Interview Driven Documentary Film

The following is a breakdown of the production steps needed to complete an interview driven documentary film. This is only a suggestion and can be altered to fit your class or group’s needs depending on the story you’d like to tell and how the student teams would like the finished film to look.

Benchmarks

Pre-Production
(For 2 Semester Project Pre-Production should be completed by the end of November)
(For 1 Semester Project Pre-Production should be completed in 5 weeks.)

  1. Choose Topic – Have students divide into teams based on the film topic they would like to produce.
  2. Students should independently research their chosen topic and compile notes for treatment.
  3. Student teams should write a short one or two-page treatment of the film. This helps to focus everyone involved and assure the team is on track and on point. It’s recommended that the student teams first draft an outline of the story they want to tell. This will help in writing their treatment AND when it comes time for them to write their interview questions.
  4. Student teams should compile a list of people you would like to interview for the film. It’s best to be as specific as possible, but you can certainly start with categories and age groups.
  5. Student teams should draft letters of inquiry to their chosen professionals requesting an interview.
  6. Create a series of questions for each of the interviews you plan to film. Here is where the teams can use their outline of the film to help focus the interview questions so that they get the footage and information they need to tell their story.
  7. Schedule each of the interviews and arrange for a location to film.

Production  
(For 2 Semester Project Pre-Production should be completed by the end of February)
(For 1 Semester Project Pre-Production should be completed in 5 weeks.)

  1. Film all interviews with the students running the interview. These can be done at the professional’s location or a neutral site that speaks to the topic of the film. Be sure to have the teams record some “room-tone”. Room-tone is where you just record the sound in the interview room without anyone talking or moving about. This will help when the team’s move into the editing and polishing of the films.
  2. Student teams should write their voice over scripts. Be sure to have the students watch the 9-part How-To video series in the Resource page of our website.
  3. Record the children’s voice overs.
  4. Gather all the needed B-Roll for the film. Have the student teams check on our Resource Page for links to sites with free-use, royalty free video clips and photos.

Post-Production
(For 2 Semester Project Pre-Production should be completed by the end of the school term.)
(For 1 Semester Project Pre-Production should be completed in 5 weeks.)
(It is important to give the teams a few weeks to produce their initial “rough cut” of their film. Then be sure to give yourself as the teacher enough time to review each one and provide feedback. There should be three edits of the film – the rough cut, first polish and final edit)

  1. Edit together the initial rough cut of the film. This edit is the original construct of the story. Your feedback should be focused on the content, clarity and redundancy of the film. If the audio or video tracks are bad, you’ll need to have the teams re-record them. At this point it is not unusual to be lacking some of the b-roll in the film. The teams may still need to locate and add the necessary photo or video clips that help visually tell the story.
  2. Student teams produce a first polished edit version of the film. This edit should be built on the feedback you provided them off the rough cut. When it comes time to provide feedback, here you should not only focus on the content, clarity and redundancy, but also look for any visual and audio issues in the film.
  3. Edit a final version of the film which can then be uploaded to the Our Rock Project Library.
  4. Along with the actual film, we need the student teams to provide us with a transcript of their film. A transcript is the written dialogue of the entire film – everything everyone said in the film. It sounds more daunting than it actually is. The teams already have their voice-over scripts and that only leaves transcribing the portions of interview dialogue that they used in the final film. The transcript should be formatted with time codes in the film that correspond to the sentences and paragraphs when someone is speaking – either the interviewee or the student voice-overs.