An investigative documentary is a film that seeks to explain the cause of particular circumstances. These documentaries employ a journalistic approach to unravel a particular situation’s mystery.
The intent is to expose confidential information about that situation to the public. In this article, I will show you the relevant steps to formulating an investigative documentary
1.Have a goal
Before writing a story to document, ask yourself what message you want to pass across. Do you want to expose a corrupt politician? Explain the reason for someone’s death?
A goal will shape the direction of the rest of your documentary in case your ideas shift as the documentary evolves. It’s always good to know what you want first and have an excellent foundation to make the rest of the process much easier for you.
2.Research on the video idea
To make an investigative documentary, you’ll need a story to investigate. If you can’t brainstorm story ideas, you can travel to a location or ask your friends if they know someone with a story.
You can also search for a story in the daily newspapers or social media. Pick a newspaper and start reading various stories until you find something worth investigating.
3.Pick an interesting topic
To make a thrilling documentary, you’ve got to be interested in the story. You’ll need to be extremely curious about it. That way, you’ll always be looking for more answers, asking more questions.
When the people you are interviewing see that you are interested enough to listen to their story, it’ll be easier for them to open up to you. You’ll have a better story at the end.
4.Gather your equipment
The list of equipment you’ll need to make an investigative video documentary
A notebook: To write down flash ideas in the middle of an interview or a checklist of questions, so you don’t forget them.
A video camera: The choice of camera will depend on your budget, type of shooting, and where you plan to display your film. You can even shoot the documentary with your phone camera, provided its superb image quality.
Tripod: Equipment to hold your camera steady while filming.
Lighting kit: You’ll need this equipment to create well-lit scenes, especially if you’ll be filming indoors.
Shotgun microphone: You’ll need this mic to capture quality audio for your footage. You can place it on top of your camera. In filming, the sound quality is more important than the imaging. Your viewers might endure grainy footage but not garbled sound.
Boom Pole: To capture audio from a group of people or crowd scenes.
Headphones: To monitor your audio while filming. You want to be aware of any audio malfunction in your documentary ASAP.
Extra batteries: Since most of your filming equipment will be portable, you’ll need extra batteries in case one of your devices drains power. 3-4 batteries should be enough.
Portable hard disk: To save your footage while filming.
Make a small list of important questions or topics you want to ask your subjects. Then, you’ll be utterly flexible about any other things the subject might have to tell you.
This way, you’ll always know what information you need for the story.
6.Arrange a pre-interview with your respondents
If a person is interested in being part of the documentary, schedule a pre-interview and meet them in person or place a phone call and schedule a meeting with them.
You will need time to connect with the subject as its usually tough sharing your story with a stranger.
Depending on how you will display your film to viewers, pick an appropriate camera angle. It is advisable to spend three to 4 days filming with the subject.
Film the interview in a place that means something to the subject, where they can feel comfortable without any distractions.
8.Editing step In how to make a video
Listen back to the entire interview and select the parts you think are most important to the story. You need to condense the interview to the required video length. This process requires plenty of patience as the story has to make sense to the viewer.
Make sure the story is clear. You’ll also have to fact-check all information to ensure it is credible.
9.Add music to your documentary
Experiment with various kinds of music that bring the vibe that you want for the documentary. The music will guide the story, take the audience from one scene to the next, and define the story segments. Alternatively, you can use natural sounds or sound effects in place of music.
Caution for video producers
A good documentary is not about having the best camera or gear. It is about researching, planning, and the ability to connect with the audience.
However, your safety as a documenter is paramount. Never film in places where your security is jeopardized, as this can lead to personal harm or damage to your equipment.