So you’ve got a great idea for a documentary short, and you want to get started making your film. But how do you light your shoot? What music is legal for you to use? What releases should you have your subjects sign? How do you edit, compress and upload your video?
Luckily, there’s a ton of resources on the Internet for making documentary shorts. A great place to get started is the Make Docs section of FourDocs, an online documentary community sponsored by Britain’s Channel Four. FourDocs allows users to watch short docs (usually around three or four minutes in length) uploaded by community members, and you can also upload your own short doc to the site for review. The Make Docs area takes you through the process of creating a documentary short from beginning to end, covering topics like storytelling, copyright, shooting, sound and many more. This is an extensive, thorough collection of guides: Beginners will learn how to cover all the bases, and more advanced doc-makers will still learn something new.
Current TV, the TV network/website that airs user-produced video “pods” on air and online, has a great Producer Training section that offers tips on gear, storytelling, journalism ethics and all the other basics of documentary filmmaking. The Storytelling section, in particular, is chock full of fascinating advice from the likes of Ira Glass, host and producer of This American Life and filmmaker, actor and Sundance founder Robert Redford on the craft involved with telling a story.
The Learning Center from Blip.tv, the online video sharing site, collects tips and wisdom from veteran Web video producers to give those who are new to the medium a head start. While Blip’s guide isn’t specifically catered to documentaries, it does offer concise and clear advice on selecting your tools, exporting and distributing your video, creating a successful community and finding advertising for your videos. Each sub-section also offers excellent links for further reading on the topics covered. The advantage of Blip’s guide is its speed and clarity. If you want hit the ground running, this is a good place to get started.