Tap to Read ➤

Basic Guidelines for Making a Documentary

Stephen Rampur
If you want to make a documentary, but don't know where to even begin, fret not. Read on, and the path ahead shall be revealed to you...
There are many occasions when you would want to make a short documentary film, such as for a school project, just as a hobby, or as your foray into the film-making industry.
Documentaries are short feature films which impart factual information about a particular topic, place, or a person. As they are related to facts and not fiction, you need to be really careful in making them. If you are a beginner and want to create a documentary which would seem impressive, you need to consider some important guidelines.

Plan all the Requirements

A documentary is a factual program. Therefore, it is essential to plan all things carefully, so as to avoid any misinterpretation and misunderstanding in the minds of the viewers.
You are required to plan everything from the start to the end; which includes what topic you would choose, would the topic be appropriate, what type of audience are you intending to target, what are the devices and equipment needed for the job, how many assistants or helpers would you need, where to shoot the documentary, and similar other considerations.

Watch Good Documentary Films

One of the best ideas is to watch documentaries which are perfectly scripted and executed. You can watch documentaries made by well-known filmmakers. Doing so would certainly enable you to get an insight of what is actually needed to make a good and acceptable documentary.
Concentrate on the techniques used and note down all the points which seem to be in focus, and which make the movie worth watching. Also write down all things that you would have done if you were to produce or direct it.

Choose the Subject of Your Choice

If you want to make a documentary for a school project, do it by discussing it first with the teacher or guide. Choose ideas related to school life, your school, importance of career and education, career planning, etc.
Other common topics for making a documentary include the credit industry, homeless culture, political groups, war in the society, economic recession, global warming, problems of pollution, and discovery of a particular planet. You can think of any topic that you think would interest the viewers.
If you are simply doing it as a hobby, you can choose from various topics such as a sport, a person, a popular place, religious beliefs, local event or festival, etc. It is better to choose a subject for which you would not need to bear substantial traveling expenses .

Do Thorough Research on the Subject

If you want your documentary to be full of factual information, you should do an in-depth study of all the matter that you want to include in the film, and make sure all your facts are accurate.
Gather information by searching on the Internet, attending related seminars, conducting interviews of experts and professionals from the related field, and other knowledge-gaining methods. Sort and arrange the matter in a progressive manner that you would want to present in the documentary.

Arrange for Essential Equipment

Make a list of the devices and equipment needed to make the documentary.
Learn about and arrange for equipment such as video cameras, professional editing setups, microphones, lighting systems, audio and video recording systems. You can take help from a professional for renting and arranging these systems. If you are doing a documentary for a school project, then you will probably not require most of this equipment.

Set Up the Script and Structure

After all things are properly arranged, you now need to sort out the script, and outline the structure of the documentary. Think on the facts and devise a plan as to who will be responsible for presenting the matter, how the matter should be shown, and what is the conclusion of the documentary.
Ask all the people involved to do a dummy setup and try executing the task. Arrange all the facts in place, and finalize the script, dialogs, flow of the documentary, and conclusion.

Shoot the Documentary

When everything is all set, it is time to shoot the documentary. Before carrying out the shoot, make sure that you have done all the necessary adjustments for finances, equipment, people, location, viewing.
While making the documentary, see to it that you keep a track of time. Try to adjust the matter in the allotted time frame. After the documentary is final, show it to your friends and family for any flaws that may need removal or editing.
These were some guidelines that you need to follow when making a documentary. In making a documentary for a school project, it is recommended to take guidance from a person who has sufficient knowledge about executing the project for its specific needs.