Creating a great short documentary doesn’t only require skill, it also means a lot of hard work and patience to go through the proper steps. Sure you can “wing it” and take your camera with a vague idea of the story you want to tell, but doing so is unsatisfying, not to mention, the final piece would look unprofessional.
Even if you’re just starting out in the world of video production or filmmaking, it pays to know the following the basic structure of creating a short documentary. Doing so can go a long way to help you improve in your craft.
Pick A Subject You Love
Before starting, figure out what subject or story you want to tell. When you’re starting, it might be best to do a production on things you love so you won’t easily get bored of it or lose desire while working on the project.
Research, Research, Research
Once you’ve picked a topic or subject you want to tackle, you need to learn all about it as much as you can. Explore the subject, know the arguments for or against it, know the inside out of it.
Doing research on your subject or topic ahead of time will give you an idea of how to create plot points, tell a better narrative, have a story arch or just how to shape your documentary film for the best.
Create a Story Outline
Narrative videos or films often have a script but with a documentary, what’s important is the outline. Documentaries are fluid and can be shaped by the story. By having an effective outline, you have a general direction of where you want to go and the conclusion you want to achieve with your documentary.
When you create an outline for your film, you’re often creating a scene by scene breakdown. Oftentimes, when you do proper and diligent research, creating the outline becomes super easy.
Look For The Deeper Story
Every great documentary looks deeper into the story instead of just tackling the superficial side of it. Going deeper and finding the “why” in your story, character or main topic makes for a better documentary because it allows your audience to engage with your story better. Remember, you should be making a documentary that answers the question of “why” rather than the “what.”
Make Sure the Sound is Superb
It’s always important to have good sound in any video or audio. This also goes true for your documentary film. Invest in good quality sound equipment. Having great sound will amp up the quality of your film and can help you tell a better story too. If you’re doing voiceovers, make sure your actor’s voice fits the story and that it’s recorded in top quality.
Keep It Short But Amazing
When starting out, keep it short. But, take your time when making your film. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to get rid of the fluff or “kill your darlings” when you have to.
Professional documentary filmmakers will tell you that sometimes they will cut back as much as 90% of their film footage to arrive at the final version of their film. So don’t be afraid to trim your work until you get to the core of your story.
Creating a short form film documentary is exciting especially if it’s your first time. Don’t expect perfection on the first go either but treat each piece as a learning experience. The more you practice and create your films, the better you’ll become over time.