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
 "Jason proves that top-notch production values are within the reach of anyone who has ever dreamt of making his own movie. You’ll learn far more about filmmaking with this practical, thorough and meticulously organized site than you ever will watching "Project Greenlight." Jason knows what he’s talking about, because he’s actually done it!"
   - Steve Skrovan, Executive Producer,
         Everybody Loves Raymond