How to Start a Documentary

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Start a documentary with a hook that explains to the audience why they should watch and care about the subject of the film. Be honest and open in the first five to 10 minutes of a documentary by considering advice from a writer, director and editor in this free video on documentaries.

Part of the Video Series: Script Writing & Filmmaking
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Video Transcript

Okay folks, in this clip we're going to talk about how to start a documentary. The beginning of a documentary is the point when you really hook your audience in, and more than likely they know generally what the film is about before they come into the theater. Some people might not, though, depends on how you marketed your film. So let's assume at this point that they have no idea. In the first five to ten minutes, you really have to explain why it's important that they watch the other sixty or some odd minutes of your film. Create for them a sense of urgency within the reality of your documentary. Explain why your cause or why this situation or this moment in history or this individual is so important and why they need to know more. You need to create a hook of some kind. And you want to do this with as much integrity as possible, because obviously a documentary is taken from events or individuals that are real, that's not fabricated. So when you take a real subject and start to over hype it and oversell it, and really just mess with it in terms of the different tools that are available to us as filmmakers, you lose a lot of your credibility and it comes off more as propaganda. Present your case as openly as possible, while at the same time utilizing skills that maybe they won't necessarily like, realize in terms of different editing techniques or different.. there are clever ways to package your story without it being glaringly obvious that you're trying to really suck this person in to your point of view. You want to present the documentary to them, not plaster it all over their face. So, present the material to them, but do it in a way that is open and honest and not at all fabricated. That is the best way to start a documentary.

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