TEACHERS: Looking for ideas on how to approach the project with your class, or a self-guided step-by-step process for your students? Check out this Lesson Plan: StudentCam Documentary Competition Step-by-Step Guide
Click here for a printable Student Checklist (Google Doc)
Additional Tips for Getting Started
|Clifton Raphael, a video production teacher at Jenks High School in Oklahoma, also shared a series of video tutorials featuring testimony from his students who have first-hand experience in creating documentaries for past StudentCam competitions.
Mr. Raphael also shared the following document which covers some of the basic technical considerations for framing your interviews and other shots on camera.
HANDOUT: Essential Elements in Documentary Filmmaking
The contest calls for a specific format for your video--a documentary. A documentary could be described as a type of "non-fiction story." The video elements (content, editing, voiceover, B-roll, music, titles) should be combined to explore the topic. It may include entertainment, instruction, or news, but the end product should tell a non-fiction story.
Before you get started, if you are working in a team, you should consider how the team is going to divide up the responsibilities. Typical roles may include: writer, editor, director, and videographer. Of course, one person can play more than one role.
Research facts and opinions on your topic. Brainstorm a list of potential interviewees and contact them to schedule interviews. Explore locations and events that you may want to include to illustrate your topic. Organize your information and properly cite your sources. Be consistent in your citation format.
At this stage you may wish to write a "treatment"--a one-two paragraph synopsis of your documentary's topic. You can refer to the treatment throughout the production process to keep the project focused.
Outline the Content
Before production, you may wish to create a script outline, including storyboards illustrating specific shots. It should include: locations to explore, people to be interviewed, events to capture, situations to show, documents or still photos to include, artwork, quotations, C-SPAN video clips to insert (Take a look at our FAQ page for suggestions on accessing C-SPAN video). **Be sure any copyrighted material is used sparingly under "fair" use guidelines.
Many students simply use teh camera on their cell phones but if you do not have video equipment readily available, consider asking your school or public library, your school district's technology department, local cable provider (try their community relations or public affairs divisions), or public access channel for help with resources.
There are some basic rules to follow when shooting video for use in your documentary. You should consider lighting, framing, positioning, camera steadiness, speed of camera movement, sound, how many seconds you hold a shot, etc. A note about interviewing--think carefully about the questions and answers, the preparation, position, location and appearance of the interviewee. Careful planning can lead to better video footage for your final product.
Editing is a critical phase of creating your video. Think of the editing process as similar to the writing process, and your finished documentary as the words you will use to tell your story. In what order will you arrange the story? What pieces work well together? What piece should be left out? How will it end? You may also realize you are missing some pieces and need to shoot more video. Determine your strategy of transitioning between scenes and which segments need voice-over narration.
Before you submit your video, ask your friends, family members, or teachers to watch your video and give you feedback about what works well and what needs improvement. Make those final adjustments before you submit your video to the competition.