Documentary Filmmaking: Core Elements

Self-paced course

You have an idea for a documentary film, but now you want an expert in the field to help guide you as you take the next step. In this eight-week self-paced course, you will learn how to move from concept through post-production with a documentary film. Along the way, you will develop a compelling proposal for potential funders of your project and get feedback on your work from a Sundance Advisor.

What you bring to the course:

  • an idea for a short or feature-length documentary you plan to produce and/or direct. Creators at any level of experience are welcome.

What you’ll get from the course:

  • An overview of a wide variety of formal approaches to documentary.
  • An understanding of the difference between your topic/issue and your story.
  • Tips to identify ethical issues in documentary filmmaking.
  • An approach to access and cast your characters.
  • Interview techniques and best practices.
  • Methods for achieving your aesthetic goals.
  • An understanding of the basic considerations of production, including assembling your team and gear and anticipating potential roadblocks in the field.
  • Methods to organize and prepare your material for post-production.
  • An overview of strategies for outreach and engagement campaigns.

This course will:

  • offer opportunities for designated homework to be reviewed by a Sundance Advisor. The work is designed to move your project idea through to a polished draft of a funding proposal.
  • connect you with other creators via a discussion board where you can discuss core concepts and share your work.
  • analyze clips from documentary films.

This is a self-paced course. Self-paced courses allow you to watch pre-recorded lectures at your own pace, while working on deadlines to get individualized feedback on your work.

Sundance Collab provides accommodations and support services to participants with disabilities. Accommodations and services are designed to meet the needs of each participant. Please email us at to arrange for services.