Important Steps To Take Before You Start Rolling On Your First Documentary

If you have a keen fascination with the world and you love hunting down stories of the weird and wonderful things that happen or the amazing characters that have lived throughout history,  you would make an amazing documentary filmmaker. There’s never been a better time to get into it and you can make an amateur documentary on a relatively small budget. If you think that you would make a good documentary filmmaker, these are the steps you need to take before you start rolling on your first film. 

Image Source – Pixabay CCO License

Watch Lots Of Documentaries 

Before you start looking for stories, you need to watch lots of documentaries and take notice of how they are put together. This list of amazing documentaries is a good starting point, but you should branch out and watch as many different types of documentaries as you can. 

People get the wrong idea about documentary making and they assume that, once you find a great story, you’ve got a great film. The thing is, a story isn’t enough to carry a film on its own and you also need to put a lot of work into the shooting and post-production, and it’s these things you should pay attention to when watching films. How does the documentary music change the tone of the film? How is the film edited together to create a narrative? What techniques are used to manage the pace of the story and create tension? A lot of the same techniques that are used in fictional filmmaking are present here, so do your research and take notes. 

Find Something You Care About 

You might think that the best thing to do is trawl the newspapers for a crazy crime story because everybody is into true crime documentaries right now. That’s fine if you are interested in that but if you don’t like those kinds of films, don’t make one. You’ll just end up making a bad film in a genre that’s already oversaturated. You need to find something that you’re passionate about, even if it’s very niche and you don’t think that it’ll make a good documentary. You’d be surprised at the topics that can make compelling films when they are shot and edited in the right way. The Speed Cubers on Netflix, a gripping documentary about the rivalry and friendship of two Rubik’s Cube world champions, is a perfect example of this.

Research And Make A Plan 

Filming a documentary isn’t just a case of interviewing loads of people, filming it, and then waiting for a story to magically emerge. You need to do a lot of research around your chosen topic and work out what your angle is. How can you make this story compelling and interesting? How are you going to present it to your audience? Who are the ‘main characters’ going to be? Then, you need to create a shot list and start contacting people that you want to interview in your film

Once you have completed all of these steps, it’s finally time to start rolling on your first documentary film. 

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