A documentary is a non-fiction video or film intended to inform viewers about matters affecting modern society, including things that aren’t well-known and detailed information about important events or people. A documentary’s main purpose is to educate, instruct, or maintain a historical record. Making a documentary can be quite challenging but it’s a wonderful adventure that’s rewarding in the end. Here are a few guidelines to ensure you create something you can be proud of:

Make a Plan

Creating a successful documentary requires a lot of work and preparation. It involves asking questions such as: what is the structure and style of your story? What are your key story points? Who are the primary characters? Who’s your target audience? The list is endless, so, focus on how you want the final story to look like, make a strict schedule, and then get to work.

Tell a Story You Care About

A good topic is one that has depth as it can be explored from multiple angles. So, choose one that interests you because if you’re lukewarm about the topic chances are the final production will be too. Then, do research on the topic to find diverse stories before settling on one that will become integral to your story. Documentaries are meant to be educational, but they still have to capture the audience’s attention. So, try out your documentary ideas in verbal form by telling them to friends and family. Based on their reaction, you can revise the idea or scrap it off completely for a new one.

Check Legal and Copyright Issues

Copyright laws are put in place to discourage people from imitating each other to gain profit. It’s important to keep legal and copyright issues in mind throughout the entire production process to avoid lawsuits. Copyright issues are extremely complicated; therefore, get an expert lawyer in intellectual property who also understands Public Domain and the concept of Fair Use.

Create a Shot List

Think of this as a list of ingredients needed for production. It involves breaking all of the shots of each sequence storyboarded as well as creating a list of footage and interviews needed to make the movie. With the help of production management software like StudioBinder, you can be able to combine these steps to create one cohesive workflow. In addition, depending on the complexity of your production, you may be required to create a budget. There are several hidden costs that come with creating a documentary. For instance, you may require a van to use when making or distributing your documentary. Ensure you are protected from any unforeseen circumstances by insuring your van with One Sure Insurance.


Thanks to the availability of several distribution channels, including theaters, the web, DVDs, televisions, and even over-the-top media service providers like Netflix, showcasing documentaries has never been easier. Have a distribution plan to ensure your content reaches your target audience. You can hire a distribution expert or take the self-distribution route to save money and keep control. You can start by taking your documentary to film festivals. If it has a good festival buzz it can end up being purchased by a film distribution company for a wider release.