Telling Your Story: Tips On How To Make A Short Documentary

May 21, 2018

Making a documentary can be a riveting experience, at the same time, a rewarding one if done right. Documentaries are known to be one of the most powerful artforms. With all the ideas, concepts, and stories you can tell, making a documentary is a great way to convey a message, depict an urgent cause, or simply tell an interesting story. This type of film making can be challenging especially for those who are starting out. However, there are a few tricks and techniques you can use to make your documentary unforgettable. You must remember though that it’s not all about how expensive or modern your equipment is, but it all comes down to your story and technique. How compelling is the message behind your film? How can you accurately convey your narrative thru your shots?

Though there isn’t a one-for-all solution to make the perfect documentary, you can still apply a few tried and tested tricks from experienced film makers or even from professionals you admire. If you want to try your hand on film making, creating a documentary is a good place to start.

Here are some tips to help you get started with your first documentary.

Do your research – as with any other project, doing adequate research is necessary. During this stage, you’ll be able to explore where you can find your resources and determine things like logistics, budget, and other production costs. Make sure to set clear, realistic goals and an achievable timeline.

Create a storyboard and script – as soon as you’ve picked a subject or topic, you can begin developing your storyboard and script. Having a storyboard can help you with planning and communication. Think of it as a roadmap for your film. Your storyboard will help you visualize your shots and establish the voice of your content including actions, dialogue, and effects. When it comes to your script, don’t forget to leave room for ad libs or improvisations especially if your film will cover interviews.

Plan and schedule well – before kicking off your production, make sure everybody is on board. This means you need to plan and schedule ahead of time and have a backup plan just in case things don’t go accordingly.

Gear up – they say “it’s not the camera; it’s the person behind it.” If you’re working around a meager budget, you might struggle with equipment. However, you can always make do with what you already have or perhaps invest on a good camera. Either way, your first documentary film will surely be a good learning experience for you and you will be able to draw valuable lessons from it.

Choose your location wisely – when shooting, it is important to determine where you’re going to do your shots. Most likely, your location will depend on the setting of your story. As much as possible, avoid spending on travel costs and find ways to devise alternative locations where it wouldn’t necessarily compromise the quality of your shots.

Edit, review, and collaborate – even if you’re the one running the show, it helps to listen to feedback and even suggestions during the developing and editing stages. While you ultimately call the shots, keep an open mind and encourage other people to be involved in your process. This makes the experience more enjoyable for everyone.

Aim to entertain – essentially, you’ll want to deliver something that will blow your audience’s minds, or at least make them remember your film. During the final touches of editing, make sure that your documentary is offering something new, something that will intrigue or entertain. According to renowned documentary film maker Michael Moore, an audience will always want to be entertained and the only way to accomplish this is to deliver something compelling. While your documentary might not be a huge success in the beginning of your film making journey, you can always aim to delight your audience the next time around.