Documentary Film Resources

Blogs, guides and websites to help you get through the documentary filmmaking process.


February 12, 2019

Making a feature documentary is never a tidy, organized process. I always think of it as lightly planned chaos. There’s rarely a clearly defined beginning or end. Our team is in the midst of two feature films, Saving Atlantis, which is in the distribution phase, and what we’re currently calling The Second Warning, where we’re planning our first extended shoot. When you add the dozens of other video projects we tackle to meet our customer goals and keep the lights on, it can be hard to catch your breath.

But no matter where you are in the process, these resources remain essential:

A (Revised!) Introduction to Documentary Budgeting – Robert Bahar’s classic post on documentary budgeting has served me well for a decade, and it’s just gotten an update. Budgeting is an ongoing, ever-changing process. The budget you start with when you first plan your idea changes with every grant application, fundraising milestone and all the wrinkles thrown at you during the years of production and post-production. But the principles that Bahar lays out, and then handy temples he provides, are a great foundation. And it’s not just for features. I even use his concepts when planning a 3-minute video that goes straight to the web.

Documentary Filmmakers Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use – This essential resource lays out the ground rules for how to make documentary films using archival and existing materials while staying within the law. As someone who produces educational and science documentaries, these concepts are vital to allow me to fully tell stories while staying within a limited budget and legal guidelines. Also, it opens up the door to the appropriate use of a wide range of media to allow you to tell a more powerful and relevant story.

A Complete Guide to Documentary Filmmaking – This post is a content marketing piece from a royalty free music service, and it is something of a hodgepodge. But I find myself returning to it every so often. It’s comprehensive and through the laundry list of links, it offers you a range of advice about every step in the process from working filmmakers.

The IDA Blog and Magazine – The International Documentary Association offers weekly film recommendations via their blog, as well as links to articles about filmmaking. It’s always a dose of inspiration. They also have more in-depth articles in their quarterly magazine, all available online. I stop here at least once per week to remind myself that there are people all over wrangling with some of the same challenges we face daily.

No Film School – This blog has evolved from a DLSR-centric gear blog into an eclectic collection of all things film-related. It’s always fresh and current, and you can count on them to be among the first to nerd out on the latest gear and then surprise you with a post on French New Wave auteurs.

Letterboxd – Just what you need, another social service. But if you’re like most filmmakers and movie fans, you probably have an unwieldy list of films you hope to watch. The helps keep it organized and allows you to track and make notes on the films you watch, and if anyone asks you for recommendations, you can offer tips with data to back it up.

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CATEGORIES: Documentary Film


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