documentary filmmaking Aug 01, 2023
Jonny von Wallstrom

How To Make A Documentary: A Filmmakers Storytelling Guide

In my filmmaking journey, I discovered how to make a documentary that defies trends and embraces unique storytelling. Breaking free from conformity, I learned valuable lessons, faced challenges, and ultimately succeeded. Join me as I dive into my experiences, sharing the story of my journey as a filmmaker and providing insights on how to make a compelling documentary.

It all started in a special education class, amidst chaos and unpredictability, like the classic film "Dangerous Minds.” I first discovered a camera in that chaotic environment. I was hooked. From the moment I first laid my hands on a camera and started playing with video, I was captivated by its magic. It was a simple fascination at first, exploring what this device could do and how I could manipulate it to capture moments and create visuals. Little did I know that this initial curiosity would evolve into something much grander - a burning desire to tell stories.

As I delved deeper into the world of filmmaking, I realized the immense power it held. Film could illuminate untold stories, give voice to unheard people, and shed light on the forgotten corners of our society. It became clear to me that through the lens of a camera, I could bring stories to life and touch the hearts and minds of audiences worldwide.

I eagerly embraced the challenge of crafting my storytelling vision with each new project. I understood that it wasn't just about capturing beautiful images or creating visually stunning scenes; it was about weaving together emotions, characters, and narratives to create a tapestry that resonated deeply with viewers. The allure and constraints of conventional media never dampened my passion for filmmaking; instead, they fueled my determination to carve out my path as a storyteller.

I recognized the importance of pushing boundaries, challenging norms, and exploring new techniques to tell stories in unconventional ways. I sought to break free from the limitations imposed by traditional storytelling methods and find innovative ways to engage and captivate audiences. Whether it was experimenting with non-linear narratives, incorporating unique visual styles, or exploring unconventional themes, I reveled in the freedom that filmmaking offered me as a fiction storyteller.

As my journey continued, my passion for filmmaking grew stronger. It was more than just a hobby; it was my calling. I wanted to dedicate my life to storytelling through film, inspiring and connecting with audiences.

From being fascinated by cameras to becoming a dedicated filmmaker, my journey transformed me. The power of film to illuminate untold stories was evident, and I embraced the challenge of crafting my unique vision. I broke the boundaries of conventional media, constantly seeking new ways to captivate audiences.

Filmmaking became my chosen profession - a way to bring stories to life and make a meaningful impact. Yearning for a playful, creative process, I embraced spontaneity and uncertainty, making my films more engaging and less predictable.

Drawing parallels between running and filmmaking, I realized the importance of taking breaks during stressful times in the industry. These breaks renewed my determination to navigate the ups and downs of my career.

Throughout my journey, I learned how to make a documentary that captures the heart of a story and delivers a clear message. Join me as we explore the art of documentary filmmaking and unlock the secrets to creating impactful stories.

In an industry often fixated on gear, I prioritize the core essence of filmmaking: storytelling. While recognizing the significance of technology, I champion a shift in focus towards uncovering captivating narratives. I showcase visionary filmmakers, like Robert Rodriguez, Roy Andersson, and Ruben Östlund, who prove that the creative vision takes precedence over the gear. As a fellow storyteller, I encourage embracing the power of narratives in the realm of filmmaking.

Adaptation played a pivotal role in my journey. I learned from my predecessors that success comes from adapting and finding alternative solutions in the face of adversity. I created films that resonated deeply with audiences by embracing my circumstances and refusing to follow prescribed paths.

As a filmmaker, let me share a personal anecdote on how to make a documentary. Instead of obsessively chasing the latest technology like the first Alexa camera, I opted for my Canon 5D Mark III to capture a compelling story in Uganda. Surprisingly, my film was picked up by Netflix, leaving others curious about my secret. Success in documentary-making isn't solely derived from gear, but from determination, creativity, and hard work. Let me show you how to create an impactful documentary.

My refusal to conform led me on a remarkable journey in a world that often pushes for conformity. I discovered the power of storytelling, embraced my unique approach, and found success by staying true to my vision. I hope my story inspires aspiring filmmakers to trust their instincts, challenge the status quo, and carve their paths in the pursuit of great art.

In the world of filmmaking, staying true to your vision can be a challenging endeavor. The pressure to conform to traditional storytelling techniques and industry norms can stifle creativity. However, I have embraced my unique approach and refused to do so, leading to a remarkable journey filled with valuable lessons. In this blog post, let's explore my story as a filmmaker who dared to be different and found success by following my passion and staying true to my vision.

For me, the journey began as a photographer and cinematographer. I recognized the importance of storytelling in creating extraordinary films that resonate with audiences. Inspired by my love for cameras, I embarked on a mission to push the boundaries of traditional storytelling and delve deeper into the essence of meaningful narratives.

As a filmmaker, I refused to conform to conventional storytelling structures and techniques. This led me to explore alternative ways of storytelling, breaking free from predictable and formulaic films often seen in the industry. I embraced playfulness, spontaneity, and uncertainty, discovering new avenues for captivating storytelling that defied expectations.

Along my journey, I faced numerous challenges but learned the power of adaptation. Instead of being deterred by obstacles, I saw them as opportunities for growth and innovation. I embraced my circumstances, finding alternative solutions that led to unique and compelling films that stood out in a crowded industry.

In an era where gear and technology often take the spotlight, I emphasize the importance of focusing on the story. I highlight inspiring filmmakers who became masters through their creativity and determination rather than relying solely on the latest gear. By placing the story at the forefront, I advocate for a shift in perspective that prioritizes the narrative over superficial elements.

Passion and persistence were the driving forces behind my success as a filmmaker. I encourage aspiring storytellers to follow their passion and embrace failure as a crucial part of the creative process. Learn how to make a documentary and unlock true greatness by combining power with love for failing and learning from mistakes.

Building the right team is essential for bringing your vision to life. I share insights on finding like-minded individuals who share your passion and vision. Utilizing social media platforms, attending film festivals and networking events, and considering remote collaborations are great ways to connect with talented individuals worldwide.

Through my refusal to conform, I embarked on an extraordinary journey in a world that frequently champions conformity. By wholeheartedly embracing my distinctive storytelling vision, challenging traditional techniques, and remaining steadfast to my passion, I achieved success in the industry. My story serves as inspiration for aspiring filmmakers to trust their storytelling instincts, liberate themselves from conformity, and craft remarkable films that deeply resonate with audiences.

Written by Jonny von Wallström, Filmmaker and Director of "The Pearl of Africa"


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