Workshop: Documentary Storytelling

Workshop Friday 17 May 2013, 10.00 AM - 5.30 PM

Digital Bootcamp Frontline ClubStrong characters, compelling tension, a credible resolution. In filmmaking, ‘Storytelling’ is usually associated with fiction. Yet good storytelling is at the heart of most successful documentaries.

But when you’re not free to invent plot points or character arcs, how do documentary filmmakers tell strong and competitive stories?

This one-day workshop will address the challenge of storytelling in documentary. Breaking down the concept of storytelling, it will demonstrate how approaching your film with the story in mind will enable you to:

 – Cast and scout locations more carefully
 – Make more effective shot lists
 – Waste less time filming scenes that aren’t necessary
 – Be better prepared to follow the unexpected
 – Recognise the elements that will make your film even stronger

Using examples of existing documentaries, we will explore how storytelling techniques have been successfully (or unsuccessfully) employed, and how that makes the documentary what it is. Participants be will be given a recommended documentary viewing list before the workshop, so that they are familiar with the documentaries that will be referenced beforehand.

Participants with work-in-progress documentaries are encouraged to bring their projects to the table. At the end of the day we will have an open forum where we will discuss how to apply storytelling to projects that are still germinating. If you would like to bring your project along, please email Merryn Johnson with a brief outline explaining your film.

10am – 11.30am: What is story?; What drives a documentary? Types of story; How a story begins in the mind of the film maker: Tapping into your creative instinct, and extracting the story; Choosing the right approach.
11.30am – 11.45am: Break
11.45am – 1.00pm: Creative arrangement: Structure; Shooting with the story in mind; Editing: saving a documentary that was shot with no story in mind.
1.00pm – 2.00 pm: Break
2.00 pm – 3.30pm: How to use story to write a treatment (and get commissioned); How to use story to pitch (and get commissioned)
3.30pm – 3.45pm: Break
3.45pm – 5.00pm: Open forum – Brainstorming about your projects.

Run by filmmaker, director and lecturer, Yolanda Barker. She has lectured in Documentary Film at the University of East London and co-created a module to include documentary storytelling in the syllabus. Outside of teaching Yolanda is a documentary film director with over eight years of industry experience.