Tips to keep in mind if you’re making a documentary
Don’t want to make up a story, but still want to try making a short film? Try drawing from real life!
A documentary is a non-fiction film or video, aiming to inform the viewer. It can be a really fun and rewarding way to make a short film, and shine a spotlight on a person, group, topic or issue that you care about.
If you already have a topic in mind for a documentary, or you’d really like to just tell a real story- here are our top tips!
Pick a topic – and think about why!
Make sure you choose a subject that is worthy of not only the audiences time, but of yours. It’s a good idea to have a personal connection, or curiosity about the subject, your passion will keep you on track!
You might think you know your subject inside and out, but doing some research (maybe think about how this topic affects people in other parts of the world) will help inform the direction of your documentary. Be really sure any that claims you make are well informed.
You still need characters!
Believe it or not, a documentary will still follow a similar structure to a narrative film. It’s a good idea to have a protagonist (maybe yourself- learning about the subject!) and a climax: the part of your film that gets a strong reaction from the audience. Don’t give away all the exciting information at the very beginning!
Making a documentary might seem more serious than a narrative film, but you’re still being creative and making creative decisions. Plus you’re meeting interesting people, and telling a unique story, so make sure you enjoy the process!
Before you start, watch some famous documentaries, from David Attenborough to Michael Moore. There are some great short documentaries too, like the Oscar winning Period. End of Sentence. Make sure you’re paying attention to what the filmmakers will have needed to plan ahead of time!
There are heaps of great guides to making a documentary online, this WikiHow breaks down some steps you may want to follow. You can always reply to these newsletters to get in touch with the Nextwave Team with any questions!