Finding the Story Preview

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Documentaries, much like narrative fictional films, must have a strong story arc, compelling characters, conflict and ultimately, a satisfying resolution. Now, unlike a narrative where the writer creates these elements on paper, in documentary filmmaking, the story may not unfold until the cameras roll - and sometimes not until you get into in the editing room.
In this module, you will learn how to find the story by refining the subject matter, develop a viable and engaging hypothesis, unlock the secrets of the story arc, find a balance between the art and commerce of documentary filmmaking, know the audience, and narrow down broad concepts.
Create a compelling film by first building a strong foundation… the story.


  • 28:18 video that walks you through the process of finding a story
  • Illustrated companion guide


  • How to select a subject
  • How to determine the hypothesis
  • How to narrow down your story
  • How to work with subject matters that are too broad
  • How to deal with subjects that don't have a definitive outcome or ending
  • The documentary story arc
  • Choosing a project for art vs. commerce
  • How to know your audience
"Well put-together site. Easy to understand. Very concise."
   - Julian Grant,
         Columbia College, Chicago