The Derek Jarman Lab is the media hub at Birkbeck offering filmmaking training, support and facilities to its postgraduate students. The practical skills we teach are complemented by media theory insights and multidisciplinary collaboration. The Lab is also active in organizing events, producing films and encouraging moving image research.

The Derek Jarman Lab is part of the Birkbeck Institute and is chaired by Colin MacCabe. We are also supported by the University of Pittsburgh.

Our first feature-length documentary, The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger, premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2016. Go to seasonsinquincy.com for details.



The Seasons in Quincy

The Seasons in Quincy is the result of a five-year project by Tilda Swinton, Colin MacCabe and Christopher Roth to produce a portrait of the intellectual and storyteller John Berger. It was produced by the Derek Jarman Lab in collaboration with the composer Simon Fisher Turner. It premiered at Berlin International Film Festival in February 2016. See seasonsinquincy.com for details.


Six years ago the students of the London Consortium, a graduate programme in the humanities and cultural studies, acquired cameras and editing equipment. Their first step was to start a small co-operative business renting themselves out to arts institutions to record and edit conferences. This business grew out of its training programme which is now very polished. In 2013 Birkbeck decided to continue the experiment for three years as the Derek Jarman Lab.

The first aim of the Lab is to provide postgraduate students in the humanities with the basic skills of audiovisual production. There is , however, a second and much more ambitious aim, which is to get the students thinking with sound and image as they make essay films.  The name comes from the film-maker and painter Derek Jarman (1942-1994) who was an endless experimenter in film and whose Super-8 films from the seventies are part of the inspiration for the Lab.


We make essay films, and we support postgraduate students and researchers wishing to explore this genre of filmmaking.  We encourage productions that creatively take research into the medium of moving image, films which ‘think in images.’  In recent years postgraduate students have created films on subjects ranging from from deadpan aesthetics to archiving memory to transplant surgery. In association with the Royal Academy of Arts we have produced a series of films which contextualize the architecture of Nicholas Hawskmoor by offering contemporary perspectives on his work by Iain Sinclair, Ptolemeny Dean and Philip Pullman. We also have a series of ‘experiments’, annual programmes of seminars and workshops exploring film approaches to contemporary cross-disciplinary topics, for example the concept of embodied mind. This year in collaboration with the School of Arts we are developing The Mediated City, a film project which explores West End London as a lens into the appearance of media in city life and its environments.


Moving Images in Academia 

This one-day seminar and practical workshop is offered to each School in Birkbeck. It introduces the various uses of the moving image within the research areas of science, law, business, social sciences, history and philosophy. The course includes an analysis of the audiovisual works that successfully explore academic topics, a session on creating impact through audiovisual media, a presentation about planning and budgeting, and a demonstration of essential camera and editing techniques. As a practical exercise, participants will shoot a pitch video about their research subject.

Essay Film Course
An intensive 4-day course in all aspects of audiovisual production related to essayistic and research-led filmmaking. Students work in small groups and learn how to use widely available DSLR cameras and popular editing software to create professional looking and intellectually engaging videos. At the end of the course they complete a short training film. This gives them an opportunity to put their new skills to use immediately and experiment with the form of the essay film in a stimulating environment and with the support of the Lab’s team. Key elements of the course are: introduction to film theory, session on making an impact with research, tips on production management, hands-on skills in lighting set-ups, recording sound, and using cameras (Canon DSLRs and Blackmagic Cinema Camera), a supervised location shoot, editing theory and editing on Final Cut X.

Our courses are designed to cater for a variety of levels of experience and to consider the different ways in which moving images can be used. An integral part of the training is discussing students’ research interests and how to make the best use of film in an academic context. We explore the conventions of documentary filmmaking but also talk about its alternatives, such as the essay film. The focus of this course is on films which combine an artistic form with an argumentative structure. We also engage with the concepts of visual methods of disseminating and conducting research in the humanities and social sciences.

Students who have completed the training will be able to borrow equipment and use our editing suite free of charge, and they will get opportunities to practise their skills on paid Lab commissions.

If you are a Birkbeck postgraduate student and you would like to participate in the training, please get in touch.

New Media and Research Dissemination

In a two-hour session we discuss ways of harnessing the potential of social media and the digital economy in reaching out to other researchers in the academic field and to the general public. We draw from our own experience while illustrating the media theory findings with numerous study cases.

‘How To’ Weekend Courses

In partnership with the How To Academy we offer a variety of courses in filmmaking aimed at the general public. For more details go here.


Our patrons: Keith Collins, Isaac Julien and Tilda Swinton

Bartek Dziadosz

Bartek Dziadosz is the Director at the Derek Jarman Lab. He studied Law in Cracow and Contemporary Media Practice at the Westminster Film School. He made a successful career as a cinematographer and editor before devoting most of his time to the Lab. Bartek has just finished his doctoral research on editing. He was cinematographer on Spring, A Song for Politics and Harvest in The Seasons in Quincy sequence. He also directed A Song for Politics and edited Harvest. His own documentary on the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, The Trouble with Being Human These Days, has screened around the world.

Lily Ford

Lily Ford is Deputy Director at the Derek Jarman Lab. She produced the feature-length documentary The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger for the Lab and continues to work on films and research there. She completed her PhD on aerial views and the culture of flight in 1920s Britain in 2015, then worked as Researcher in Residence at the Ben Uri Art Gallery and Museum, and Cultural Engagement Fellow at Birkbeck. Her illustrated cultural history of flight, Taking to the Air, will be published by the British Library in 2018 and she is currently working on a film essay about women in aviation factories in the 1910s and 1920s.

Colin MacCabe

Colin MacCabe chairs the Derek Jarman Lab. From 1985 to 2008 he produced features, documentaries and installations for directors as varied as Terence Davies, Derek Jarman, Isaac Julien, Chris Marker. From 2008 he has devoted himself to research led filmmaking establishing with Bartek Dziadosz, Lily Ford and Sarah Joshi the Derek Jarman Lab in 2012. For the Lab he has produced all the films for The Seasons in Quincy and directed Ways of Listening and A Song for Politics. He is also a critic and his next book is Perpetual Carnival: Essays on Film and Literature which will be published next year by OUP.

Eddie Bolger

Eddie is Managing Producer at the Derek Jarman Lab. Beyond his role developing and producing projects at the Lab, Eddie is a freelance filmmaker who spent a number of years working in fiction film production after completing is MRes at the London Consortium in 2012. His recent short film GUTS is currently showing on the festival circuit.

Bea Moyes

Bea is a researcher and filmmaker. Following her Masters in Research at the London Consortium in 2013, Bea has developed her own research on the cultural and material history of East London, as well as her work as a filmmaker. Bea worked as assistant producer on The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger for the Derek Jarman Lab, and is a producer for Smart Docs Limited. She has also developed independent projects, filming with conservation researchers in the Peruvian Amazon in 2015, and with midwives working in Paris in January 2016.

Rebecca Wright

Rebecca Wright recently completed her doctoral research on representations of energy in early twentieth-century American thought at the London Consortium. Between 2014-2015 she was a Research Fellow on the AHRC collaborative project ‘Material Cultures of Energy’ at Birkbeck College and a British Research Council Fellow at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. She is currently a short-term Dibner Fellow in the History of Science and Technology at the Huntington Library in California, where she is working on the aesthetic management of energy systems in Southern California.

Walter Stabb

Walter Stabb is the Head of Post-production. Walter has worked as an Editor, Assistant Editor and Assistant Producer on documentary projects screened by BBC:Storyville, BBC:Arena, HBO America and at festivals internationally. Since completing the London Consortium MRES programme, where he explored the relationship between documentary film, trauma and animation, Walter has had the pleasure of leading practical workshops for students on editing and overseen the post-production of The Seasons in Quincy.

Robyn Jakeman

Robyn Jakeman is a producer at the Lab and a PhD student in the English Department at Birkbeck. She completed an MA in English literature at the University of Leeds in 2012 and is currently working on her doctoral research on Italian Futurism and its role in the development of British literary modernism. Robyn is developing new sales and exhibition projects for the Lab.

Francis Gooding

Francis Gooding is the Head of Research at the Derek Jarman Lab. He is a writer and researcher. He writes on art, music and film, amongst other things. He worked as a researcher and author on the Colonial Film: Images of the British Empire project (colonialfilm.org.uk). He is a contributing editor to Critical Quarterly, and is the author of Black Light: Myth and Meaning in Modern Painting (2009).