Ten documentary making tips

Tracey Gardiner, tutor at the London Film School and award-winning factual programme producer, gives her top tips on the craft of documentary filmmaking.

If you have a passion to make factual programmes and have ideas you're burning to get off the ground but need help to take them to the next stage, Tracey Gardiner can help.

Especially for The Knowledge readers she reveals her top ten tips that documentarians need to consider before they pick up a camera. Lessons one, it all starts with a good idea….but lesson number two, it doesn't end there.

Here are ten things to consider before you start shooting.

  1. Decide which ideas to develop and understand what makes an idea 'good'. Turn your interesting thought into a treatment by applying a set of simple rules.
  2. Research - decide what information you need to provide in a treatment to give it maximum impact.
  3. Build up your budget, line by line.
  4. Think about and target the production company, broadcaster and distributor that your project needs. Understand how the back end and distribution works.
  5. Improve your treatment - make it stand out from the crowd.
  6. Do you need a presenter? Research how to find them, how to get them on board, and how to deal with agents.
  7. Film a taster - decide whether you need one and what it should look like.
  8. What would make your idea attractive to funders? Should you team up with a director, [co-]producer, actor, production company? Consider your approach to commissioners.
  9. Look into raising production funds from alternative sources, eg foundations like Wellcome, the Bertha Foundation and BritDoc, EIS tax break schemes or crowdfunding.
  10. Have a strong understanding of contractual issues. Don't be afraid to ask for help at this stage. Nothing is more painful than having to throw away all your footage or finding out you needed written permission after you have said goodbye to your interviewee.

If you want to find out more and get one-to-one advice on your specific idea, Tracey is doing a one day ideas surgery at the London Film School in Covent Garden on 10 September 2013, £150, for only eight participants. Book now. Or, for Tracey's more in-depth four-day course about documentary producing which covers all of the above in depth and starts on 31 October 2013, apply here.