Making a Documentary: Best Tips for Beginners

documentary film

Want to make documentary film but don’t know where to start? Well, the main difference between a documentary film and other genres is that its basis is a real event or occurrence. Therefore, preparation and work for such video material can be complicated. Valoso has gathered the most valuable advice for those who are planning to create their first documentary film.

Best Documentary Film Tips for Beginners:

1. Subject Matter

Choose a subject that is close to you. Think about it, feel your attitude to the situation. You, as the author, are like heroes of the movie that you creating. Talk with people who are “inside” the problem you want to describe, and engage in discussions to analyze your documentary subject ideas.

We recommend you to take enough responsibility and care when choosing the subject. A huge number of documentaries on various topics have already been created, and it is getting harder to surprise the audience. Personally, I have never seen a documentary film about unrequited love. But millions of people pass through this state! Why not create a good documentary about it?

2. Shooting

There are a plenty of documentary shooting styles and techniques and it is extremely important to clearly understand what you want from the movie. Start with the most concise material, which will train your vision. Because of modern technology, you can shoot documentaries with the usual DSLR or even a smartphone, which do not create barriers between you and your heroes. Also you can create a short documentary, like a preview version of your main movie. Get extra batteries, follow your heroes everywhere, and do not turn off the camera! You and your camera should become one, and the characters have to stop to notice your presence.

If you want to get more documentary shooting tips, here is a great video:

3. Team

If this is your first documentary, than most likely you will be working alone. However, if you decided to put together a team, people who work with you do not have to be occasional performers. Spend time and attention on team building. If you hire an operator, he must shoot better than you do, but not vice versa. He should love your project in order to work independently. Show your operator your favorite documentary or watch some great documentary movies. Remember – even if the operator shoots well, it’s completely YOUR movie and team members should not interfere with their own vision, especially in the documentary filmmaking process.

Steven Spielberg often prefers to change operator while filming.

Image Credit: The Flick Cast

4. Characters

You have to love your characters. It is necessary to ascend or descend to their level and they will begin to trust you and open up, to live their normal lives. Explore their daily lives, their dreams, plans, work, and leisure. Heroes – their brightness and the events that happen to them now – this is your movie.

5. Editing

Editing is just as important as shooting. You can try to learn how to edit video on your own. If you commit to learning one editing function per day, half a year will be enough to master all the features of the software needed to create a documentary! But remember – the main special effect of any documentary editing style is gluing. Lay all events on the pasteboard. Look at them in a new way, immediately cutting off the extra space. Your first draft will look like a few hours of well-chopped but interesting videos that can be viewed together with a friend. Use this to build your future masterpiece.

If you do not want to spend time on the mastery of editing skills, you can become a member of Valoso. With the help of our articles and access to an international pool of freelance video professionals, users can learn more about videography and easily find the help that they need to make their documentary idea a reality.