Emma Davie


Accepting PhD Students

Personal profile



As a director , I have a keen interest in exploring approaches to documentary narrative and finding new forms which defy conventional storytelling. My background in experimental theatre gave me a strong grounding in using inter disciplinary collaborative approaches to  foster innovative work. I  founded a company called Clanjamfrie which was one of Scotland's first performance companies ( " leads the way in Scottish performance" The List)   and also collaborated with Robert Lepage on the ground breaking production of "Tectonic Plates"  ( Played at National Theatre, London. Winner of Olivier Award.) Prior to working at Edinburgh University, I was a documentary director working with BBC, Channel 4 and other international broadcasters for over 10 years.

The form of each film is radically different. Questions motivate my work such as " I am Breathing" (see below) which mingled fictional approaches with documentary to find a haptic expression for the physical state of MND and with " Becoming Animal"   a  co-direction with renowned Swiss Canadian film director Peter Mettler we attempted to create a new kind of " nature" documentary which charts the act of perception itself and how the rise of the written word has refracted how we see. This was based on the writing of environmental philosopher David Abram.  My most recent work "The Oil Machine" drills into the specific world of North Sea Oil to understand the wider complexities of moving away from oil and to try to make this invisible, abstract world which we're all so implicated in, visible.

With " I am breathing" the ethical dilemna of making a film about a man dying with MND, necessitated a self-reflexive quest into how documentary could empower the participant so they were not passive in the process. By using a blog which Neil PLatt , the main character, had written, the film gave him some agency but also allowed a more universal story which transcended a film about either illness or dying and became an intimate quest for meaning. Co-directing it with  fiction film maker, Morag MacKinnon, we found a hybrid form which eluded classification but seemed fitting as an attempt to imagine the experience of living with this paralysing condition.


The film played in over 50 countries and was received well both by critics and audiences.  Funders included Film 4, Creative Scotland, Danish Film Institute and it was developed with funding from the Welcome Trust. The MND Association were key partners too, helping us target a wide spreading oitreach campaign.  After playing at major festivals such as IDFA where it was nominated for Best Feature, it used an innovative approach to distribution to reach many different audiences. It became instrumental in raising awareness of the disease around the world and was responsible for legislative change in Brazil for treatment of MND patients. It won BAFTA Best Director in 2013 ( Scottish BAFTA) and was nominated for 3 Scottish BAFTA's in total.  Press included newspapers articles (including a front page  top headline in The Independent " How a dying man taught me to live" , ), reviews, tv programmes,  news , online articles etc in many different countries.

"Becoming Animal" is a co-direction with Peter Mettler and is a radically different kind of nature documentary. It is an essay film which explores our sensorial relationship with the natural world and how our concept of " nature" has evolved, based on the writing and thoughts of philosopher David Abram. The film was completed in February 2018 and premiered at CPH:Dox where it was nominated for Best Feature Documentary. It played in major festivals such as IDFA, Madrid, EIFF, RIDM and was nominated for many awards. 

"The Oil Machine" is my latest feature documentary looking at the complexity of moving away from our addiction to oil through the prism of North Sea Oil. It has played in over 150 screenings followed by debates and discussions with speakers from across society through a major impact campaign.  It is now reaching audiences internationally , playing at festivals such as CPH:Dox, IDFA, Sheffield, Pordenone ( winner of Green Award)  and many more including Ecofalante in Brazil (Bahia & Sao Paolo) and Seoul International Eco Film Festival in South Korea.


I often work as a story editor for documentary makers including collaborating with Syrian filmmaker Diana El Jeroudhi, developing a film language for her feature documentary " Republic of Silence" produced by Orwa Nyrabia. I also story edited " 16 Years till Summer" with Lou McLoughlan and have been involved in story development with many other international films.


I give lectures on documentary film and mentor film makers internationally , working in conjunction with organisations such as European Documentary Network and others. Organisations I have given talks or lectures to include Doc Edge Kolkata, Storydoc Greece, Ex Oriente Film, Croatia and Prague, IDFA Summer School Amsterdam, Generation Africa,  Open City Docs, London, Norwegian Film School, Mental Health Film Festival, Wales,  Royal College of Physicians, London,  etc. I have also worked with filmmakers at Doha Film Institute Qumra , Down Below Zero, Norway , Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival, Baltic See Forum Riga,  Discovery Campus  Crossing Borders  Shanghai, Docs Barcelona , Storydoc Athens, Corfu, Palestine and Leipzig Film Festival and many more.


Many articles for DOX magazine which are now archives on the website Modern Times- see https://www.moderntimes.review/author/emma-davie/




Education/Academic qualification

ENGLISH LITERATURE, Master of Arts, University of Oxford

External positions

Voting Member, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences

1 Oct 2020 → …


2014 → …

BOARD, Scottish Documentary Institute

2013 → …


  • AI Indexes (General)
  • Documentary
  • Collaboration
  • Ethics
  • Film
  • Editing
  • Narrative
  • Environment
  • Fossil Fuels
  • Anthropocene
  • Activism
  • Film maker


Dive into the research topics where Emma Davie is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • 1 Similar Profiles
  • The Oil Machine

    Davie, E., 1 Feb 2022

    Research output: Non-textual formDigital or Visual Products

  • Black black Oil

    Davie, E., Henrici, S. & Marriot, J., 4 Nov 2021

    Research output: Non-textual formDigital or Visual Products

  • Becoming Animal

    Davie, E., Mettler, P. & Day, R., Mar 2018

    Research output: Non-textual formDigital or Visual Products

  • Stronger Than a Bullet

    Ebrahami, M. & Davie, E., 2017

    Research output: Non-textual formComposition

  • 16 Years till Summer

    Davie, E. & McLoughlan, L., 15 Apr 2015

    Research output: Non-textual formDigital or Visual Products