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4 Steps To Developing A Winning Documentary Idea: Finding the I.D.E.A.

Documentary Idea Development


So, you’ve got the idea for your documentary.

Better yet - you know that it’s a GOOD idea…

Now, you’ve gotta make a film out of it! Where to start?

Idea development can feel daunting. But it’s a necessary part of the filmmaking process.

Remember:

A good idea needs a strong foundation before it can become a successful film!

Ready to lay down the first brick? 

Here’s how to get started developing your documentary I.D.E.A. 👷🧱



YOUR DOCUMENTARY I.D.E.A.

I - Interest

When developing your documentary idea, your first step is to identify what is fascinating about your idea (to you AND to your audience).

What is the HOOK that will capture people's attention?

What is new and different about your idea?

What makes your idea interesting and unique?

Also, assess the interest surrounding your idea. What is going on in the world right now and what does your documentary have to do with that?

A big reason why people choose to watch a documentary is because the topic says something about their lived experience. What is current, or even better, eternal about your documentary idea?

Learn the 4 Must-Haves of a Netflix Documentary


D - Development

Development is all about the story behind your idea. The RESEARCH. 

It’s not enough just to start filming “an idea” - you need to know the who, the new, and the how. 

  1. Who are the characters of your story
  2. What is your story's unique angle
  3. What is the basic structure/outline of your story
  4. Do you have ACCESS (to the story, characters, locations, etc)

Sometimes simply demonstrating a long-term commitment to the person/subject/story helps win the trust and access needed to tell the story.

Need a little help? Here are 20 Questions to Ignite Your Documentary’s Development



E - Entertainment

How are you going to keep your audience entertained?

(Just because you have a "topic" doesn't mean you have a "story".)

How will you hook your audience and keep them engaged?

What is the JOURNEY you are taking your audience on?

What is the conflict? What's at stake for your character(s)?

A well-developed documentary idea stands out when:

  • It has a story arc or rough narrative structure (beginning-middle-end)
  • The director can describe their key characters in great detail
  • The idea can be summarized in a few sentences

Go Behind-The-Scenes Of A Netflix Documentary: "The Making Of Minimalism" to see what it takes to make a documentary from start to finish.


A - Audience

Last but not least is your AUDIENCE. Who is your target market?

Is there a passionate audience hungry for your topic or story idea?

Are there other documentaries on your topic that have seen success?

Search YouTube, Netflix and other Channels to gauge interest.

Click here to learn how to build an audience for your documentary.

So those are a few steps on how you take a documentary idea and turn it into a developed I.D.E.A.!

 


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