Here are more questions and answers regarding your time at a DSA Studio.

Do I need to buy any software?

Absolutely not.

The Digital Storytellers Academy have a policy that we do not teach any skills in our classes (other than modules specifically dedicated to a commercial topic) which requires a student to buy software in order to continue their practice outside the Academy.

We always advocate the use of software that is either free, free to use for educational purposes and by students, or is open source and accessible via one of the common free-to-use licenses such as the GPL.

As an example but not exclusively, we use the following software to teach digital skills:

Blender Used to teach both 2D and 3D graphics, create digital sets and created animated films. Increasingly used in industry. Comparable to Maya, Lightwave etc.
Krita Used to teach both 2D graphics and textures for 3D use. Comparable to Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter.
Davinci Resolve & Fusion A high end, free to use professional video editor and FX package produced by BlackMagic Design which is also available at a high-end commercial level (not used by DSA). Used as standard in the film industry, comparable to Adobe Premier and After Effects
Godot A game engine comparable to Unity and seeing increasing use in the production of commercial games. DSA utilise the Godot Script component for programming, heavily based upon the Python scripting language and therefore supporting the current go-to teaching language used in UK education.
Trelby Trebly is a free, cross-platform script writing program. While many word processors can be used to write scripts, dedicated Scriptwriting applications provide many additional formatting and development features that aid in getting your project off the group.
Do I need a camera or a computer?

Absolutely not.

In fact, if you do not have one, we would recommend that you do not even think of buying a camera until you have gone through elements of the course.

Different cameras are good for different things - DSLRs and Video Camera are different beasts, even if some of their features cross-over - and depending upon what you want to make, and what your intended audience is you may have many choices or not many choices at all.

The Digital Storytellers Academy provide all cameras that you might need to study each of our modules, at the various levels that you may take them. You do not need to own any camera or computer equipment to take any course provided by DSA.

What non-camera filmmaking skills are taught?

While many students choose to focus on filmmaking as the use of a camera, there are many skills associated with filmmaking - many of which end up being more attractive than being behind the camera.

 Some skills required for filmmakers, and which are taught at the Academy include:


Without a doubt, the most important feature of capturing a good image in the camera, both in terms of quality and emotional meaning to the production, is the application of light to the set or location that you are filming. Our lighting classes will ensure that students know all of the basics of lighting, how it works and how a lighting setup is designed.

Sound Engineer

If you speak to a sound engineer, they may tell you that 50% of a good film is the sound. That is actually an exaggeration, but it is certainly getting there - bad sound instantly detracts from the film itself and viewers feel that they are watching a bad film because of one bad feature. The sound engineer modules will make sure that you know what a sound engineer does, how to use typical equipment and ensure that you get good sound for your production.

Set / Location Management

Any good production - either in film and tv or on the stage, or other non-creative event - only works when being correctly controlled by a responsible management team. Our set management modules will ensure that you know how to control a set or location shoot, health and safety, and what to do in the event of problems. A Set and Location Manager has never been so important since the Coronavirus pandemic, and shoots are only restarting because of good set and location management rules in place!


Hitchcock once said, "To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script, and the script.

It is very easy to make a bad film from a great script, but it is nigh on impossible to make a good film from a bad script. In our Screenwriting modules, we'll go through the ways in which you can develop your story, write a script that is appropriate to the media and genre you are trying to develop, and what you do and do not put into the pages.


Ultimately, it is the Director's vision that we will see on screen even though it will be influenced, modified and have the personal styles of many people imprinted on it before it is finished. It is the directors job to take the script and oversee its transition onto the screen, directing their will on the design, cinematography and acting performed in front of the camera. In the Directing modules, we will show you what a director really does, and how to try to be a good one!


There has always been a false impression by the public that the Director is the top of the tree in regards to film production, but this is not true. Ultimately, the Producer is at the top of the management, is responsible for bringing together all of the elements to get the film made, and even hires the Director to do the job - the Director can be fired from the team, in just the same way as any employee. In our Production modules, we will look at what a Producer should be doing, and what he should not - it is always tempting to overstep the creative boundaries.


What cameras are used?

The cameras used by the Academy vary in both quality, complexity and number based upon what module is being taught at any moment in time.

The most basic cameras in use at the Academy are Sony HD Handycams, which are simple to use without a great deal of training, and allow students to jump straight into the basics of the Foundation Module and start to produce material. In the foundation modules, these cameras are issued to students in pairs so that many student teams can explore their film making simultaneously.

At the highest end of the skills tree are our Blackmagic Digital Film Cameras, which are used to teach high end cinematography using 'digital film' and are up to 6K resolution. These cameras are extremely high colour quality and are used in the film making industry to create theatrically released motion pictures. While everybody is eventually taught to certify to use these cameras, in production one of these cameras is used by a single group as a whole (up to 10 students) as their greatest worth is in use in a formal production setting of a quality project.

In between, students will experience a range of other cameras in modules teaching the use of their own smartphone cameras, DSLR film making, and the use of lower-end professional video cameras such as the Canon XC range, in the Canon Cinema-EOS digital cinema family. If students possess their own cameras, such as DSLR photography cameras capable of video recording, these can be brought to the class to explore film making using their own equipment*

Note that the cameras in use may vary according to Studio and Modules being taught.


*Note: No equipment is required to be purchased or brought to classes by students, and all equipment necessary for a particular module is provided by the Academy. Equipment and/or belongings brought to class, of any type or value, is done so at the student's own risk and the Digital Storytellers Academy will not be held responsible for loss or damage during Academy use.

What programming language do you teach?
Digital Storytellers Academy teach games development using the Godot game engine (pronounced god-oh, like the play "Waiting for Godot", on which the name is based).
While we use Godot's internal scripting language, this is heavily based upon the generic development language Python - the mainstay of programming tuition in UK schools at this current time. Godot therefore enables especially Youth Crew students to learn or practice their programming skills while aiming for the goal of developing a playable game.
How do you encourage the learning filmmaking skills?

All students at the Digital Storytellers Academy are assisted in choosing a goal when they first join.

We talk through this goal and document some details, as well as pointing out what is achievable (though we do leave some dreams in place!), but we do not 'lock it down' so that it is fixed and will never change.

With this goal in mind - which tends to be the production of a particular type of film project, or a series of projects, which interests them in a particular genre, students have a series of steps that they know that they must take to get to the stage where they can produce their target film.

If several students have similar goals, we encourage team working to make their goals more easily achievable.

Is producing something professional really achievable at a club?


It has always been the case that if a film maker wants to achieve something, there is always a way that can be found.

Saying that however, now is the best time that has ever existed to make films - digital equipment and software based resources are available in the Academy to produce professional films that in decades past cost millions of pounds to buy and use. What is nearly always lacking are the skills required to make best use of them - and that is where the Academy teaching comes in.

Do you teach acting?

Yes, but only in the context of screen acting.

There are a great many similarities between acting for the stage and acting for the screen, but there are just as many differences. They are very different beasts, at the heart of which is how the audience views the part being played and what the actor has to do to enhance that viewing.

While students may have a distinct interest in learning to act for the screen, we also encourage all students who want to be behind the camera to participate as well - understanding how and why an actor does their job greatly aids in the crew's ability to create.

Besides, a student may even like it and find they are good at it!

What is 'Guerilla Filmmaking', and why do you prohibit it?

There are some excellent books titled 'guerilla filmmaking' which if you are serious about becoming a filmmaker are a very good addition to your collection.

Much of the excellence of these books however, come from the fact that they discuss very cheap ways of getting your dream onto the screen, the ability to cut corners and rely on yourselves rather than studios with large amounts of resources. All of this is what elsewhere is often termed 'indie filmmaking' or 'low to no budget filmmaking'. So what is the problem?

The problem is that the term 'guerilla filmmaking' (specifically) has often additionally been connected with cutting corners in such a way that it is to other peoples detriment, or even breaking some laws - such as climbing over fences into private property and filming where a filmmaker is specifically banned from being (though we are quite sure that the original use of the term never included such things).

This type of filmmaking is bending or even breaking common laws and while this is really only a risk for the filmmakers doing it, it does set a nasty precedent for other filmmakers later who may need to interact with the offended parties.

We believe that all filmmakers should not only obey the law while filming, but also ensure that they film in a courteous manner and ensure that all legal documentation and permits (even such things as getting releases from filmed locations) is in place, so that filmmakers who come later are never disadvantaged by the earlier visit of rogue operators.

Guerilla Filmmaking of this kind may see offending students having their membership terminated.

Why is it better to pay monthly or yearly, and by direct debit?

Setting up and running a Studio in the Digital Storytellers Academy is very different from a typical dance or performing arts school. As well as the ongoing costs of staff and accommodation as you would expect in all clubs of a creative nature, a DSA Studio requires equipment which is far from cheap - a single basic camera for use in just one of the Academy Studios may cost several thousands of pounds, before we even start to think of other incidental equipment, computer equipment, insurance and specialist cameras to teacher higher modules - all of which can multiply the cost many times.

So that we can ensure that sufficient equipment is available, and of the required quality to both run a class and perform extracurricular activities such as location shoots and film projects, the Studio Manager of any of the Academy Studios needs to have a very good idea of the student numbers that will be regularly coming through the door. Essentially, as with all businesses that have income and outgoings, it is all about the ability to plan - something that as a student, you will learn a lot about in regards to planning your productions.

By paying your fees by Monthly Direct Debit (which currently equates to only £7.50 per hour for a youth, unemployed or retired student, ex. VAT), we are able to plan exactly what is needed. By paying fees as a Yearly* fee, that enables us to plan even better and in return we are able to reduce the annual fee by 10%.


The term Yearly fee here refers to the DSA prepaid 40 week bundle (again, based upon open Academy days, not sessions attended). This 40 week bundle equates (in most cases) to the number of academic weeks taught in schools in England and Wales during a calendar year. Renewal dates which do not fit into any specific calendar year due to legislated opening time changes (i.e. local or central government dictated) will simply see the renewal date modified by the excess / deficit number of weeks.

Why do you charge VAT on education? Isn't education tax free?

We would love that to be the case again, but it has not been true for many years.

Our founders are all dedicated educators who have also spent a great deal of time in various industries and aim to pass on their knowledge and experiences. It is their view that education should be the right of all, without penalty. It would therefore be a dream to educate our students free of tax, but unfortunately in the UK all education and training is subject to VAT unless it is in being undertaken by a non-charging body or a sole-tutor.

The only education in the UK which is exempt from VAT therefore, is (in general terms) that which is part of the compulsory or state education system, or private tuition which is undertaken by a sole-tutor (even when a sole-tutor takes on an assistant, VAT exempt status is lost for anything taught by the assistant).