10 Tips to Telling a Tale

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When the average person thinks about a documentary film in terms of how it’s put together, they might often have the misconception that it’s developed, filmed, edited, and distributed by a “one man band.” Many think that it’s easier to produce than say your average blockbuster because it involves real people. Surprisingly though, that’s not the case.

Documentary films require a tremendous amount of time and effort, brainstorming ideas that’ll be intriguing to audiences, collecting materials, conducting research, and most importantly, focusing on a topic the filmmaker is passionate about and audiences will appreciate. It takes a lot of thought and care.

Below are some essential tips you should consider when producing a doc:

  1. Topic & interviewees need to be interesting
  2. Storytelling needs to be relatable to audiences
  3. Keep storyline as tight as possible
  4. Make sure your film is educational, engaging, and entertaining
  5. Don’t rush your film to make an arbitrary deadline
  6. Collaborators are important—know what you don’t know. In order to make our documentary film, Jewish American Soldiers: Stories from WWII a success, we needed great researchers, funders, editors, graphic designers, sound designers, etc. There’s no “I” in “documentary”
  7. Keep an open mind to others' ideas in order to produce a better film
  8. Don’t wait for $$$. You need to capture interview and b-roll when your subjects are available. A striking example of this is in our film. We interviewed 12 WWII veterans, however, by the time we premiered the film, three of those “Greatest Generation” veterans had passed
  9. Be careful not to get into too much debt, unless you can afford it
  10. Being organized and having a detailed timeline are crucial

Here are a few questions to think about as you ponder your doc:

  • What topic(s) are you passionate about?
  • What kind of story do you want to tell?
  • What emotion are you trying to evoke?
  • What impact are you hoping to achieve?
  • Who’s your intended audience?

There’s no perfect way to direct & produce a doc. However, following our tips will help with your filmmaking process. It’ll still be an arduous journey, but we’re sure that it will be rewarding.

Please let us know your tips for producing a doc. Talk to you again next time.