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Learning how to make a documentary can be tons of fun and does not require a filmmaking degree. You simply need a burning desire to tell your story and a willingness to figure out each step of the process.How to Make a Documentary ?

Here are 10 easy-to-follow steps for making a documentary


  1. Pinpoint a documentary idea — The key here to choose a topic you are truly passionate about.
  2. Create an outline — Map out the basic structure and topics that you want to include in your documentary. You also want to think about the storytelling style — News/PBS Frontline-type style? Half documentary/Half movie with reenactments? Talking heads? Personal point of view? Observational?
  3. Gather your audio visuals – Start gathering existing footage and other audio visuals on your topic – this can be old home movies, photos, audio recordings, national archives, music, etc. Then decide what new footage is needed to tell your story and start shooting. This can be interviews with experts, capturing an event such as a horse show or football game, shooting footage of one of your characters – for example if you are focusing on a famous artist in your community, you’ll want to get footage of that artist painting.
  4. Produce/Edit a Trailer – Once you’ve gathered 3-5 hours of “raw footage”, start piecing together a mini-version of your documentary, also called a “trailer”. A trailer is typically 3-8 minutes and captures the essence of your documentary. This is a great tool to build buzz and help raise money for your documentary.
  5. Shoot remaining footage – Continue gathering interviews and other footage to cover all the areas you listed in your documentary outline.
  6. Catalog and organize — If you are producing an hour-long documentary, you could potentially have dozens, even hundreds, of hours of footage that you will need to pull from during the editing process. Make sure all your interviews have been transcribed and that you know exactly where all your footage is located. There is nothing worse than being “in the groove” editing and having to stop and look through all the footage to find a specific shot.
  7. Write a script – Even if you don’t plan to have a narrator, you should have a script to lay out the basic order of your sequences, how you plan to start and finish your film, plus any interview quotes.
  8. Edit your documentary — If you’ve never edited video before, you may want to start off with some simple free video editing software such as Apple’s “iMovie”, although something a bit more sophisticated such as Final Cut Express will give you more flexibility. Start your documentary off with something intriguing, unusual or controversial to catch the attention of the audience. And know how the documentary will end to help determine your editing choices leading up to the conclusion.
  9. Upload to the internet or burn to a DVD — Make sure you own the copyright to EVERYTHING in your documentary before posting on the web or making copies. That goes for music (even ambient music playing in the background), archive footage and photos.
  10. Promote, Distribute and Showcase — This is the final step in the process where you might submit your documentary to film festivals, pitch it to PBS or other television broadcasters, upload to Amazon UnBox to sell copies of your documentary, have a premiere showing, create a public relations campaign around the release of your documentary and of course send out free DVDs and thank-you’s to all who helped you.