Documentaries can be some of the most impressive and entertaining movies out there, but they can be difficult to make. There’s more to it than simply filming, so much more is expected of modern documentary movies. By no means are they easy to make, in fact, here are some simple mistakes that documentary filmmakers usually make.
Music is often key to our understanding of the emotion involved in documentary movies. It enhances the emotion and tells us more about the motion of a scene. A good soundtrack can make people laugh, cry, and gasp in all the right places. A bad soundtrack on the other hand, can distract from the storyline, and prevent the audience from empathising with and enjoying the movie. In documentaries more than any other type of film, music should be used to bring the story to life.
Cutting the budget
Everyone has a budget, and in filmmaking it can be particularly important to stick to your budget, otherwise it can be costlier than you’re able to afford. But many documentaries are clearly filmed with a lack of money to back them, and can end up looking more like home movies than professional productions.
Simple things like spending more on lighting or decent actors can make documentaries more enjoyable to watch, and will pay off in the end.
Spending money on promoting documentaries is also worthwhile, and not something that a lot of documentary filmmakers do. By promoting them, they’re more likely to be seen, and the word about that particularly documentary is more likely to be spread, particularly if the documentary covers an interesting and current topic. A good trailer can be the making of a movie, and the start of a film’s profit.
The term ‘documentaries’ is a broad one, and could mean anything from an educational resource, to a theatre intended movie based on a true story, to a mini-documentary aired on a documentary TV channel. The trouble lots of filmmakers come across is that by the end of their production, they’re still not sure which of the above they’ve intended their documentary for.
You might think that makes it more universal, but that’s not quite the case. Without clear vision, documentaries often get lost amongst many other ambiguous films, and never find their place in the film industry.
If you’re a filmmaker, it’s important to know where you want your film to be once it’s produced, that way, you can focus on how to best target your film at the right audience, and how to promote it to those that matter.
Choosing a subject that’s already been widely covered
Whilst this might seem like the safe option for filmmakers, as there’s already so much material and research to go by, it can be hard to offer anything new on the topic.
If people have already experienced similar films with similar information, it will be hard to capture their attention, and come up with a unique storyline that has something original to offer.
For example, you might have noticed that the Holocaust is a topic that documentary filmmakers love to cover, there’s so much information available on it, and people are always interested in learning more about one of the cruellest events in human history. The trouble with that though is that there are many documentary films that have very similar frameworks.
Choosing a less widely covered subject might take more initial research and work, but ultimately, it should pay off. Documentary audiences love to learn about something new, so events and people that aren’t mainstream documentary topics can make the best documentaries. They offer something new to the documentary industry.
Not narrowing down the theme
Once filmmakers have chosen a topic, they often try and cover the whole topic with one documentary. This is one of the biggest mistakes a filmmaker can make. Real life events that are worth covering aren’t simple and they definitely can’t be explained in an hour or two. By focusing on a specific part of a topic, or asking a more specific question about it you can go into more detail for you audience, and leave them without questions that haven’t been answered.