top of page
  • stardustfilmsandsc

A short guide on making a documentary

Some aspiring filmmakers believe that making documentaries is an easy task because you just need some real-life footage. In reality, documentary films involve tons of research, brainstorming, scripting, budgeting and editing. The impact of your filmmaking education will determine your success in documentary filmmaking.

Choose a topic- This can take the most planning. Your choice of topic can be a common subject or a relatively obscure idea. Irrespectively, be careful to choose a topic that you are passionate about, that will resonate with your audience, and will be able to impart a meaningful message.

Your choice of topic can be a common subject or a relatively obscure idea.

Research- Once you have zeroed in on a topic, start doing your research. Since documentaries are non-fiction, it is essential to ensure that your documentary is as truthful and comprehensive as possible. Make a list of important points, interview people and study appropriate literate and other documentaries, and decide how to make your topic interesting, emotional, and inspiring.

Budgeting- Next, you need to create a rough budget for making the film. While budgeting, determine what’s essential and what can be skipped. Some of the essential expenses of documentary filming are costs of filming equipment and props, location permits and insurance costs, marketing expenses, distribution fees, copyright fees, and editing costs.

Scripting- Scripting for documentaries is not like that of feature films. A general outline of filming is determined and a shot list framework is prepared for the production crew. If your documentary requires a voice-over, you may consider adding in a narrative.

Scheduling and shooting- Before the shoot starts create a schedule that will enable your crew to work on time, and make the documentary stay within budget. Get all the necessary permissions, and contact those you need to interview. As you start shooting, focus on what can re-create the original scenario. Put your scenes into context, introduce new ideas, and make the overall film flow naturally. Gather as much real-life footage as possible to give an impactful message.

Editing- After collecting all the necessary footage, it’s time to professionally edit all the shots. Choose scene sequences, add music, graphics, text and voiceovers, and make sure your documentary is in line with your original idea.


Project submission link:

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page