how to shoot a documentary

How to Shoot a Documentary

Before everything else, the first thing you should do is know exactly what a documentary is. It can be described as a non-fictional movie that provides factual information about a person, event, issue, or other relevant subjects to society. Some of these have an educational view, by showing every detail of the approached topic, while others create awareness about important social issues.

Pretty interesting so far, right? In my opinion, documentaries are as essential as films, and nowadays their popularity has been growing a lot due to the improvement on getting and distributing information, worldwide. You need the skills to shoot a documentary but only motivation and inspiration will bring success, so are you ready to begin this journey? If you’re not only a documentary lover but you also have a great idea to shoot, stay with me, because I will teach you everything you need to know!

What Topic Will You Focus On?

Choosing the topic is the first step of this long procedure. As I already said, documentaries usually show true and interesting information about something relevant. Maybe it’s global warming, a serial killer, or some country’s lifestyle. I recommend you to write and show to the world something you’re passionate about, as not only will you already have some knowledge on the subject, but you’ll be keen to learn even more, which will facilitate the whole process. Experts also tend to advise directors to film something that shows a different point of view, as this way you’ll be able to create controversy and lead more people to see it. Weird, but it works!

Search and Research

The overall idea is solid by now, but you need to know everything about it, as you must stick with the truth and only the truth if you’re trying to reach success and recognition. Accuracy and comprehensiveness are crucial, so read some papers, take some notes, search the web, take some risks, and interview people or travel to places, if you can. You don’t have to take a camera or microphone with you just now, so focus only on understanding your documentary’s ideological path. But when you do take the camera, remember that the more you show, the better the project is and the more views you can get! Maybe also see some documentaries on the same topic to know where you can innovate, not forgetting that you will always achieve something if the documentary can inspire or intrigue people. One of these impacts will be good!

Drawing a Script

Documentaries don’t have a word-by-word script like fictional movies that you know, but most directors usually create a shot list framework, and you can do it too! You should also write a detailed list of places you’ll shoot in, people you’ll talk with and intros/outros and transitional shots you’ll need to film.

Time is Money

Before shooting anything, my advice is contacting those who you want to interview and try to have a schedule planned. Planning the travel and the location you want to go can be crucial! This way, you won’t spend much time in the local, which can involve extra cash. Organization is the key to success, not only yours but also from your crew!

It’s Time to Shoot The Documentary

Now that everything is planned and on schedule, it’s time to start filming! There’s something you’ll want to keep in mind, and that is how it will be viewed. There’s not just one way to shoot but usually, documentaries can be segmented in three categories – such as interviews with relevant subjects, live footage, and recreated events. Personal tip: gathering real-life events and footage will give some authority and extra power to your project, as people will feel all the emotions you tried portraying with your documentary.

Edition Will Put Everything Together

The footage is ready and complete, so the missing step is editing in order to obtain the final product. It’s really important to choose the adequate music, voiceovers and even graphics, as this will also make it more original and interesting since it’s transmitting only facts! You can cut all that you think it’s unnecessary, keeping in mind that you don’t want to bore your audience (we know usually how monstrously large is the raw footage). Use your most shocking and unique scenes to create an impact on the audience!

Screening The Final Result

The last step in this guide is to show the documentary that you created to your family and friends, obtain some feedback, and you’re ready to put it in the real world! This includes advertising on many platforms as you can get to reach more people. The audience is what will transform your project into something big so make the investment.

Final Thoughts

If you follow all the steps that I’ve presented to you, I am sure that your idea will become an amazing and interesting documentary. Don’t give up on this project because sky’s the limit and your head and also your camera will take you there! Thanks for reading!

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