The best model of how to make a video documentary involves a lot of hard work, but the rewards can be stellar.  To start filming your first documentary, think through the following steps.

  1. Start with a great idea, something new or a new perspective on a well-known theme.
  2. Do your research.  Collect facts, figures, documentation, any information you need to back up your documentary.
  3. Write a good script, or collaborate with an experienced writer.  Consider hiring a freelance writer from Elance.com or Guru.com if you need help with writing.
  4. Create a shot list, or an outline of the script, to guide your shooting phase.
  5. Purchase or rent a camcorder, tripod, good microphones (boom, shotgun, lavaliere, etc.), and a video editing software suite. 
  6. Contact all your interviewees and set up interviews.
  7. Stick to your outline.  Record every shot in your shot list.  Record extra footage whenever you can; get people talking.  A good rule of thumb is to film three times the footage you expect to use in the final cut. Relay the story as it unfolds; don’t get caught up in random side shots, even if they’re cool, unless they move the story forward.
  8. Edit your footage into a sensible sequence.  Try to stick within a 90-minute time frame or less. 
  9. Team up with experienced editors or other documentary makers for assistance, or ask them for feedback on your final product.
  10. Write a treatment for your documentary, including a synopsis, and submit it to film distribution companies. companies for consideration.

Learning how to make a video documentary is an interesting and rewarding process, one that will serve you very well in a videography career.