Watching a lot of documentaries will help you figure out what kind of documentary you want to make. Some are boring, some are interesting – watching a bunch will help you see what works. Documentaries focus on a subject and try to capture reality. The people are not actors, and there is no script. So start with a good topic, do some research and see where it takes you.
The process of making a documentary can be somewhat daunting, but planning it out beforehand and breaking it down can help you feel a little less overwhelmed. Here are some tips to get you on your way.
Finding friends who want to be involved will make it more fun and also make your life a lot easier.
Things You’ll Need:
- Video editing equipment
- Digital camera
First, decide on a topic. Pick something that you are passionate about – something that you are willing to spend a lot of time on. Your film should have a fairly tight focus, but large enough to find a lot of people to interview and talk with.
Research the topic that your documentary is going to cover. By the time you're through researching, you should be an expert on the topic. During your research, make a list of all of the possible people you could talk to. This list will be constantly growing, but start early.
Decide how fancy you want this film to be. Some documentaries can be very expensive, requiring investors or grant money, but if you have all of the equipment already (or if you can borrow it from school or friends) production costs can be much cheaper.
From your list of possible interviewees, decide who you really have a chance of getting. Order your list from people who would be a reach to people who are real possibilities. Try all avenues, but realize that people may say no. You're going to have to get people to sign releases, so for every first choice you have for an interviewee have another two in mind.
Set up the interviews. Be ready to explain who you are and what the point of your documentary is. If it makes it easier, write out a paragraph that you can read over the phone.
Create a list of questions to ask your interviewees. They should be thought-provoking and interesting.
Shoot b-roll for your documentary. B-roll is everything that is not your interviews, the video that you will use when you're editing the project together.
Edit your project. Editing is a long process if you have a deadline to meet. Depending on the length of your documentary, give yourself at least two weeks to focus on nothing but editing.
Enter your documentary in as many film festivals (look for ones in your local community as well as farther away) as possible. Film festivals can give your film great exposure.