A Guide To Making A Documentary

I am in the process of making a documentary about WINOL for my FYP and i've discovered how useful it is to know how a documentary is structured and all the correct 'documentary jargon.' 

When people go out to film something they will often find they will take plenty of pictures/videos but not know what to do with them. (This is what I did) This is common amongst most amateurs and it's a lot like being a tourist. You take your photos and then when you get home you don't know what to do with them. 

Here are some tips to help you in the process of making a documentary:  

  • Create a shooting script:  Scene by scene plan of what you need to film. This way you will know what you will need to film and when to do it. Sticking a camera up and getting lucky won't work and it will make editing difficult. With a clear structure and planning what you want each section of the documentary to look like will speed up the editing process.

  • Narrative StructureThe structural framework. It has to be divided into three sections, which is referred to as the three-act structure: setup, conflict, resolution. The setup (act one) is where all of the main characters and their basic situation are introduced, (exploring the character's backgrounds and personalities). A problem is also introduced, which is what drives the story forward and then the finally scene is the end, which is a resolution. So simply a beginning, middle and end. The middle is all about the jeopardy.   
  • Parallel Narrative: This is where there are two separate narratives that converge into a single narrative. These stories are used to highlight some significance or deeper meaning.
  • Fourth act: This is additional to the ending. In the fourth form the viewer can watch an overall debrief from the characters for example 'how did it go' everyone can give their opinions. 
  • Choose a particular documentary style you personally like. Often following the same style of TV you like to watch will help you when making your own. Whether you follow the same style of narration or if you follow the same scene structure. Mine for example would be Come Dine With Me, as the narration is funny and the sequences are great. 

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