"Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen."
- Robert Bresson, French Film Director
Hello friend and welcome!
Empowering you to tell your story is what Desktop Documentaries is all about.
This site is dedicated to first-time filmmakers looking for guidance, perspective and insight about documentary filmmaking.
Now empowering nearly 1-million filmmakers and video enthusiasts every year!
"I found your site by chance while suggesting crowd funding to a colleague. Congratulations, as someone who's made a living out of documentaries for 30 years, this is one of the most comprehensive summaries of what it takes to do it that I've ever seen." ~Leo Eaton · President & CEO at Eaton Creative
Sign our guest book
Every week, a new documentary tip is sent to your inbox to help you along your filmmaking journey. This is a free service offered by Desktop Documentaries to help filmmakers stay on track and motivated throughout the making of their documentaries. How cool is that? More than 30,000 filmmakers are already signed up!
If you're ready to dive in, our popular 7-Day Documentary Crash Course will get you up and running right away.
Learn the major steps in the process and avoid the common mistakes of first time filmmakers.
We know how tough it can be to raise money for your filmmaking projects. That's why we make a special effort to provide support, articles and resources to help you with your fundraising efforts. Get started with our exclusive Documentary Fundraising 101 Course.
How To Make A Full Time Living As A Documentary Filmmaker By Jilann Spitzmiller - A Sundance Institute Fellow and 3-time ITVS funding recipient, Jilann has been working as a full time filmmaker for 30+ years. She shares her top 10 tips for surviving the documentary profession...
Gear Kit For One-Man Documentary Film Crew By Bob Krist - National Geographic freelance photojournalist Bob Krist shares his ultimate filmmaking gear kit for traveling the world as a one-man documentary film crew...
How To Organize 60 Years Of History Into A 94-Minute Documentary By Daniel Raim - Oscar nominated director Daniel Raim has spent the last 2 years pouring over stacks of photographs, old film footage and other archival materials...
Documentary Fundraising: Confessions of a Professional Documentary Filmmaker By Sally Kaplan - As a member of a seasoned film producing “duo” with numerous programs under their belt, she explains that fundraising does not get any easier. That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news...
How To Make A Documentary (And Win A $100K Grant) With Zero Experience by Daniel Zapateiro - Inspiration for his documentary "Paname: The Ghost of the Great Frenchman" came in early 2015. He had no formal training in filmmaking...
How To Raise $15,000 (and Beyond!) For Your First Documentary by David Williams - New York City-based filmmaker David Williams shares behind-the-scenes details of his first documentary endeavor revealing how he raised the first $15k and his strategy to raise even more!
Choosing Music For Your Documentary (Advice From A Composer) By Caleb Parker - If you're working on a film and need music, Caleb explains several options for sourcing music along with their "pros and cons"...
Documentary Ideas: The Easiest Documentary To Make By Walt Laineenkare - In case you’re stuck looking for a great documentary idea, Walt lets you in on a little secret: the easiest documentary you’ll ever make is...
Documentary Crowdfunding Tips: How To Reach $10,000 In Two Weeks On Kickstarter By Iris Lai - Currently on her third documentary Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. Here are her top tips for raising $10,000 (and beyond!)...
5 Cinematic Techniques For Making A Documentary More Impactful By Ron Dawson - As a documentary filmmaker, it's your job to tell a story. Just because it's a documentary, doesn't mean it has to be boring. Learn 5 cinematic techniques to make your documentary more impactful.
Copyright Question: Using Footage From The Internet For Your Documentary By Gordon P. Firemark - A visitor asks a question about using footage from the internet and entertainment attorney Gordon Firemark sets the record straight....
An Unconventional Approach To Short Form Documentary Filmmaking By Tony Wise - The pitch, on the surface, was rather straight forward. For this project though the filmmaker wanted to try something a little different.
How To Free Film, Video, Audio and Photos For Your Documentary By David Vine - There is an unimaginable amount of multimedia available to you. Here are some of the best sources to find free media for your documentary or video project...
How To Create An Accurate Documentary Budget By Jilann Spitzmiller - A professional and accurate documentary budget is essential to impress potential funders. Here are Jilann's top Do's and Don'ts when it comes to budgeting...
Behind-The-Scenes: Former NFL Chaplain Makes Documentary About Gangs - First-Time Documentary Filmmaker Adam Ybarra shares lessons learned, his filmmaking gear kit and fundraising/distribution strategies.
Top 10 Filmmaking Lessons Making Documentary Short "Mr Gele" By Gladys Edeh - Atlanta-based filmmaker Gladys Edeh shares her top lessons learned from the making of her documentary...
How To Choose Your Next Documentary Idea By Mike Raab - Good stories are as close as your nose. That's advice from filmmaker Mike Raab on how to choose your next documentary idea.
"Story Is What Matters" Five Documentary Filmmakers Share Insights (Phoenix Film Festival) by Cassidy Poling - The 5 filmmakers who were showcased on the panel talked about the process of making their films and what they learned from it.
Making My First Documentary: Interview with Amber Talarico - Amber Talarico recently completed her first documentary about the make-up artist industry. She shares lessons learned and what's coming up...
Best Documentary Video Camera for (under) $2500 by Matt James Smith - Looking for a great video camera to shoot your documentary that won't break the bank but still give great results? Matt James Smith walks us through the options...
10 Reasons Why Traveling The World Has Made Me A Better Filmmaker By Ashley Meek - After graduating with a BFA in Film Studies she decided to take a leap of faith into the unknown and take several months on a solo backpacking trip around the world...
How To Get Your Movie On Netflix by Jason Brubaker - Digital film distribution executive Jason Brubaker explains how an independent filmmaker can get their documentary on Netflix.
What Is A Radio Documentary? by Bernie Lucht - Veteran radio producer (CBC), Bernie Lucht, explores the basics of radio documentaries, offering inspiring insights and how to get started in this genre of storytelling.
Secrets of Cinematography: 10 Elements of a High Quality Image by Ebrahim Saadawi - Is cinematography all magic and mystery? Or can the craft be broken down scientifically? Learn the 10 things that create the “secret sauce” of a high quality image.
How To Make A Life Documentary Of Your Parents By Carolien Oosterhoff - Six years ago Carolien started capturing her parents’ life stories on camera. Here are 10 do's and don'ts she learned along the way.
Cinematic Documentary Camera Gear Package For (just over) $1,000 By Matt James Smith - If you're looking for an affordable camera package that gives gorgeous cinematic results, here's what you need.
Shooting Solo: A Low-Budget Filmmaker's Equipment List By Joseph East - When your documentary is self-funded, your resources are tight and you can't afford to hire additional crew, do you just throw in the towel? NO WAY! Here's Joseph's low budget filmmakers equipment list.
Becoming Your Family Video Biographer by James Duke - This post describes James' journey making his family video biography. Lessons learned, his gear list and video samples.
Three Simple Rules For Making Documentaries By Kevin Railsback - Recently Kevin talked to the panel of judges of a local film festival about what they looked for in a good documentary film. They unanimously agreed on three things that they wanted to see in a documentary.
Why I Made A Documentary About My Father | The Inspiration Behind "Pui Chan: Kung Fu Pioneer" By Mimi Chan - The most common questions Mimi has been asked at film festival Q&A's have been: "Why did you decide to make a film about your father, how did you get started, and how long did it take?"
Crowdfunding For Filmmakers: 5 Questions To Consider Before Launching By John T. Trigonis - Do you need money for your documentary or indie film? Don't jump into crowdfunding without considering these five key questions.
How To Choose Your Documentary Idea | The Story Behind "Cuddle" By Jason O'Brien - Are you struggling with how to choose your documentary idea? Here's how Jason KNEW he had a good documentary idea and why he decided to make a documentary about cuddling.
Top Ten Lessons From A Newbie Filmmaker by S'ambrosia Wasike started their Kenya-based video production company. Here are their top lessons learned, plus gear list!
The Odd World of Documentary Filmmaking | The Story Behind JONNY by Massimo Salvato - He did not really decide to make a documentary, or at least not in the conventional way of writing a proposal and presenting it to potential funders. His passion and commitment for the film unfolded and grew....
The Brainwashing Of My Dad Documentary | Lessons In Filmmaking by Jen Senko - Jen finally began work on a documentary that she's been wanting to do for the last dozen years..
How To Make A Documentary | Finding Your Story by Samuel W. Reed - There's an old saying in Hollywood about documentaries being written 3 times: First, with the Inception of the Idea. Second, with the Shooting of the Idea and finally, in the Editing of the Idea...
Diving & Rescue Documentary | Gear List by Tony DeRose - By day I'm an Instructional Designer, Technical Writer, and do voice-overs (inter-company). By night, I'm a member of a volunteer dive rescue unit.
Audio Recording Options for DSLR Videography by Pratik Panda - Don't you want the best audio quality possible for your video production projects? Pratik Panda shares some of the most common audio recording options when shooting video with your DSLR.
Behind The World's First Documentary (And What Today's Filmmakers Can Learn From It) By Daniel Cantagallo - Many have proclaimed that now is the golden age of documentaries and, with Sundance just wrapping up, there has been a lot of rich and vibrant conversation around the form (what it is and what it isn't).
How To Work With A Composer by Joseph East - Are you looking to hire a composer for your documentary? Documentary director Joseph East ("I Will Dance") offers 5 tips and lessons learned.
Video Lighting Techniques for Videos and Documentaries by Lorraine Grula - When it comes to making videos and documentaries, your lighting makes a bigger difference in the quality of your finished product than what kind of camera you use.
Audio Basics 101 | Tips & Tricks To Get Great Voice-Over Narration On A Budget by Pratik Panda - Are you wondering why some videos have wonderfully rich sound and your audio sounds hollow, tinny and empty? Here are a few easy tips to improve the quality of your audio.
Documentary Ideas: How My First Documentary Came Looking For me by Barbara Reina - They found it in the library basement and I helped them turn it into a documentary. It all started with a key.
DSLR Audio | MixPre-D Review by Larry Vaughn - What's the best way to capture professional audio with a DSLR? Freelance video producer and sound mixer Larry Vaughn shares his favorite gear to get the job done.
Want to become a Desktop Documentaries contributor? Learn More