Idea is the seed of any creative pursuit. You can get idea from anywhere by reading,watching television on internet or even while taking a stroll. The trick is to be observant and keep your eyes and ears open.You can even look for inspiration by watching the work of other people.Remember inspiration is fine but plagiarism is a sin.Avoid it.Once you have the idea and clear on the topic the next initial step is the research.
This exercise also give you the the precise and clear idea about the topic.The idea excited you and now is the time to hatch it.Give it the wings and footing it needs to stand on its own. Also find a selection of different documentaries, discuss the qualities of each film and note the good elements.Learn the structure of the documentary.You may also like to visit the real people and the real location to get the clear idea about how your story unfolds. Build a team:
Once you are clear with idea and its structure,start building a team.Keep in mind all film made is a team work,it is the sincere and constant effort of several people put together. That never means that you should have all the best technicians in your team.Just make sure that people associated with you share the same passion.Share your ideas and views with your team mates.It further helps in clarity of vision.
Decide a format :
The screenplay can be structured in various ways.There is no good or bad way of doing it. In "Looking Two Ways" (1996) Toni de Bromhead examines the different forms of narration in a documentary film. She draws up four narrative principles (modalities). 1) The Linear Narrative Form, also known as classic Hollywood storytelling; 2) the Discursive Narrative Form, which gives priority to information, facts and logic; 3) the Episodic Narrative Form, which juxtaposes situations that have no narrative or causal relations, and 4) the Poetic Narrative Form, which is built up around visual poetic associations. The point is, of course, that the modalities (which structure the filmed material) involve the spectator in different ways.At any rate you should consider how to catch the viewer's attention and keep his interest - and in this connection the modality you choose is important. Clarity is the most important quality in the making of a film,just as important as clarification. A film director must have a sense of simplification. A slogan like "Keep It Simple, Stupid" (K.I.S.S.) (David Mamet: On Directing Film) applies to the documentary as well.
All good work needs money to execute.Plans may be numerous but budget laways seems the contrain while pusuing an ambitious project. Now everything is in place nad you are ready to shoot,make sure you have the right funds ready for your project. There are numerous private and public funding available for the documentary makers these days.You can procure the list by making a google search on the internet.However,before approaching any funder,make sure you have the business proposal ready. A business is nothing but an outline of the execution of the work. You are trying to communicate your idea to some one who does not know you at all. So its always good to prepare a treatment, a budget, your previous work profile and the list of key team members. Threatment is the short visual summary of your story.Your purpose is to give the reader a clear idea how the story will translate on the screen.The key is to present what the audience would see on the screen.Avoid jargons.Be simple and crisp. While presenting the budget,be realistic.You are not here to make money but to use money to translate your vision into reality. The proposal may also contain the duration,intended audience,the purpose of the project,the style(shooting format,audio,editing etc.) and the key persons involved in the project. It is always the good idea to give the investors a fair idea about the distribution,the project history and the background of the story. The investors are looking for the worth of their money.
Once you have the funds ready, the next big task is the shoot.You have already done the ground work, you have a clear vision and your team and the fund is in place.Plan a shooting schedule. That may include hiring the equipment,getting the dates of the talent(if any) making the travel plans,finalising the the shooting locations.In other words be thorough with the pre production.Decide how best the story can be told.If your story requires interviews,rehearse the various ways of interviewing.Try and prepare the story board if necessary,this would help you during your editing session. Just be relaxed and calm on the day of the shoot.Be prepared to expect the unexpected. Shooting a reality is totally different from shooting a fiction, one fascinating aspect of it is that it cannot be controlled.Do not panic.Enjoy the moment,after all you have worked so hard for this day.
Did somebody say that the films are made on the edit table.You have all the shoot material ready with you,now you have the herculian task of arranging all your footage in a comprehensive manner and to spice it up with the audio or the background score.It is always adviseable to use the original score so as to not get into the copyright issues.What ever may be your stayle linear or otherwise, you should not forget that give a human touch to it.