When people think of film school, they often think of creating big blockbusters and moving to Hollywood. Documentaries, though, can be just as inspiring. They cover an array of subjects and can inform the public, and even change common sentiment. Emmy-nominated filmmakers like Katharina Otto-Bernstein know the impact an outstanding doc can have. Here are five ways to create great ones.
1. Pick a Subject You Love
If you want an audience to be lit up by your film, you have to be passionate about the subject. Creating films can be challenging, and you’ll need enthusiasm to carry you through the difficulties. With “Super Size Me,” Morgan Spurlock was so zealous about his subject he put himself through great physical strain to make his point. In the end, he changed the world’s perception of fast food forever. Make sure that whatever you choose gets you excited, and it will show in the end product.
2. Remember That You’re Making a Movie
Famous documentarian Michael Moore has said it is important to remember that even though your subject is real, you are still making a film with a story. Be sure that you are telling the tale in a cinematic and moving way when putting your movie together. That is the power of creating a movie rather than giving a speech or creating a thirty-minute podcast episode. Explore how you can move your audience while staying in line with the truth.
3. Include Your Voice
This isn’t a hard and fast rule of successful documentaries, but many of the most successful documentaries have had significant personal touches by the creators. Whether they are narrating as is the case with Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth” or are featured as the subject like Morgan Spurlock, this creates an intimate connection with the audience. Consider including your link to the topic in the film and translating your passion directly.
4. Stay Organized
Make sure you create an outline and script after gathering information from interviews to know where your story is going. Leave room for revelations and adaptation if more come to the surface while filming, but have an idea of how everything fits together. This will make your story tighter and make editing easier. It will also help you leave out what isn’t essential to creating the best end product.
5. Choose the Right Distributor
Once your film is complete, you want to make sure you pick the right distributor, so your film gets in front of the right audience. Consider your most important goals, and this will help you find the right fit. If you want large numbers, you’ll want to go with a partner that casts a wide net, maybe via streaming. If you are more concerned with reaching a particular audience, you’ll want to find a distributor that specializes in that area.
Making documentaries is challenging but rewarding work. By following some of the steps above, you will be on your way to creating a great film that you love and one step closer to connecting to an audience that will love it too.