Documentary

Stuff You Need to Know

The Godfather of DocCinema - BBC Two - Documenting John Grierson (2014)

A Profile of John Grierson, Godfather of DocCinema

The orbit of John Grierson’s legacy touches almost everything we know about documentary. The five-foot something Scotsman with an orator’s voice single-handedly birthed the...
Image of homeless man

Striving for Objectivity in Documentary Filmmaking Will Help You Tell Better...

Before getting into how best to harness objectivity to serve your documentary story, a quick historical review of this most-coveted of journalistic ideals might...
When the Story Changes

How to Respond when Your Documentary Veers Off-course

The documentary storytelling process falls broadly into two very different ways of going about it.
Barber in his shop with customer holding a shaving brush

What’s Your Story: Developing the Story in Documentary

Writer and filmmaker Sheila Curran’s explanation is bang on: Without a story you don’t have a doc.In fiction films and movies, the story is...
<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-280333p1.html?cr=00&pl=edit-00">Lucian Milasan</a> / <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/editorial?cr=00&pl=edit-00">Shutterstock.com</a>

Fair Use Limitations – Best Practices for Shooting Video

Years ago, I was on a team of shooters on a wedding reality series produced for a regional lifestyle network.
Two man film crew shooting.

How To Not Screw Up Your First Documentary

Producer, director and screenwriter Spike Jonze reminds the aspiring documentarian: “Doing a documentary is about discovering, being open, learning, and following curiosity.”
“Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405” - 2018

The Advantages of Keeping Your Next Doc Short

The art of short subject filmmaking has come a long way from the days when ‘cutdowns’ were simply feature-length films chopped down to size so they could be shoehorned into TV time slots.

How to develop an idea into a finished documentary

Have you ever heard of Robert J. Flaherty?  He’s known as the “father” of documentary filmmaking (“Nanook of the North,” 1922). However, documentaries didn’t...
Miller’s Crossing (1990)

How to find your storytelling voice

“The sign of a great director is when a film’s voice comes not from the script or the protagonists, but from the filmmaker.” — Antonia Thompson, Huffington Post.
Taking the time to immerse yourself in a variety of documentary styles and sub-genres will top up your doc-making toolkit with storytelling ideas

How to Choose the Right Doc Format for Your Subject

We read a lot about the proliferation of documentary styles and forms—the many different ways a director can approach the telling of a nonfiction...

Video Courses

Documentary Production: The Shoot

Capturing the best video and audio for your project is an important part of any documentary. It's where all your hard work pays off....
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What it’s like to make a feature-length documentary

On this episode of The Videomaker Podcast we react to the new Rode VideoMic NTG, have a conversation with documentary filmmaker Brandon Vedder, and we talk about some of the leaked camera features coming to Samsung phones.
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Taking video to the 70 poorest countries on earth

On this episode of the Videomaker Podcast we react to the new 16-inch MacBook Pro; have a conversation with OMPT Development Manager Andy Shoemaker; and speculate about Canon’s plans for the mirrorless market.

Cocaine Cowboys Producer Alfred Spellman talks storytelling and trust in doc filmmaking

With an explosive doc catalog that includes titles like Cocaine Cowboys, Raw Deal and Screwball, Alfred Spellman is no stranger to high stakes filmmaking.

Cinéma Vérité Documentary

documentaries can be broken up into three types; Docudrama, Observational Documentation and Cinéma Vérité.

Russian Woodpecker director Chad Gracia talks Sundance, Chernobyl and Sex in the Soviet Union

"The Russian Woodpecker" (2015) would become a global cautionary tale of what happens when people lose trust in their government.

Public domain – what’s theirs is sometimes yours

When does a Copyright enter the Public Domain? We get this question all the time. We'd love to say, If published after this date add XX number of years, and then its OK to use. But—Heavy Sigh—we're talking legal stuff and legal...

Robert Flaherty: Defining the “Flaherty Way”

When Robert Flaherty (1884-1951) released his first and most famous film "Nanook of the North" in 1922, the term ‘documentary’ had not yet been minted.

How to win a grant: An inside look at the Gucci...

As an indie doc filmmaker, getting to the final stages of completing your film can be grueling. Ordinarily, you've spent months or...
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Unscripted storytelling: Finding the story in documentary

Much of documentary storytelling is about capturing footage of unfolding actuality — unscripted situations, events and natural interactions.
Ken Burns - Mark Twain,” 2001

The six primary types of documentaries

In 2010's “Introduction to Documentary,” film educator and documentary consultant Bill Nichols distilled the types of documentaries down to six styles.

How Pare Lorentz became FDR’s filmmaker

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was so impressed by the films of Pare Lorentz the New Deal president referred to the pioneering doc maker as “my shooter.”

The line between documentary reenactment and fiction in Grey Gardens

What's the difference between a documentary and a film that's based on a true story? Where is the line between documentary reenactment and dramatization? Which approach reveals more truth? Let's compare "Grey Gardens" the documentary and "Grey Gardens" the movie to try work through these questions.
Lauren Greenfield on set shooting with Canon camera. Photo Frank Evers

How Lauren Greenfield uses documentary to amplify women’s voices

Documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield aims to encourage and inspire women in documentary filmmaking and beyond.

UC Berkeley offers professional workshop for documentary filmmakers

I never went to film school and I never went to journalism school. Instead, about 20 years ago, I picked up a...
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