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Here's How to Make a Successful Documentary Video

Tulika Nair
So Errol Finn and Michael Moore are some of the people who inspire you, and you want to make a documentary video to follow in their footsteps? Here are all the instructions you need in order to learn the art of documentary film-making.
Most of us don't have the resources that Al Gore had at his disposal when it comes to making award-winning documentaries. These movies open people's eyes to one of the biggest problems that we face as a world today. But that does not mean that we cannot shoot a documentary film.
Making this type of video does not necessitate a huge budget. As we have seen with movies like Paranormal Activity, even mainstream films can be made on the smallest of budgets and with documentaries you have the leeway of using techniques that are budget friendly. Read on to know how to make a documentary with minimal resources.

The Process

It is important that you study the medium in detail. How do you go about this? Simple. Watch as many documentaries as you can, starting from some of the older ones. Your neighborhood library, if it has a video section should have a selection of documentaries that you can watch.
You can also ask the neighborhood video store or order them from sites like Netflix. Watching a lot of documentaries will give an idea about how the medium has changed over the years, what are the different approaches that filmmakers take, and what are the styles you can adopt.
Without a story to be based on, a documentary will always be incomplete and unfulfilled. This is something that is important for you to remember. Without a story that is compelling, your movie will fall flat. As a first timer choose a subject that is close to your heart.
This will keep your interest alive throughout the process and force you to put in extra effort. While documentaries have garnered a reputation for being serious, there are documentaries that take a humorous approach.
Decide how you want to treat the subject. Once you have decided on a subject, you should do as much research as possible on the subject. Narrow down the subject of interest if you can. Create a focus area. The more research you do on the subject at hand, the more clarity you will have while making the documentary.
Ensure that as you do your research and gather information, you store it all in an organized manner. Doing so will ensure that as you start shooting, your work becomes easier. Decide on whether you need stock footage. In such a case you will need to obtain the necessary permission.
Next depending on your research define how you would like the structure of the documentary to be. This is where your marathon documentary viewing will help.
There are many different ideas that you can use which can stem from the movies you have watched. While deciding the structure ensure that the information is logically produced. Like a fiction movie, even a documentary needs to have a proper beginning, middle, and end.
Most documentaries that work well do so because they touch a chord with the audience. Find that emotional focus that will work on your audience. This will also help during promotions.
A documentary can rarely have a script. What most filmmakers work with is an outline of how they would want their movie to take form. A script does not work in most cases because depending on your interviews, and other information, the initial viewpoint of the film may change.
Everyone knows the importance of shooting footage well and editing the film properly. Contact people who have some experience with videography and post production. It is important that while you are shooting the film, you shoot at least three times the footage you actually need.
At the post production stage you do not want to run out of footage. Also pay attention to the video and sound quality. If you do not have a good camera, hire one. This may also turn out cheaper. While shooting the film, stick to basic shots. Avoid too many zooms and pans as it only makes the film look like an amateur.
Pay a lot of attention to post production. Most filmmakers believe that a movie becomes a hit or flop on the chopping table. Post production can do wonders to any film. Use different ideas while editing to make it more engrossing.
Whether you are perfecting the process of how to make a short documentary or a longer one, once you have finished the entire process, view the film to search for any loose ends of any sort. If you find faults, correct them. With digital editing the process of reworking films has become an easy process.
There is no easy way out to learn how to make a good documentary. It takes patience and perseverance. Learning the techniques is worth the effort you put in, if you end up with a film that manages to put across your viewpoint successfully.