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Top Resources For Documentary Filmmakers

We're often asked for recommendations, so we've curated a list of resources that we use, or have used, as we have evolved as documentary filmmakers.

Use them to support your own doc filmmaking experiences and journey! 

 

Note: Some of the links are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase or use a service. However, we would never promote any product or service we did not believe in 100%. You have our word on that.

Top Documentary  Filmmaking Books

If you love reading as much as we do then you are going to love this book selection we've put together for you. Affordable, effective and inspiring documentary filmmaking books are a great place to start to learn and connect with the craft.

 

Directing the Documentary 

by Michael Rabiger

A comprehensive manual that has inspired over 100,000 readers worldwide. Everything you need technically and conceptually is here. Filled with practical advice on every stage of production, this is the book you will return to throughout your career. This is one of our absolute favorite, must have documentary filmmaking books.

Listen to podcast episode #60, with Directing the Documentary author, Michael Rabiger.

In the Blink of an Eye 

by Walter Murch

In the Blink of an Eye, is world renowned film editor Walter Murch’s essay on film editing. It discusses the esthetics and practical concerns of cutting a film and insights on continuity and discontinuity in editing and much more.

The Art of Film Funding

by Carole Lee Dean

A true film funding bible, this book is perfect for documentary filmmakers looking for funding via grants, individual investments/donations, crowdfunding, and distribution through streaming video. It is a comprehensive book covering both established financing and new online financing. A must read for any doc filmmaker!

Listen to podcast episode #69, with The Art of Film Funding author, Carole Lee Dean.

Shaking the Money Tree

by Morrie Warshawski

Morrie is the guru of documentary film funding.  His foundations-based approach involves getting clear on your mission statement, your core values, and your vision statement as the keys to your film funding success.  This book completely demystifies the art of fundraising for independent film and video projects for students, emerging, and seasoned media makers.

Listen to podcast episode #15 with author and film funding consultant, Morrie Warshawski.

The Fundraising Houseparty: How to Party with a Purpose and Raise Money for Your Cause

by Morrie Warshawski

This book completely demystifies this useful and flexible method of garnering donations from individuals for a wide variety of nonprofit programs – from community education programs to capital campaigns to individual arts project – and with every type of donor in both grassroots and wealthy settings.

Morrie will be back on the podcast in a few weeks, so stay tuned!

Crowdfunding for Filmmakers: The Way to a Successful Film Campaign

by John Trigonis

Crowdfunding for Filmmakers offers practical information, tips, and tactics for launching a successful film campaign by detailing traditional models of fundraising, utilizing today’s technological and social innovations, and augmenting each step with an added personal touch. We utilized this book extensively when we ran our successful Kickstarter campaign for our film, Elvis of Cambodia.

Listen to podcast episode #104 with author and crowdfunding expert, John Trigonis.

Get Close: Lean Team Documentary Filmmaking

by Rustin Thompson

This book is the essence of minimalism for documentary filmmakers. If you're going to make your documentary film solo or bare-bones then this is a definite read for you. You will find tools and techniques to ensure the potential barriers of documentary filmmaking with limited means don't hold you back.

Listen to podcast episode #112 with author and filmmaker, Rustin Thompson.

Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide 4th Edition

by Chris Gore

Film festivals can be a whole confusing and frustrating world unto themselves, but they also do have great potential benefits to your film if you manage to play your cards right.

If you want to learn how to play the game right and make the most out of your film festival strategy then this book can really help.

 

 

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Documentary Filmmaking Courses & Education

When you're ready to start making your documentary film - and you're looking to make the process as efficient and successful as possible - then it's time to invest in yourself and let those in the know show you how it's done.

 

The Documentary Filmmaker's Essential Checklist

In this FREE eight chapter course, we outline some of the essential areas you need to work on to more easily and effectively fund your film, build your network and launch your film to an eagerly awaiting audience.

The Documentary Academy

The Documentary Academy is our flagship, A to Z, program for making your documentary film. You will be guided from concept to launch through the process of making a successfully produced, independently made, documentary film. Plus you'll be invited into our exclusive members only community so we can truly get to know you and your project and you can get to know your tribe.

Masterclass: Ken Burns teaches Documentary Filmmaking

15-time Emmy Award winner Ken Burns teaches how he navigates research and uses audio and visual storytelling methods to bring history to life.

Get an All-Access Pass and have access to every Masterclass.

Werner Herzog Teaches Filmmaking

In 6 hours of video lessons, Werner Herzog teaches his uncompromising approach to documentary and feature filmmaking.

Get an All-Access Pass and have access to every Masterclass.

Inside The Edit 

Inside The Edit is an online course platform which helps you to master creative editing so you can produce a high end. quality documentary film. In this course you will learn the techniques, concepts and theories of high end editing and also, integrally, master the editor's mindset. Use code MYDOCLIFE for a 25% discount off all packages.

Listen to podcast episode #48 with Inside The Edit's founder, Paddy Bird.

7 Day Documentary Crash Course + Bonus Course (Beginners)

If you are brand new to filmmaking and would like to discover the basics of storytelling, filming, editing, etc. then this is the course for you.

Each day gives you another piece to the documentary filmmaking puzzle.

Listen to podcast episode #11 to hear from Desktop Documentary founder, Faith Fuller.

Storytelling & Scriptwriting Course 

Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker & scriptwriter, Daniel Raim, has taken his vast documentary storytelling experiences and built a thorough step-by-step workflow to structure complex real life stories into compelling documentary films.

Listen to podcast episode #33 to learn more about the storytelling process with Filmmaker, Daniel Raim.

Documentary Legal Forms and Contracts Multi-Pack 

Gordon P. Firemark is an entertainment lawyer. 'The Documentary Legal Forms and Contracts Multi-Pack' is Gordon's two-pack set of legal forms and contracts that covers both production and post-production for your documentary film.

Listen to podcast episode #39, where he discusses many of the legal aspects of documentary filmmaking.

Documentary Film Funding Resources

Money for your film exists. It's up to YOU to find it. These resources will help.

 

The Documentary Academy

The Documentary Academy is our flagship, A to Z, program for making your documentary film. Inside the Academy we have a highly robust and comprehensive guide to how you will raise money for your film - from your funding strategy, through each of your funding options, and to how to manage your money. Not to mention we help correct your money mindset, which will be key to securing the big bucks.

IDA's List of Documentary Film Grants

If grant funding is something you're considering as part of your fundraising strategy then this helpful list of grants is a must to peruse.

The Foundation Center

The Foundation Center is a non-profit organization which houses a database of over 140,000 foundations and other donors worldwide. Users are able to garner detailed information about who is giving money, to whom and why. As well as the online platform there is also more locally the Funding Information Network and  five funding center locations.

Crowdfunding Platforms

As we know, crowdfunding is a great resources for creatives, not least documentary filmmakers, to garner some much needed funds and some much appreciated support. Consider utilizing such platforms as - Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Seed & Spark.

Discover numerous articles and guest podcast episodes on why and how to crowdfund.

Documentary Filmmaking Business, Legal & Insurance Resources

The more you consider your documentary filmmaking projects as business endeavors the easier you will find it to fund, make and distribute your films.

Ensure you're using the tools you need to work as efficiently and effectively as you can.

 

Stripe and Paypal

(Start Receiving Donations)

If you intend to receive any financial support or funding from donations to your film then you will need to sign up for a online payment system, such as Stripe or Paypal. Both of these being the most reliable and recognized payment systems in the world and having used them ourselves we highly recommend them. Sign up for your Stripe or your Paypal account and start receiving donations for your film today!

ConvertKit

(Build Your Email List)

Building an email list of an interested and engaged potential audience for your documentary film is an essential task of the documentary filmmaker today. We have tried several email service providers - both paid and unpaid - and have found ConvertKit to be the most user friendly, reasonably priced and efficient of those services. We recommend you take a look for yourselves.

 Wix (Create Your Film Website)

Your film website is the online hub of your film and is a must-have for every filmmaker to build and maintain. If, like us, your website building skills are rudimentary then you may wish to opt for a drag-and-drop site builder such as Wix. We use Wix ourselves (Barang Films | Elvis of Cambodia) and certainly recommend them for ease of use, ease of branding and personalization at a reasonable price point. Take a look and see if they're a great fit for you too.

MeetEdgar (Connect on Social Media w/ Consistency)

Connecting with your fans, supporters and potential audience throughout the making of your documentary films should be an important, even integral, part of your outreach strategy. Using a social media management tool, such as MeetEdgar, can help. Have you tried MeetEdgar? If you sign up with our link you’ll get $10 off instantly!

LegalZoom (Set Up Your LLC)

Whether you're looking for assistance with a legal matter that arisen during the making of your film or are simply wishing to set up a business entity (such as LLC) for your production company or film, Legalzoom can help.

Athos Insurance

(Get Your Gear Insured)

When it comes to protecting our equipment we take having a comprehensive and reliable insurance policy very seriously. We have been using Athos insurance for a while now and have no complaints. Why not get a quote and see if they work for your budget.

99designs (Create Your Film Branding and Key Art)

Producing personalized and relevant branding and key art for your film just got easier with 99designs. Simply create a simple brief, put it out to the 99designs design community, choose your favorite design and finalize it . Copyright and ownership are yours and you're ready to put itt out into the world

Beneficial Documentary Film Websites

There are resources out there for us documentary filmmakers to benefit from. Make the most of them, after all they are there to serve and support your filmmaking journey.

 

International Documentary Association (IDA)

Through its programs, the IDA provides resources, creates community, and defends rights and freedoms for documentary artists, activists, and journalists.

They are a tremendous resource to all documentary filmmakers, visit their site and take a look at what they have to offer.

Comprehensive Grants Directory

Fiscal Sponsorship

Listen to podcast episode #58 to hear our conversation with IDA Executive Director, Simon Kilmurry.

Doc Society

Doc Society (formerly BritDoc) is a non-profit that has been working directly with documentary filmmakers since its inception in 2005, to make the most impact in the world with their art.  Whether with their flagship program, Good Pitch, their Impact Award, the Impact Field Guide, or the number of grants that they offer, Doc Society has truly become a critical part of the doc community over the past decade. Go straight to filmmaker resources.

American Documentary

A national nonprofit media arts organization, American Documentary (AmDoc) strives to make essential documentaries accessible as a catalyst for public discourse. They collaborate with passionate filmmakers to amplify their voices, and to nurture the nonfiction community. Go straight to filmmaker resources.

The D-Word

A documentary filmmaker forum created for professional documentary filmmakers to discuss a wide range of filmmaking topics. Support, resources and industry experience at your fingertips.

Listen to podcast episode #105 to hear our conversation with D-Word founder, Doug Block.

 

The Impact Field Guide and Toolkit

A set of tools and guides to help you make the biggest impact you can with your film. Created by The Doc Society, there are recommendations, insights and guidance given through every aspect of planning, making and distributing your film.

Listen to podcast episode #97 to hear our conversation with Doc Society, Co-founder, Maxyne Franklin.

 

 

Note: Some of the links are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase or use a service. However, we would never promote any product or service we did not believe in 100%. You have our word on that.