As a filmmaker, you must have done several short reports on certain topics. Now you may have become an expert in this field and you would possibly want to a feature-length documentary. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind once you want to shoot and edit a long form documentary.
- Make a plan
Longform documentaries mean tons of labor and preparation before you begin shooting. Sit down and focus before you start shooting! Think about how you’d like your final story to appear like. Ask yourself: what is the story I want to tell? And don’t lose your point by bringing in too many aspects. Otherwise you would possibly find yourself telling the story of the entire mankind. Make a schedule: what number of days does one need for shooting over what period of time? When do you want to edit the documentary? Be strict to yourself and set yourself a limit: rough guess: seven days for a 30-minute documentary. I promise it will take a little longer.
- Find protagonists
Who is the most important person in your story? Will there be a reporter before of the camera who leads me through the entire experience? What is his/her quest? What does he/she want to find out? Or does one want to follow a person who is profoundly involved in the topic and is facing a challenge or fighting with the topic at hand? Decide which person is going to be the one you are going to stick with when watching your final documentary. Who else will be visible in your documentary? What role does he or she play?
- Think in chapters
Take your time to build up tension. Ask the most important questions in the opening, but give all the answers all the way through the movie. Build up one piece of information after another. Do not overload it. The best documentaries are those that I can understand and follow through without having tons of background. You do not make a documentary for experts, you create it for your audience. What do they need to understand the story?