Filmmaking: Tips, Sources & Tools — October 26, 2011 at 9:16 am

7 tips for making a better documentary film

I love documentaries. I mean, not all of them, some are really boring, but nonetheless, they’re educational, and I believe in some time, they could completely (or for the most part) substitute books on history or any other subject for that matter.

And, I do believe, that every time you’re watching a particular documentary, it changes you in a way.

Below are some interesting points about “what documentary can teach you” topic that I discovered online, and also some points from my own experiences of working on a documentary. Sharing:

1. Plan your documentary, to make a point, to make an impact. Yes, it is important, since you’re not just making a documentary for fun (as far as I know, very few people do). Documentary is a good way to bring peoples attention to a particular problem. Do a careful research on your subject, and, I would suggesting to chose a good unexploited niche, so that people would be even more interested.

2. Decide what really is your documentary… Personally, I see 2 types of documentaries. (1) – You just pick a subject, and tell a story based on real facts. (2) – you highlight an event, or a story, and give “for” and “against” opinions, not revealing your own, letting viewers decide themselves, which side to take. Make sure your story keeps a fair balance. Don’t ever lie.

3. Your documentary can change lives, or even prevent a crime. Making your documentary memorable can make it last longer, and yes, it can even make a difference. Pick a subject, that you think should be talked about and discussed, and make the most of it. And if its good, it can make an impact. If everyone hates it – calm yourself down: at least you tried.

4. Controversial topics. If you’re making a doc on a controversial subject, the most important thing is to do as much research as possible, so you would have stone-cold facts on the issue you’re covering, whether its a covered manslaughter, a political affair, or local ecology related problem.

5. Who’s the audience? Making a documentary for a wider audience is important. If you’re covering something that might be of interest to people from other countries and cultures, make sure you got it subtitled, dubbed, and marketed right.

6. Low-budget: which story to spend time on? Well, since we’re talking low-budget filmmaking, making a smaller documentary would be a good start. Even doing a local documentary would be great. Pick a subject (or even better: make a list of subjects/topics) that can be covered on video in 15 minutes or so, and after doing a research, shoot it. I would advice maybe doing a series of short documentaries, which could be connected via one scheme (for example: take “society” and work around this niche, exploit it from various angles).

7. Importance of inspiration, and dedicated people. Yes, you can in fact make a documentary completely for free and without any help. I did that a year ago, when i was working on my own documentary project “Street Fighters”. Turned out to be very amateurish, but the point is, I made it.

Now, of course, to make a real impact, you definitely need a group of dedicated people. Make sure they appreciate your idea, and are willing to work with you. Make sure your vision of the problem and solution in your documentary is close to their own vision. Make them believe, that together you can make an impact. Make them think, that even a small project, can make a big difference.

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