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Attention, Documentary Filmmakers: Here’s All the Advice You’ll Ever Need

Attention, Documentary Filmmakers: Here's All the Advice You'll Ever Need

It’s been a strong year for documentaries and Indiewire’s been collecting some really great advice for documentary filmmakers along the way. Whether it’s about funding, finding the right subject or getting the film out into the world, Indiewire has the information you need!

Before You Get Started

Here’s What You Need to Know Before You Start Production: Thinking of making your first documentary film? Then you must read these essential tips for first-time documentary filmmakers from DOC NYC 2014.

5 Questions to Ask Before Making a Documentary: The co-directors of “E-TEAM,” which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, share the five questions they asked themselves before undertaking the documentary about the high-stakes investigative work of four intrepid human-rights workers.

Hot Docs Tips on Making Your First Documentary: Not sure how to get started with your first documentary? At Hot Docs 2014, Academy-Award nominated documentary director Marshall Curry led a panel of documentary directors discussing how they got their start.

6 Must-Read Documentary Tips from Academy Award-Nominated Filmmaker Marshall Curry: Marshall Curry keeps two sentences tacked above his editing setup: “What Happens Next?” and “I Didn’t Know That.” Every few minutes, he explained during a master class at the Camden International Film Festival, the audience needs to ask one of those two questions. Here’s some more crucial advice from the double Oscar nominee.

Advice from the Masters on Finding Your Documentary Voice: How do filmmakers express and evolve their creative vision in a film or through a body of work? At Hot Docs 2014, Margaret Brown, Barbara Kopple and John Zaritsky explored what it takes to create a distinct cinematic voice that speaks through the work itself.

The Best Advice from Sheffield Doc/Fest: The 2014 Sheffield Doc/Fest provided not only the opportunity to see nonfiction films from some of the most established names in documentary today as well as first-time filmmakers, but it also served as a resource for filmmakers looking for advice about how to get their film off the ground and how to make a career as a documentary filmmaker.

8 Top Documentary Directors on How They Got Their Start, Finance Their Films and More: At the 2014 Savannah Film Festival, eight top documentary filmmakers gathered for a roundtable discussion about how and why they came to make eight of the most celebrated films of the year.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Nonfiction Shorts: A DOC NYC 2014 panel tackled a wide swath of questions and issues regarding the nonfiction short film, from marketability to emerging online platforms and more.

The Ethics of Documentary Filmmaking: Documentarians with films screening at 2014 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival addressed the issues of ethics and morality when making a film.

Michael Moore’s 13 Rules for Making Documentaries: During his keynote at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival’s sixth annual Doc Conference, Michael Moore shared his advice to documentary filmmakers, beginning with the notion that they shouldn’t be called documentarians at all. “We are not documentarians, we are filmmakers,” he told the crowd at the start of his 13-point manifesto.

7 Tips for Documentary Filmmakers from Full Frame Documentary Film Festival: At the 17th Full Frame Documentary Festival, top programming executives as well as funding specialists shared advice with attendees about how to get funded and go the distance in today’s competitive documentary environment.

Getting Funded:

Every 2015 Lab, Grant and Film Festival Deadline: Here is a comprehensive list of all the labs, grants and festivals geared specifically towards documentary filmmakers that are still accepting submissions or have yet to announce their deadlines. 

How Working with a Brand Can Help Get Your Film Made: Dick’s Sporting Goods teamed up with Tribeca Digital Studios to make “We Could Be King,” a documentary about two rival Philadelphia high schools that, due to drastic budget cuts, are forced to merge. In a guest post, the film’s director, Judd Ehrlich, explained how working with the brand helped to get the movie made.

Tips on Succeeding on Kickstarter: At DOC NYC 2014, filmmakers shared their tips about crowdfunding a documentary.

Production Tips:

5 Essential Tips on Producing Documentaries: Thinking of producing a documentary? Keep these tips from the 2014 DOC NYC Masterclass on Producing in mind.

Essential Tips on Shooting Your Documentary: Veteran cinematographers shared their tips for shooting documentaries at a 2014 DOC NYC Masterclass.

From Concept to Final Cut: 10 Tips on Making a Documentary: Documentarians Lauren Greenfield and Kirby Dick didn’t shy away from the tough filmmaking questions at the Sundance Institute’s inaugural documentary ShortsLab in Los Angeles.

Post-Production Tips:

10 Tips for Finishing Your Documentary: From archival footage to music to editing and beyond, these tips from DOC NYC 2014 run the gamut of the documentary filmmaking process. Read up and learn from the pros.

Tips on Getting Music Rights: What challenges and issues should a filmmaker prepare for during the music-licensing process? Experts at DOC NYC 2014 filled us in on some tips.

Getting Your Film Into the World:

How to Measure Your Documentary’s Impact: At IFP Independent Film Week 2014, Ryan Harrington, vice president of artist programs at the Tribeca Film Institute, moderated a panel with experts of the documentary film industry to talk about the basics and strategies behind gaining and measuring the impact factor. Here are our takeaways.

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