How to Make a Short Documentary Film

How to Make a Short Documentary Film

How to Make a Short Documentary Film

A short documentary is a lens on a self-contained world. Whether your subject is the Arab Spring, human happiness, or pet cemeteries, it has to be engaging and say something about the world. Contrary to what you might think, a short doc takes just as much time as a feature-length doc — but its also just as much fun to make. If you want to start making your vision a reality, theres no better time than now to make a short documentary.

Pre-Production Choose a subject — what you want to make a film about.

Remember, youll need to complete the project. Think about who, what, and where youll shoot. Form a basic idea for a story and if youre having trouble, read short stories for inspiration. Watch documentaries.

Once you have worked out what style of documentary you are going to make, analyze similar documentaries to identify conventions. Make sure you pay attention to the documentaries narrative structure, as this is where most amateur documentary filmmakers go wrong. Write a treatment.

This initial document should include a summary of the documentary, and the goal or purpose of the film. Outline your script, covering each major section but keeping the outline under 300 words. Script your story idea.

You will need to have a script, or you cant have a film. While thinking of an idea, make sure you write something attractive to your viewers. For example, If youre giving the script to someone who likes drama, add lots of drama. Comedy, add comedy, etc. Prioritize scenes.

From your outline identify priority scenes. Draw out a storyboard, illustrating the shots you plan to use.

Dont worry about following the storyboard perfectly. Its just a good idea to get your thoughts on paper and a great way to see if you can communicate an idea “visually” rather than needing the actors to verbally communicate the concept. The viewer is watching first and listening second. If you prefer a more structured approach A short documentary is a lens on a self-contained world. Whether your subject is the Arab Spring, human happiness, or pet cemeteries, it has to be engaging and say something about the world. Contrary to what you might think, a short doc takes just as much time as a feature-length doc — but its also just as much fun to make. If you want to start making your vision a reality, theres no better time than now to make a short documentary.

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