which offer them possibilities for networking and an international environment for developing professional competence.

Documentary Film students have also the possibility of actively benefit from various exchange programmes abroad, including Sweden, Germany, Czech Republic, USA and Japan, amongst others.

Focus areas of research

Performative documentary, narrative documentary, essay film, docufiction, found footage, ethnographic film, community media.

 

Collaboration

Documentary Film coordinates students’ collaboration with film festivals, supports the involvement of students in commissioned film projects and facilitates professional internships, enhancing the possibilities for professional development. Students have the possibility of taking courses from other Aalto Schools. We also collaborate with different art universities (Sibelius Academy, Theatre Academy and UniArts for instance).

Study option-specific Admission Procedure and Evaluation Criteria

Applicants meeting Aalto’s general eligibility criteria for master's studies will be evaluated and ranked according to the evaluation criteria that has been decided in advance for each study option. The applications to Master’s programme in Film and television – Documentary film will be evaluated based on the following criteria.

Phase I 

Artistic and/or design practice

What is evaluated 

Demonstrations of artistic and/or design work or assignments.

The portfolio assesses the creative filmmaking skills of the applicant.

What we look for in an applicant/Admission requirements

 

Applicants who have already made at least one film that has been publicly presented, and thus demonstrated their basic skills as documentary film-makers can be selected for master's degree studies.

Gifted students who want to deepen their understanding of different means of expression, theories and histories of documentary film, explore new possibilities in terms of form, content and approach in documentary filmmaking, and are interested in the combination of theory and practice can be selected for the major.

Method of demonstrating competence 

Portfolio: One or two documentary films that have been publicly screened or broadcast (at a festival or on television), lasting no less than 5 minutes each and submitted as Vimeo link(s).

Please include a description (e.g. a synopsis) of each film, with the one or two descriptions fitting onto a single A4 sheet.

Before sending your application, upload your digital portfolio as a single PDF file into the application system. Include in the portfolio links to the video(s) and ensure that the video file(s) open and play in common Mac or PC programs.

 

Suitability

What is evaluated 

Applicant’s further suitability to the study option, motivation, and commitment for studies/communication skills

Students capacity to articulate the reasons for applying to MA documentary and her/his goals and expectations for the study.

What we look for in an applicant/Admission requirements

 

A letter of motivation (4000 characters maximum) explaining your reasons for applying for this study option. Explain your particular interest(s) in the field as well as your goals and expectations for the studies to be completed at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Give reasons for why you are interested specifically in documentary film.  

Method of demonstrating competence 

Motivation Letter

 

 

Other areas of competence

What is evaluated 

Work experience and other acquired knowledge/achievements e.g. publications, non-formal education, competitions

What we look for in an applicant/Admission requirements 

A CV (single PDF file) with your personal details, education, work experience, completed films, festivals, and any other creative work, awards, grants, study trips or positions of trust.

Before sending the application, upload your CV as a single PDF file into the application system.

Method of demonstrating competence 

Curriculum vitae

The study option does not consider recommendation letters.

 

Phase II 

Suitability

What is evaluated 

Applicant’s further suitability to the study option, motivation, and commitment for studies/communication skills

What we look for in an applicant/Admission requirements

 

In the second stage the evaluation criteria consist of the personal interview of the selected applicant.

Method of demonstrating competence 

Interview

Selected applicants are invited to the Phase II (i.e. personal interview) on the basis of the submitted material in Phase I.

 

Evaluation process

The applicants will be first evaluated based on Aalto’s general eligibility requirements. Applicants meeting the general eligibility criteria for master's studies will be evaluated and ranked according to the evaluation criteria that has been decided in advance for each study option.

Applicants without a previous degree or with a degree from another field are taken into account.

The selection process for those who meet the general eligibility criteria comprises of two phases:

Phase I

In Phase I, the applicants are evaluated based on the following criteria.

  • Artistic and/or design practice
  • Suitability/Motivation Letter
  • Other areas of competence

Only the applicants who fulfill the requirements/are ranked highest in the preliminary evaluation will be invited to phase II in the selection process.

Phase II

In Phase II, the evaluation is based on the following criteria.

  • Suitability/Personal Interview

Selected applicants are invited to the second phase (i.e. personal interview) on the basis of the submitted material for Phase I.

The invitation to the second phase is sent to the applicants at latest seven days in advance.

After the evaluation conducted in Phase II, the best applicants will be selected based on the joint evaluation from Phases I and II.

Study-option-specific documents requested

The documents requested from all applicants are listed on the Aalto University website (https://www.aalto.fi/en/study-at-aalto/applying-to-masters-programmes). In addition, applicants to this study-option are requested to provide the following study-option-specific documents:

Portfolio

Submit one or two documentary films that have been publicly screened or broadcast (at a festival or on television), lasting at least 5 minutes each and submitted as Vimeo link(s).

Please include a description (e.g. a synopsis) of each film, with the one or two descriptions fitting onto a single A4 sheet.

Before sending your application, upload your digital portfolio as a single PDF file into the application system. Include in the portfolio links to the video(s) and ensure that the video file(s) open and play in common Mac or PC programs.

Maximum size for the portfolio is 1.0 GB. Name the file as portfolio-surname-firstname.

Letter of Motivation

A letter of motivation (4000 characters maximum) explaining your reasons for applying for this study option. Explain your particular interest(s) in the field as well as your goals and expectations for the studies to be completed at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Give reasons for why you are interested specifically in documentary film. 

CV

A CV (single PDF file) with your personal details, education, work experience, completed films, festivals, and any other creative work, awards, grants, study trips or positions of trust.

The study option does not consider recommendation letters.

Before sending the application, upload your CV as a single PDF file into the application system.

Language of application documents

The application documents must be submitted in English or Finnish (Swedish).

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The application period is open until 3.1.2022 15:00 (UTC+2)

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