Videomaker tips on choosing a documentary topic

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Following on from their guest post on "Tips for Time Manipulation," the experts at Videomaker magazine are back with advice for budding documentary makers.

One of the greatest things about watching a documentary is seeing the world through the eyes of another. The greatest thing about making a documentary is being able to bring that enriching experience to people everywhere.

Over the last decade the documentary genre has significantly increased in popularity, with topics covering everything from a person who eats too much McDonalds (Super Size Me), to a person who feels strongly about national health care (Sicko). There are documentaries about people in wheel chairs who play contact sports (Murderball), people battling it out for the highest score in Donkey Kong (The King of Kong), soldiers battling to survive in war zones (Gunner Palace), and even one about a man and his wild birds (The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill). When taking a look at popular documentaries it becomes quite obvious that, as far as topics are concerned, anything goes. What makes the documentary memorable are the characters within the story.

When choosing your topic, consider not only the subject you'd like to explore, but the people affected by it. Every story needs a main character, someone the audience can follow throughout the movie, someone they can relate to, love or hate, but most importantly, someone they can learn from. Failure to expose the thoughts and emotions of the affected persons within your documentary will leave your movie feeling flat and your message lacking impact.

The most important factor to consider when choosing a topic for your documentary is making sure it's something you're interested in. The path to a great documentary is a bumpy one with unexpected turns and roadblocks. Often the only thing that keeps you trucking down that path is your passion for the topic and your desire to share the experience with the entire world.

Check out Documentary Truth for more ideas on choosing a topic for your documentary.




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