Making documentaries is one of the most rewarding and challenging endeavors you can be involved in. You can do it with a small budget and with no actors. But there are a few rules you have to know even if you aim to break them.
Remember, although it’s fun it’s still hard work and although you may be lucky with your first documentary, experience is still an important factor. So the best way to truly learn how to make documentaries is to make one.
Tell a story you are involved in and care about
Start with a subject that excites you and you are fond of. If you’re lukewarm about the subject matter, chances are, the final movie will reflect it. Make a documentary you’re passionate about and makes sense to you. Be sure that if the documentary is exciting you it will excite your viewers.
Good research will give you a great advantage
Learn everything you can about your documentary subject. Sometimes the story lines are obvious, sometimes not. Do a lot of digging and follow leads. This is where you put on your reporter hat. Gather facts and search for leads on interesting characters and story lines. The gems of your story are sometimes deeply buried and out of sight.Always try to be in a situation you know more than your talents.
Make ageneral script
Create an outline. Think about HOW you’re going to tell your story. What’s the structure? The style? Is there existing footage or photos that help tell your story or will everything need to be brand new? Who is your primary character(s)? What are you core story points? What are the elements of your story that are compelling and/or make you “tingle” with intrigue? How can you create that intrigue for your audience? Is there some existing situation you can film or do you need to create the moment?
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