How to make a documentary - Part 1

Get on with it. :) Honestly that is not bad advice, but I am happy to go into more detail. So rather than being flippant, I am going to take it slow and steady. In fact, I am going to explore different elements of this intimidating prospect (see title) sequentially as I approach them (not my first time) in my current work.

This post is about motivation.

If you want to make a documentary, I'll assume it is probably for one of two reasons: 1. You are passionate about the practice of storytelling using visual media...

aka You want to make films.

2. You are passionate about a subject area or a particular idea and you think that a documentary will be the best way to explore it and present your process and findings.


So let's start there...you are passionate about the practice of storytelling and you would just love to make a film. That's great! I am in this camp. I love making films. I love using cameras. I love telling stories. I love watching films. I love analysing them. I love exploring and learning through documentaries.


Do not, whatever happens, lose your passion for filmmaking, even when the reality gets hard.

Your love for this will be a powerful engine to get you through the process but it will also be apparent in the final piece.

It will guide how you make decisions and the approach and feel of the project.

Your desire to make something will also help you with my initial statement. Just do it. Make sure that your enthusiasm for the process doesn't overrun the reality that a good idea is vital. The concept and content is vital to making a compelling documentary.

That being said there a lot of styles of documentary, some with a mission, some primarily exploration. Don't let me stand in your way, just take time to examine and test your idea and make sure you try to challenge yourself and do it thoroughly and expertly.

To bring it full circle, that is where 'group 2' as mentioned above may have an edge. You are passionate about a thing, an idea, a subject - and you want to tell that story.

It is helpful to team up with people who are technically proficient in the areas you need (camera, audio, lighting, directing / producing, funding), but in the end you know you don't have to do that all yourself.

Find your role (often if its your idea you will direct or produce collaboratively). Use your passion, let the process grow as you learn, and don't be afraid to make mistakes. More on the next steps in my next post. For now, go and explore your ideas. Storyboard, brainstorm, idea-map, etc (all as verbs).



Try to think outside the box, but remember if you want it to achieve notoriety or success, it helps if it is relevant for people now or in the near future. Enjoy. Stiv


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