How to become Documentary Filmmaker

How to become Documentary Filmmaker

How to become Documentary Filmmaker
Rojina Raut

Non-fiction filmmaking in the form of documentaries aims to capture some aspect of reality, which includes enjoyment, preservation, and education content. A good documentary filmmaker conveys the facts and delivers the tale in a captivating but approachable style rather than trying to deceive the viewer or engage in a game of smoke and mirrors.

A documentary film requires a lot of work, time, and budget to produce. But the story (or theme, character, etc.) is one's most crucial component. A fascinating tale or topic or a compelling take on something or someone is required. To know more about this profession, you must read this article.

What is Documentary Filmmaker?

Documentary filmmakers are industry experts who produce nonfiction content for audiences to learn from and be entertained by, such as television programs and films about real-life situations. These filmmakers may make movies for various reasons; some want to educate viewers, while others are more concerned with documenting certain historical occurrences. 

Regardless of their specific objectives, most documentarians take on the primary responsibilities of managing a filming project, gathering a team, analyzing the footage, and ensuring the production is on schedule.

What are the role and responsibilities of a Documentary Filmmaker?

  • Encouraging actors to deliver their most dramatic performance possible.
  • Working on its continuing development while reading scripts.
  • Selecting actors and going to casting sessions.
  • Interpreting a screenplay and comprehending the narrative's structure and plot.
  • Overseeing practice.
  • Locating predetermined locations.
  • Working within financial restrictions.
  • Resolving disputes on set.
  • Follow a manufacturing schedule.
  • Coordinating with the camera crew, the music composer, the art directors, and the costume designers to guarantee consistent creative execution.
  • Collaborating with the editor to produce the finished documentary.
  • Assisting with the documentary film's marketing and promotion.

How to Become Documentary Filmmaker? Qualifications

Narrator skills

Documentary Filmmakers or actors can find work in various media fields, including cartoons, commercials, and film. A narrator for documentaries needs to have a smooth, consistent voice. Any accent is acceptable, but the narration must be understandable and clear. Beginning this job won't be simple because voiceover work is quite competitive. Working on several sorts of events, though, will allow you to diversify your sources of revenue. 

Photography skills

On a movie set, the camera and lighting are the first steps in photography. The photographer is likelier to be the camera operator on a documentary film project. Translating the producer's and director's vision to the screen is a job. A diverse set of skills is required for a profession in photography. 

For instance, you could require expertise in underwater photography if you're filming a nature documentary. The style of documentaries is also evolving. They might include VFX or cinematic reenactments, for instance. Therefore, even if you concentrate on documentaries, the film industry can benefit from your photographic talents.

Researcher skill

A researcher for movies and TV specializes in non-fiction and factual programming. They must verify the information and research whether this is a news, history, or crime drama program. Additionally, they could arrange interviews or assist in gathering resources like stock film. Beginning as a runner or junior researcher, the documentary researcher will work their way up. Many researchers who work on documentaries are independent contractors. 

However, major TV networks like the BBC will employ internal personnel. You can see advertisements for documentaries on websites for companies and film job boards. Visit our employment board for movies. As a researcher, having a focus will be beneficial. Wildlife, crime, history, and news are a few examples. You can devote your entire documentary career to one subject.

Rough cut Editing:

The actual editing resembles a chaotic game of chess. Similar to shooting, some elements that you assumed would flow seamlessly throughout editing are ineffective. The tempo and structure of the tale come together during editing. The outlines of the document are revealed by fiddling with the order of events, a rough opening, temporary music, and temporary images. There will be parts that flow smoothly and others that sag. A few different edits can ensure that the documentary uses its narrative, images, and interviews best.

Other Skills

  • Learning and researching.
  • Strong Communication.
  • Problem Solving.
  • Organization.
  • Writing Skills.
  • Leadership Skills.
  • Technical Expertise.
  • Self Confidence.
  • Knowledge of the Film Process.
  • Fluency in a language.

Steps to Becoming a Successful Documentary Filmmaker

Academic Requirements

  • 10 + 2 degrees required.
  • Skill in different fields like production, advertising marketing.
  • Knowledge of subjects Like economics, science, math English.
  • Be able to speak and write in English to a reasonable standard.

Acquire more knowledge after high school

Programs leading to a bachelor's degree in documentary filmmaking can give you a solid foundation that might help you land an entry-level job in the motion picture and video industry. A portfolio of your work is often required when applying to the documentary filmmaker program. The pre-production, production, and post-production phases of a film or other video production are covered in these introductory programs for undergraduate students. 

Take advanced pre-production, production, and post-production methods curriculum in documentary filmmaking and film directing graduate programs. Working on a thesis project, such as making an original documentary film, is frequently the focus. Like a bachelor's degree program, admissions requirements frequently include submitting original work samples.

Experience (work and related fields)

It's crucial to keep learning new things. Recent graduates may work as production assistants, but they might also be able to find work on low-budget independent films as camera operators, editing assistants, or writers. Working on documentaries offers a chance to start networking and getting to know other industry experts. You will be more prepared for more extensive and experienced productions if you learn how to complete a documentary film from beginning to end.

A bachelor's degree, the production of a short film, and experience are all necessary steps to becoming a documentary filmmaker.

Training (job or related fields)

There is various Film Academy Specialist residential program open to students who have completed training courses and are between the ages of 16 and 19, focuses on the craft and workflow of various specialties, including documentary, and has masterclasses from top industry figures. Additionally, participants get personalized professional guidance. You may view thousands and thousands of examples online for free. Try to watch more actively and keep track of the things you enjoy and the things that do not appeal to you.


Making the first documentary is necessary to launch a career in the field. Typically, people begin by creating a short documentary and then create a longer film once they feel prepared. Making money by producing documentaries is neither easy nor a good idea. They need a lot of your time and energy, are demanding to fund, and take a long time to complete. Most documentary filmmakers work as independent producers, cinematographers, and editors to fund their careers—some regular work jobs.

Because of platforms like Vimeo, YouTube, and other online communities where people exchange visual storytelling, it is simple to have your work considered today. The first step could therefore be to create a brief documentary.

Employment areas

  • Film studio
  • Production Company
  • Advertising agencies
  • NGOs
  • Television production
  • Film production
  • College
  • Universities
  • Theatres
  • Event Management Company

Job titles

  • Documentary producer
  • Documentary director
  • Program researcher
  • Documentary sound designer
  • Writer
  • Online Self Promotion
  • Networking
  • Online Film

Salary of Documentary Filmmaker

Let us see the average annual salary of Documentary Filmmaker in some popular countries.


Annual Average Salary of Documentary Filmmaker


$281,080 (AUD)/yr


$ 5.436.867 (ARS)/yr


165.980 € (EUR)/yr


R$295.242 (BRL)/yr


$229,817 (CAD)/yr


¥620,882 (CNY)/yr

Costa Rica

₡41 361 446 (CRC)/yr


1.434.238 kr. (DKK)/yr


442,596 ج.م.‏ (EGP)/yr


152 241 € (EUR)/yr


147 061 € (EUR)/yr


167.732 € (EUR)/yr

Hong Kong SAR

HK$1,337,844 (HKD)/yr


₹27,70,208 (INR)/yr


128.650 € (EUR)/yr


¥18,849,524 (JPY)/yr


RM263,876 (MYR)/yr


$963,899 (MXN)/yr


€ 162.359 (EUR)/yr

New Zealand

$254,135 (NZD)/yr


296 061 zł (PLN)/yr


93 495 € (EUR)/yr

Russian Federation

3 019 502 ₽ (RUB)/yr


CHF 240'973 (CHF)/yr


120.375 € (EUR)/yr


฿1,799,580 (THB)/yr


£122,682 (GBP)/yr


1 045 898 ₴ (UAH)/yr

United Arab Emirates

628,832 د.إ.‏ (AED)/yr

United States

$215,584 (USD)/yr

Vietnam ₫ (VND)/yr

Training Course for Documentary Filmmaker

Let us talk about some degrees to become a successful Documentary Filmmaker.




Diploma degree in animation

Diploma degree in 

Diploma degree in editors

Diploma degree in cinematographers

Diploma degree in Arts and Humanities


Bachelor’s degree in Arts (BA)

Bachelor’s degree in Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts (BFA)

Bachelor’s degree in Science (BS)

Bachelor’s degree in computer programs 

Bachelor’s degree in non-linear video editing.

Bachelor’s degree in art directors

Bachelor’s degree in multimedia artists

Bachelor’s degree in animation

Bachelor’s degree in humanity.

Bachelor’s degree in liberal arts.


Master's degree in Social Sciences

Master's degree in Geographical Information Science (GIS)

Master's degree in Data Analytics

Master's degree in Environmental Science

Master's degree in Film Studies

Master's degree in Media Studies

Master's degree in Studio Art

Master's degree in liberal arts


Ph.D. degree in Studio Art

Ph.D. degree in Social Sciences

Ph.D. degree in Environmental Science

Ph.D. degree in animation

Ph.D. degree in computer programs 

Ph.D. degree in humanity.

Ph.D. degree in liberal arts

Pros and Cons of Becoming Documentary Filmmaker

Advantages of becoming Documentary Filmmaker

  • Work on own film projects
  • Freedom to make own schedule
  • New opportunities arrived
  • Meet many people
  • Increase name and fame
  • Recognized by many peoples
  • Better career in future
  • Knowledge in different fields

Disadvantages of becoming Documentary Filmmaker

  • No time for family
  • Long working hours
  • Conflict between members
  • High level of competition
  • Struggle at first
  • Technical, financial problems may arrive
  • Limited cost
  • Difficulty in finding location
  • Satisfaction does not meet

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How to Become Documentary Filmmaker? FAQs

What qualities does a good documentarian have?

An excellent documentarian must be equipped to handle complex issues and sympathize with the subjects being filmed. Such filmmakers must approach the subject with caution and respect and have compassion for the problems of the topic.

What are the two crucial phases of making a documentary movie?

However, preproduction (planning), production (filming), and post-production are the three crucial phases that occur during the production of every film (editing, color-grading, and visual effects).

What does a documentary aim to accomplish?

Documentary movies are among the best sources of knowledge, inspiration, and pleasure because they convey significant, frequently untold tales and raise awareness among a larger audience. Additionally, they have developed into critical components and motivators of social issue campaigns.

What type of source are documentary films?

A documentary may serve as a secondary or tertiary source of information. It qualifies as a secondary source when it evaluates several sources and as a tertiary source when it merely repackages data without offering any interpretations or viewpoints.

Do documentaries constitute works of art?

As a result, since the beginning of motion pictures, technological improvements have significantly impacted and influenced the documentary cinema genre; it is both a science and an art that demands in-depth technical understanding and enormous imagination to perform appropriately.

How much time is required to make a documentary?

In three stages, shorter-form documentaries can be finished in as little as 2-3+ months, although "feature" documentaries can take a year or more to produce. Preproduction includes writing and research, interviewing, locating locations, and setting up shoot days. It will take about 4-6+ weeks to complete this.

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