How to Pick a Topic for Your Documentary

By Nick Willoughby

It’s a good idea to choose a topic for your documentary that interests you, because it’s your interest that will drive you to complete your digital film. It’s also important to choose a topic that you think your audience will enjoy or find interesting. No matter how enthusiastic you are, making a documentary about paint drying really won’t captivate any audience.

You may wish to make a documentary about your hobby or a friend’s hobby, about an event you’re attending, about your school, or about a charity you support. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s possible to film and that you have people you can interview about the topic. One film crew chose to make their documentary about the making of a short film they’ve been writing and filming. Their documentary film will show behind‐the‐scenes footage and include interviews from the cast and crew.

It’s important to be clear about the aim and purpose of your film. What do you want to tell your audience? Is it to promote an event or group? Is it to present information? Is it to reveal a truth or to prove a point?

Think about what your audience will take away from your documentary film and how they will feel. If you’re making a film about your hobby, do you want to encourage others to take part? If you’re making a film about a charity, do you want your audience to donate or help? All these questions can help you know how you want to present your film.

Researching your topic is one of the most important tasks when creating your documentary. The more research you do, the more confident you can be with the information you’re presenting. You could potentially end up giving incorrect information to your audience.

It’s always a good idea to check through your facts and information several times before filming, and to get others to check through to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Imagine promoting a party or event and getting the date or time wrong. You could end up with a lot of unhappy partiers turning up on the wrong day.