Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

American Dream: Creating Documentaries

7 Elements of Digital Storytelling

This video provides tips for how to effectively tell your story. Since this is a documentary and not a fictional movie/story not all of the elements apply but do pay attention to the elements like the soundtrack, narration, and pacing. Some of the hints this video provides:

-for your soundtrack don't pick music with words that will compete with your audio narration. This will distract the viewer.

-pay attention to pacing. By focusing the timing of your edits you can increase the dramatic tension and reinforce what your interviewee is saying. For example you can pan or do a close up of a still photograph.

Sample Documentaries

The following are student made documentaries that won the National History Day Documentary contest. Notice the intermixing of music, still photographs, and interviews to create a story rather than a static interview.

Sample Documentaries

In class activity

 Watch the following videos: 1. finding A/v resources for this project (5min). 2. A video about a very helpful editing technique. (5 min) 3. A video about organizing your documentary (3 min)

1. Finding A/V Resources

2. Ken Burns Effect

3. Organizing your documentary

A Guide to Documentary Creation

From the University of California, Santa Barbara this document outlines how to create a storyboard for a documentary. Pay particular attention to the final three pages. They provide a sample script (along with accompanying images) as well as a checklist for your project.

Guide to filmmaking

This guide explains different filmmaking techniques as well as a walk through on how best to complete a film project from start to finish.