10 Rules for Doc filmmaking


Documentary filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky is a creative force to be reckoned with; he’s won mountains of awards, broadcast his films internationally and screened his work at the most fancypants festivals on the planet. The man knows exactly what he’s doing.

In that, here’s a handful of know-how from the master himself: 10 tips to tilt things your way in making your documentary film. Here we go- (parentheses mine);

1 ) Don’t film if you can’t live without filming.

(No sense in shooting if you -likely- won’t use the footage. Coverage is one thing, waste is another).

2 ) Don’t film if you want to say something – just say it or write it.

(Shoot when you want to show the viewer something, to let the viewer see something; think both macro and micro, the entire film and every shot within it).

3 ) Don’t film if you already knew your message before filming – just become a teacher.

(Let your film experience change you; let the experience be one of discovery for bot yourself & the word in which you’re filming).

4 ) Don’t film something you just hate. Don’t film something you just love.

Film when you aren’t sure if you hate it or love it. Doubts are crucial for making art. Film when you hate and love at the same time.

5 ) You need your brain both before and after filming, but don’t use your brain during filming.

Just film using your instinct and intuition.

6 ) Try to not force people to repeat an action or words.

Life is unrepeatable and unpredictable. Wait, look, feel and be ready to film using your own way of filming. Remember that the very best shots capture unrepeatable moments of life with an unrepeatable way of filming.

7 ) Shots are the basis of cinema.

Remember that cinema was invented as one single shot – documentary, by the way – without any story. Story was just inside that shot. Shots must first and foremost provide the viewers with new impressions that they never had before.

8 ) Story is important for documentary, but perception is even more important.

Think, first, what the viewers will feel while seeing your shots. Then, form a dramatic structure of your film using the changes to their feelings.

9. Documentary is the only art, where every aesthetical element almost always has ethical aspects and every ethical aspect can be used esthetically.

Try to remain human, especially whilst editing your films.

10 ) Don’t follow my rules. Find your own rules. There is always something that only you can film and nobody else.

3 thoughts on “10 Rules for Doc filmmaking

  1. Good rules! One rule we try and follow is ‘a documentary needs to be as natural as possible so don’t get people to follow a script just ask them questions and get them answer naturally’

    We’ll be blogging about documentaries soon so if you like, subscribe to our blog :)

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