Short Documentary


Objective: Create a 5-10 minute non-fiction film that explores a subject interesting to the student through interviews and visuals.

Possible topics: A biography of a subject; an exploration of a hobby, sport, or passion and the people who do it; an investigation of a controversial topic, exploring both sides of the issue; documenting an event; a historical documentary, using still images.


  • Subject is student’s choice, but must be approved by the teacher
  • 5-10 minutes in length
  • 1 to 3 interviews (whatever’s needed)
  • 30 shots (“b-roll”)
  • Music can be used for montage sequence(s), intro and ending
  • May use text or a voiceover to convey information beyond the interviews


  1. Find a partner, or choose to work alone
  2. Identify and research subjects.
  3. Discuss them with your teacher.
  4. Identify and arrange interviews (subjects, locations) or an event to document
  5. Type up a pre-production packet: 
    1. In a treatment (4 or 5 sentence paragraph) describe your film (story, characters, theme)
    2. A list of interview subjects (with a one sentence description of each)
    3. Interview questions (at least 5) for each interview subject
    4. A list of locations 
    5. A list of shots (“B-Roll”)
    6. voiceover script or on screen text (as needed)
  6. Make a list of possible video clips and sounds to go with the interviews (b-roll)
  7. Practice technology needed for shooting (lavaliere microphones, camcorders, location lights with umbrellas)
  8. Shoot the video
  9. Rough Edit (Shooting may continue while you begin editing). This means putting the pieces in place to tell the story. Resist using effects or doing extensive audio editing until the story is complete
  10. Screen for fellow students and teacher
  11. Fine cut (trim, effects, color correction, transitions, titles, credits, audio effects and mixing)
  12. Share and screen with the class