How should I proceed to make a documentary movie?

by Ankita Mondal
(West Bengal, Kolkata)

Question: This is the first time that we are making a documentary movie. We are not trained and we haven't studied film making as yet. But we are very passionate about this field and we are planning to make a documentary movie. As we are new to this field, we don't have any idea about how to proceed. The only thing that we have with us is the story. So what steps should we take? Please provide us with sufficient information. It would be a great help. Thank you.

Desktop Documentaries: Without knowing the subject of your documentary, it's a bit difficult to give you specific instructions. But in general, here is a good way to proceed.

A great first step is to produce a short video trailer (2-7 minutes) about the subject of your documentary. That way it gets your "feet wet" without the daunting task of producing a whole 1-2 hour program. There are many benefits to producing a trailer:

  • You will learn how to tell a mini-story

  • It helps you test the idea to see if people respond to the film concept

  • It helps you decide if you want to invest more of your time into the project and to see if you even like documentary filmmaking.

  • It provides something you can show to potential supporters and funders to show them your vision.

General Steps to Making a Documentary:

Decide who you want to interview and what footage you will need to tell you story.

Find a video camera (if your funds are tight, you may be able to borrow one from a local school or business). Only you can say how technical you would like to get with your equipment. It can be as simple as using a small handy-cam, like a flip video camera. Or if you have the budget to get something really nice with good lenses and a microphone input.

How To Choose A Camcorder

Start to interview people or shooting the footage of what your documentary is about. Don't feel you need to have everything perfectly figured out before you start. Sometimes just starting the process helps you figure out what to do next.

Once you have some footage, find a computer that has some video editing software and start piecing together your clips into a story.

Of course, there is more to it than I can explain here. Please review the different pages on this website for more details on each step of the process.

A good place to start is this page:

How To Make a Documentary

If you would like more personalized consultation on your documentary project (we charge a modest hourly rate), please contact us directly using the Contact Form.

Learn about our one-on-one documentary coaching.

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