THE SECRET TO GREAT DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKINGApr 21, 2023
THE ART OF DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING: INSIDER TIPS FROM JONNY VON WALLSTROM
As a seasoned documentary filmmaker with over 20 years of experience, I've had the privilege of selling films to platforms like Netflix and sharing stories that have made a real impact. In this blog post, I want to share my favorite tips on getting started in this competitive field and how to create captivating documentaries that resonate with your audience.
THE POWER OF A UNIQUE STORY
Do you know that feeling when you stumble upon an idea for a documentary that excites you? It's an incredible moment of creative inspiration. However, it's also essential to consider what the industry and audience seek. Remember, this is a competitive field, and standing out requires more than personal enthusiasm.
Your documentary needs a unique, magically good story to captivate your audience. A great story encompasses conflict, strong characters, and a clear goal for these characters to strive towards. Throughout the film, they will face numerous obstacles, experiencing victories and setbacks. The key is to create a compelling narrative that resonates with viewers.
CRAFTING A STRUCTURED NARRATIVE
As Robert McKee, the master storyteller, once said, a great story requires a solid structure. Your film may become smooth and clear for viewers with a well-defined structure. Take the time to identify the narrative themes and arcs within your story. This will help you shape a cohesive and engaging documentary that leaves a lasting impact on your audience.
RESEARCH AND ORIGINALITY
Thorough research is essential when selecting a story for your documentary. Dedicate time to explore the topic and see if similar films have been made. You aim to find unique angles, fresh perspectives, and untold stories that have yet to be explored extensively. Doing so'll ensure that your documentary feels fresh and original, offering viewers a new and exciting perspective.
GEAR DOESN'T DEFINE SUCCESS
Refrain from getting caught up believing that expensive equipment is necessary to create a great documentary. In today's technologically advanced world, anyone can shoot compelling footage with even a smartphone. The key is to practice and refine your skills. I often use a simple setup, with just an iPhone and a pocket-sized recorder from Tentacle. It's not about the gear; it's about your ability to capture authentic moments and tell a compelling story.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PRE-PRODUCTION PLANNING
Always create a production plan to ensure a smooth and organized filmmaking process. This plan will help you schedule everything, from interviews to shooting locations, allowing you to stay on track and maintain control over your project. By organizing your gear and developing a clear plan, you'll be able to focus more on capturing meaningful content and less on logistical challenges.
BUILDING RAPPORT WITH YOUR SUBJECTS
Before rushing into interviews, take the time to build trust and rapport with your subjects. Make them feel comfortable in front of the camera so that they can share their stories authentically. Spend time getting to know them, understand their experiences, and listen actively during interviews. This creates an environment where genuine emotions and insights can shine through, making your documentary all the more impactful.
In conclusion, documentary filmmaking requires creativity, research, and careful planning. You can create thought-provoking documentaries that resonate with your audience by selecting unique stories, structuring narratives effectively, and connecting with your subjects personally. Remember, it's not about the gear you use but the passion and dedication you bring to the craft. So go out there, embrace the challenge, and tell the stories that need to be heard.
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