How to Create a Short Summary to Introduce Your Documentary Topic

By Nick Willoughby

The summary at the beginning of your documentary film is a great way to introduce the topic. This summary can be made up of footage and interview clips from the main section. You could also write a voiceover to help introduce the topic. It’s a good idea to create the introduction summary toward the end of filming, because you know what you can use from the footage you have already filmed.

Expect your introduction summary to be about 30 seconds long — long enough to introduce the topic, inform your audience, and capture their interest. Think of the introduction summary is a trailer for the main section. The following list describes the sort of clips you might use to add to your introduction summary:

  • Clips that explain what the topic is about

  • Clips that introduce your characters

  • Video footage from the main section to support the information in the introduction

  • Any interesting moments captured in the main section

  • Any history or background information about your topic or characters

  • Clips that explain the aim or reason for your documentary

To help create your introduction summary, you may find it useful to watch other documentaries. You may even be able to find existing documentaries on the topic you have chosen. One crew watched many behind‐the‐scenes documentaries before creating a structure and a list of interview questions for their own documentary. There is nothing wrong with learning from other filmmakers by watching how they do it.