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5 Guidelines on how to choose a subject for a Documentary
by eguaogie-eghosa May 14, 2021 Views (1.1K)
A documentary subject can be almost anything. With so many ideas around, it can be a bit confusing to pick the right topic. But as difficult as it may seem to decide on what might be the best possible subject for a documentary film; one thing is however certain: the documentary must be able to achieve the purpose for which it is actually made.

This article attempts to present a few guidelines that can help you as a filmmaker to make the best decision possible for a good documentary. The guidelines presented in this article are by no means exhaustive or definitive; however, I believe that they present a very strong argument for what could probably be the most effective ways to make a good decision on the choice of a subject matter for a documentary.

So, here are some pointers you can keep in mind to help find the right subject for a documentary.

1. Go for what’s doable than what is desirable
You may want to do a documentary about an astronaut’s life in space. But unless you are a big shot filmmaker with the means to shoot such a documentary and probably go to space with them, then it may be impossible to achieve such a documentary.
Instead, go for something that you’re deeply passionate about social issues, injustice, or anything. Consider your time, your resources, and your finances, and push through if you have the means to do it.

2. Travel and explore
If you want to get ideas on what to make a documentary about, try to go out to travel and explore.
Talk to friends or other people, try to find interesting things about them and know more about them. Making a documentary is also a learning process. As you put all the elements together, you also learn a lot of things from experience.

Don’t just waste time in front of your desk and thinking about what to film. Go out, explore, and the ideas could just come rushing into you. You might be surprised to find that there are a lot of topical social, cultural, and political issues that should be made into documentaries to raise awareness and elicit actions from across societal strata. 



3. Be Unique
If you want your documentary to deliver an impactful message, then try to tackle something that hasn’t been talked about before. Many people have a lot of beautiful stories to tell. With so much potential on many subjects, recycling an issue that was discussed many times is not a great option.

However, your passion for a particular subject coupled with proper research can help you to bring a new perspective to documentaries that did have similar presentations. Find ways to try and put the story in a different light, a different angle, maybe explore the subject from the angle of a critical piece of detail that the previous works may have overlooked or pursue it from a series of narrative perspectives of all those involved in the situation; for instance from the eyes of an 80-year-old or an 8-year-old. Take advantage of the wide options and almost non-existent restrictions a documentary can offer.

4. Consider What Is Available To You 
If your first step involves looking existentially, then in reality, your second step would be to look practically at what is available to you to shoot. Take a critical look at your resources and decide which subjects are available to you. If you live in Dubai, for instance, and have limited resources, it may be difficult for you to follow an indigenous tribe through the creeks of the Niger Delta in West Africa.

However, that being said, as long as you keep a creative mindset, practicality is subjective to your ability to solve problems and adapt. 

5. What Is The Most Visually Interesting?
The final question you should ask yourself deals with the superficial. What will the documentary look like, and why would people be interested in seeing it? It is not always the case that what you are interested in and have available to you will be visually interesting to audiences. This is where you might have to look beyond yourself, to friends, family, and mentors to decide what could make your documentary interesting.

Remember this; a good and interesting subject can have a vital impact on the final output of a documentary and consequently, the audience.   

For more information on Movies, Cinema, Lifestyle, Content, and Corporate Video Production; you can always trust Film District Dubai. We create inspiring content that works for Consumer and Luxury brands, Property & Construction, Travel & Hospitality, Food & Beverages, and Sports. 

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