General Question

kevbo's avatar

How does one plan/script a documentary film? What are the preparatory steps? Resources?

Asked by kevbo (25603points) January 15th, 2010 from iPhone

I have a seed idea for a documentary. What makes for a good game plan? What “how to” should I read or watch?

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5 Answers

lilikoi's avatar

Great question. I have all these ideas for documentaries as well and am looking forward to the answers people give here… I think to make a good documentary, the most important thing is probably to be good at telling a story – to know the elements of what makes a good story and how to tell one effectively because you want to keep it interesting. Ira Glass talks about storytelling here.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Every film, even narrative ones, have a POV, a main topic or opinion they want to put out to the audience. What are you trying to get across to them? What’s the story you want to tell? Think about that first.

When people submit treatments for screenplays to the studios, there’s something at the top of the page of the the treatment called a logline, and that’s basically a one sentence distillation of your film. If you can’t make it one sentence, then go back and ask yourself what is the story you want to tell. In one sentence. Imagine you were at a cocktail party, and someone asked, “What’s your film about?” Because usually, that’s almost as long as you get to pitch to a producer. Maybe 5 minutes. I used to be a part-time script reader, and try as I might, if the logline didn’t grab me, I wasn’t interested in reading the treatment in the same way as one with an interesting and well-written logline.

From little acorns, mighty oaks grow!

susanc's avatar

What are you doing, Kev?

marinelife's avatar

Here is Ten Easy Steps to Documentary Fillmmaking. has a resource for making documentary films.

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