Basics of Making a Documentary: Production 101

Do you know the basics of making a documentary
and everything that's involved?

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Many first time documentary filmmakers make the mistake believing that making a documentary is only about the creative process.

That's certainly a big part of it.

Assuming you are both the producer AND the director, I would say that the actual “making of the documentary” is only about 50% of the process. The other half of the process involves things like fundraising, buying/renting video gear, writing proposals, distribution, website development, film festivals, public relations, etc.

Of course, if you are only making a small film for yourself, then sure, you can enjoy a pure creative process. But if you have hopes of having your film widely seen and sold, then there are numerous factors you will need to consider.

Documentary Production 101:
The Basics of Making a Documentary

Here are the main stages of documentary production:

  • Documentary Idea Development

  • Setting up an LLC or S-Corp (for both your production company and the documentary)

  • Protect Your Rights: Legal Documents, Releases, Insurance and Copyright

  • Create a Documentary Proposal/Treatment

  • Make a Budget

  • Create a Fundraising Trailer

  • Raise money for your project (Grants, Events, Crowdfunding, etc)

  • Production: Hiring crew, Character development, Interviewing, Getting your shots

  • Footage Transcription

  • Scriptwriting – Even if you don't plan to have narration, you'll still need to create a “script” to show what will be seen and heard

  • Post Production: Editing the film, putting it all together (music, graphics, color correction, animation, narration, etc.)

  • Test Audience Screenings

  • Publicity Materials/Press Packet

  • Film Festivals

  • Distribution Deliverables (master film, cue sheet, trailer, O&E Insurance, logos, etc)

  • Distribution (VOD, Theater, DVD, Educational, Broadcast, etc)

  • Win Awards, Take the Weekend Off, Start Again!

Learn all the nitty-gritty details of how to make a documentary with our exclusive 7-Day Documentary Crash Course

It's fun learning the basics of making a documentary!

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