Tips for Making a Documentary


Making documentaries can be a great way to shine a light on an important issue, or tell others an interesting story. Here are some tips to help you get started.


It all begins with a story. This could be a lifestyle focus, where you highlight an individual or specific group’s life experience. Or it could be topical, where you choose to concentrate on an issue, subject, or event. Whatever you choose, it should be a topic that you feel connected with or are passionate about. Long hours, difficult decisions, and unforeseen obstacles will test your devotion to the project, so make sure it is one you are passionate about filming and seeing through to the end.

Do your research. This is key to helping you tell a more rounded story and finding angles and leads that are not obvious at first. Remember to keep an open mind. Diving deep into a subject and learning more than conventional wisdom could change your perceptions or challenge your beliefs, don’t try to suppress these questions, be willing to go on a journey yourself.


Next it’s time to make a plan. This includes creating a budget, time frame, and basic story outline. Decide what shots and footage you will need, who you want to interview, and how it will all come together.

Making a plan helps you keep the production on schedule. Outdoor elements, calendar deadlines, and more will be factors for consideration as you make appointments and begin filming. While you may be tempted to interview as many people as possible, keep in mind that most audiences will only connect with 7 or 8 characters in a film. You can always use interviews with additional sources as bonus content on the DVD or website, for those who want to go deeper.


Once the plan is in place it’s time to begin production. This is where you will need to decide how much you can do on your own and where you will have to outsource. For example, you could conduct interviews in your basement, but it will look far more professional to rent a suite for video production in NYC. Determine if you will need to rent cameras, hire editors, or purchase sound equipment. Keep in mind copyright laws throughout the process and when in doubt, ask a lawyer or other knowledgeable source.

After the filming is done it’s time for post production. This is where you edit and distribute the film. Once the film is out and accessible to the public you can relax and enjoy the journey you have embarked upon, all the way from a story in your mind to filming with video production in NYC and beyond.


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