How To Craft A Documentary: Choosing the right story structure for your film
Documentary filmmaking is a powerful medium for telling stories, and choosing the right story structure can make all the difference in how your film is received. There are several types of story structures to choose from, each with its own advantages and challenges. In this post, we’ll explore each of these structures and provide practical instructions on how to plan and prep for each one.
The chronological structure is the most common and straightforward structure in documentary filmmaking. It presents events in the order in which they occurred, from beginning to end. This structure works well when the story has a clear beginning, middle, and end. To plan and prep for this structure, you should:
- Determine the key events that will drive the story forward.
- Create a timeline of these events and their chronological order.
- Identify any gaps in the story that need to be filled, such as background information or interviews with key players.
- Determine the pacing of the story and how much time to allocate to each event.
- Identify the key event or idea that will bookend the story.
- Determine how the events in between will lead back to that idea.
- Consider how to keep the audience engaged throughout the story, knowing that they already know how it ends.
- Use foreshadowing and callbacks to create a sense of anticipation and connection between the beginning and end of the story.
- Identify the key stories and how they are related thematically.
- Determine how to move back and forth between the stories without confusing the audience.
- Consider how to maintain tension and momentum in each story while still connecting them thematically.
- Ensure that each story is strong enough to stand on its own, as well as being compelling in its relationship to the other stories.
- Identify the key events in the story and how they relate to each other.
- Determine which events can be revealed through flashbacks or non-linear storytelling.
- Consider how to maintain coherence and clarity, even as the story jumps back and forth in time.
- Use visual cues or voiceover narration to help the audience follow the story.
Character Driven Structure
- Identify the key character(s) and their stories.
- Determine how to weave their stories together into a larger narrative.
- Consider how to maintain audience interest in each character while still moving the story forward.
- Ensure that each character has a clear arc or journey that is satisfying for the audience.
ISSUE Driven Structure
- Identify the key aspects of the issue that you want to explore.
- Determine which experts, stakeholders, or affected parties to interview.
- Consider how to present the different perspectives on the issue in a fair and balanced way.
- Ensure that the story builds towards a clear call to action or conclusion.
- Identify the key themes or emotions that you want to convey.
- Consider how to use visual or audio techniques to create a mood or atmosphere.
- Determine how to structure the story in a way that conveys the themes or emotions you want to explore.
- Be willing to experiment and take risks with your storytelling approach.