Upskill at home and explore new fields with online short courses

Whether you’re looking for employment opportunities or wanting a taste of new creative pursuits, AFTRS online short courses open doors to the industry.

There are some things that can only be learnt in a physical classroom, or on set with hands-on experience –but that doesn’t mean online learning has had its day. 

As Krista Jordan, Head of Animation, and Head of Short Courses and Industry Certificates at AFTRS explained: ‘There is always a portion of the craft that’s based on practical hands-on skills, but around that is a whole bunch of other truly important learning that helps in the application and context of those practical skills. And it’s those things that can be learnt very well in an online environment.’

Jordan speaks quickly and enthusiastically about the online short courses offered by the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS). 

‘I love what you can do with them,’ she said, telling ScreenHub about the extensive menu of options available. ‘Because of the flexibility you can really fold them into your life, and choose according to your individual circumstances and learning styles, whether you’re a newcomer, or a person in the industry who wants to upskill or cross-skill.’


The current AFTRS short course curriculum encompasses everything from an afternoon seminar on raising finance (Money, Money, Money), to a two-day course on Storyboarding Fundamentals or a five-day intensive on Prop-making and Scenic Art. For those wanting a more intense experience, there’s a three-week Intro to Directing, or a ten-week course on Writing a TV Series. That’s just a small taste of the online short courses, all taught by experts with recent and significant industry experience.

Whether you’re a 16-year-old high school student with a podcast idea, or a 50-year-old veteran wanting to brush up or branch out within the screen industry, there’s something for everyone. You just need a computer and a decent internet connection.

Jordan said the beauty of short courses lies in their flexibility and responsiveness, not just to student needs (including those students with access issues), but to the industry’s evolving requirements for new kinds of skills. 

‘Right now there’s a lot of discussion around virtual production and virtual craft,’ said Jordan, who previously worked at Animal Logic as the Sydne-based company’s Learning and Development Manager, with her film credits including The Matrix, Moulin Rouge and the Academy Award-winning Happy Feet.


‘I spent 25 years working on the virtual side of things,’ Jordan explained. 

‘I’ve worked with R&D teams and amazing artists, huge teams and little teams, and what I’ve learnt from that experience is that when you have to work on the cutting edge of things, you have to come with a sense of responsiveness and agility. That capacity to be responsive is best placed in the short courses team. We can turn things over, try new things, and see if we’re having an impact, in a much faster cycle than we can when it’s an accredited longer course like a Masters or a BA.’

Examples of such responsiveness include new courses being developed at AFTRS specifically in virtual production and real time rendering, and the use of the Unreal Engine, ‘looking at ways cross-pollination can happen between virtual and non virtual crafts,’ said Jordan. 

She is also excited by the evolution of other areas complementary to production, like film and television finance. 

‘We have short courses and industry certificates in production finance that are doing amazingly well, with students coming out of those courses with direct industry experience and contacts. A number of students have gotten jobs before they’ve even finished the course because there’s great demand and, as with many courses, the people teaching them often stay in touch with students who’ve proven their abilities.’


More than other industries, the screen and broadcasting sectors run on social networks – who you know, and who you’ve worked with before. And while it seems surprising that online courses can assist with such networking, Jordan says this is indeed the case. Many students underestimate or under-utilise the social aspects of the classes, she said.

‘There are great opportunities to develop communities and build your network with online short courses. 

‘My big tip for any student is to embrace the fact that you can speak and interact with your fellow students and your teachers. Sometimes shy people silo themselves away and make online classes a kind of darkroom activity, but I would say you need to think laterally and really chat, reach out and engage. 

‘This is a really easy way to push yourself a little bit, try something new,  learn some skills and make friends and contacts,’ Jordan said.


Narrative Comedy: Tim Ferguson 14/8/2021

Held across two Saturdays, this course sees comedian and writer Tim Ferguson (Doug Anthony All Stars, Shock Jock, Spin Out) offering processes and insights for professional screenwriters to expand their skills into writing comedy for television and film. Suitable for both beginners and more experienced writers, the course uses lectures, script analysis, workshopping and excerpts from sitcoms and comedy films. It concludes with methods for formulating series bibles and pitching concepts to Australian and international film and television markets.

Mobile Content Creation 16/8/2021

Learn how to shoot and edit quality video on your mobile device, whether it’s an iPhone, iPad or Android, in this introductory course delivered completely online. Five modules are delivered (either over five days with a daily Zoom session during business hours, or over five weeks with an after-hours weekly Zoom). Alongside practical lectures delivered via video, there are live Zoom video classes, and practical exercises which can be submitted to the course lecturer for feedback. The tutor is cinematographer Gareth Tillson (LBF).

Writing A TV Series 30/8/2021

Learn the fundamentals of creating viable and original TV drama and comedy series concepts in this 10-week online course that guides students through the process of concept creation – from idea inception to concept presentation. Participants should begin with the germ of an idea for a drama or comedy series that has not yet been developed. You don’t need to be an experienced writer, but a passion for television is advised. Tutors are Susan Bower (A Place to Call Home, Neighbours) and Jane Allen (Janet King, Cleverman).

Start your new career journey with an online short course at AFTRS, Australia’s premiere screen and broadcast school.

Rochelle Siemienowicz is a journalist for Screenhub. She is a writer, film critic and cultural commentator with a PhD in Australian cinema. She was the co-host of Australia's longest-running film podcast 'Hell is for Hyphenates' and has written a memoir, Fallen, published by Affirm Press. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram

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