Crafting Your Documentary Story

Are you staring at a blank white page and/or hours of raw footage with NO CLUE what to do next?

Do you have an amazing story but struggling with how structure all the elements into a compelling film?

Are you overwhelmed with all the elements of your story and having trouble keeping your audience engaged on a deep level?

Whether you're just starting out on your documentary journey or in the final stages, making a deeply emotional connection with your audience is THE critical element in the making of your film. It's EVERYTHING.

About This Course

The goal of this course is to help you find clarity with your story and provide a clear framework for how to weave it together in a compelling and emotional way that will move audiences.

You get a step by step workflow to help you organize all your footage, interviews and ideas into a structured, cohesive and compelling film.

You get an easy-to-follow roadmap for tackling every aspect of conceiving, scripting, shooting, and assembling your documentary.

Perhaps most important, this course will show you how to find the heart of the story that is waiting to be told – a story that will emerge as you develop your film.

To help clarify the concepts taught in the course, you'll have exclusive access to a case study of the making of HAROLD AND LILLIAN (Zeitgeist Films), including a step by step tutorial from the instructor on how he built the documentary script from scratch, plus access to view and download the complete full-length script.


Learn how to create compelling films that MOVE your audience emotionally.

In This Course You Will Learn:

  • How to organize all the scattered pieces of your story into a cohesive and engaging narrative

  • A series of documentary storytelling techniques to keep your audience glued to the screen!

  • How to break down your film into a series of 8-12 sequences to create a compelling story arc

  • How to properly format your script and the best scriptwriting software

  • How to weave together your story beats (soundbites), scenes and sequences to create a compelling narrative

  • How to use dramatic conflict to create emotion within the audience

  • The core concepts of storytelling and how to use cinematic techniques to create greater impact

  • All the steps laid out to complete your film!

What Students Are Saying

Loving The Experience

by Sally T. Muiruri

"I have learned so much so far, and loving the experience. I am learning a lot of fundamentals of documentary filmmaking, which are helping me sharpen my skills and refine my script."

"Enjoying the class..."

by Karyn Peyton

"Really enjoying the class so far, and I'm only on lesson one! I really like how the lessons use multimedia (text, exercises, videos). I'm bulking up my repertoire of docs and narrative films so I can start assembling my vision, like Daniel's implied!"

Fantastic!

by Nikki Rose

"Fantastic course. It has been so informative and inspiring as I work to create my first documentary. It's important for new doc filmmakers to have opportunities to learn online now. And Daniel's class and his films are not only an inspiration but a closer look into how great doc films can be made."

Helping me explore

by Daniel Reyes

"I'm excited where this film will take me as a filmmaker, and what will unfold as a story. This course is really helping me explore important elements in my film and stepping back and being practical in my approach, so that it's not merely this abstract artistic attempt."

What's Inside The Course

  • Award-Winning Documentary Scripts

    A variety of script samples including TWO complete feature-length documentary scripts to view and analyze.

  • Step-By-Step Workflow

    A step-by-step multimedia scriptwriting workflow to help you find clarity and direction with your documentary

  • Office Hours

    Weekly office hours where Daniel answers your questions via chat inside the course.

  • Interactive Learning

    Videos, workbooks, quizzes, slide shows, check-lists, activities and assignments create an engaging learning experience.

  • Production Resources

    Access to Daniel's personal resources including transcription services, storyboarding and writing services.

  • Pre-Formatted Script Template(s)

    Pre-formatted scriptwriting template in FINAL DRAFT .fdx and WORD .docx to craft your script.

Meet Your Instructor

Documentary Writer-Director

Daniel Raim

Academy Award®-Nominated Writer-Director Daniel Raim attended the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, where he studied under one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most esteemed collaborators, Production Designer Robert F. Boyle. Daniel has created a trilogy of critically acclaimed documentaries about unsung heroes of Hollywood’s Golden Age, including, THE MAN ON LINCOLN’S NOSE (2000, Oscar®-Nominated); SOMETHING’S GONNA LIVE (2010, Los Angeles Times Critics’ Pick) and HAROLD AND LILLIAN: A HOLLYWOOD LOVE STORY (2015, Official Selection Cannes Film Festival + Turner Classic Movies TCM + Netflix 2018 release). Daniel is currently (2019) creating a series of documentary films for The Criterion Collection in addition to directing the feature documentary IMAGE MAKERS: THE ADVENTURES OF AMERICA'S PIONEER CINEMATOGRAPHERS for Turner Classic Movies (TCM) which premiered Nov 6, 2019.  How to work with Daniel

Bonus Material

As part of this course, you'll get a bonus Documentary Case Study of Daniel Raim's award-winning documentary "Harold and Lillian".

  • Case Study

    Go step by step through the making of an award-winning feature-length documentary script.

  • Full-Length Documentary Script

    Access and download the complete script for the award-winning documentary HAROLD AND LILLIAN

  • VIP Pass

    Private access to watch Daniel's award-winning full-length feature documentary film HAROLD AND LILLIAN. (Zeitgeist Films)

Highly recommend

by Cristina Candy/Documentary Filmmaker

"Great material!! I am modifying my own documentary to incorporate many of the new ideas I picked up. I really like the format because it forces me to look at my material in new and fresh ways to tighten up the story. I highly recommend it to anyone with a love of storytelling in the visual medium. I wish I had taken this before I began my own documentary two years ago but am glad to have benefited from this course material."

Well worth time + $

by Dee McCrorey

"Great #doc #scriptwriting masterclass led by @DanielRaim @DesktopDocs Well worth the investment of time + $."

Course curriculum

  • 1

    Welcome Students!

    • Welcome: Please Introduce Yourself!

    • Quick Start - Instructions

    • About This Course (3:06)

    • About the Instructor

    • Coaching Calls

    • Office Hours

    • How To Use This Course (Tech Instructions)

  • 2

    LESSON 1 : Research & Brainstorm

    • Unit 01: Welcome to Lesson 1 - Let's Get Started!

    • Unit 02: Taking Your Audience on a Journey of Thoughts, Feelings, and Emotions (1:52)

    • Unit 03: Core Questions To Ask Before Writing Your Script

    • Unit 04: Fiction Versus Documentary Storytelling (1:41)

    • Unit 05: Dramatic Movie-Making Techniques

    • Unit 06: Choose a Genre For Your Documentary

    • Unit 07: Genre Conventions and Obligatory Scenes

    • Unit 08: EXERCISE // Documentary Genre Worksheet (Interactive)

    • Unit 09: ASSIGNMENT // Analyze A Documentary Film You Love (Part 1 - VIDEO)

    • Unit 10: LESSON 1 // Your Thoughts, Questions

  • 3

    LESSON 2 – Finding Your Story

    • Unit 01: Welcome to Lesson 2 - Let's dive in!

    • Unit 02: How to Research for Your Documentary (1:15)

    • Unit 03: Getting Started: Research and the Writing Process

    • Unit 04: How to Select Your Documentary Model (2:42)

    • Unit 05: Choose Your Documentary Model

    • Unit 06: How to Cast Your Documentary (0:51)

    • Unit 07: Finding Your Characters

    • Unit 08: Finding Your Themes (4:49)

    • Unit 09: EXERCISE // Finding Your Themes

    • Unit 10: ASSIGNMENT // Analyze A Documentary Film You Love (Part II)

    • Unit 11: Lesson 2 // Your Thoughts, Questions

  • 4

    LESSON 3 – Writing Your Shooting Script

    • Unit 01: Welcome to Lesson 3 - Your Shooting Script

    • Unit 02: Writing the Shooting Script (5:02)

    • Unit 03: What Is A Documentary Shooting Script?

    • Unit 04: Sample Documentary Shooting Script (PDF)

    • Unit 05: Sample Documentary Screenplay (PDF)

    • Unit 06: Case Study: Writing the Shooting Script

    • Unit 07: ACTIVITY // Write a Shooting Script

    • Unit 08: LESSON 3 // Your Thoughts, Questions

  • 5

    LESSON 4 – Creating Dramatic Structure

    • Unit 01: Welcome to Lesson 4 - Story Structure!

    • Unit 02: Plot Points Case Study "GRIZZLY MAN" (8:24)

    • Unit 03: Plot Points Case Study "MAN ON WIRE" (9:41)

    • Unit 04: Managing Audience Expectations

    • Unit 05: How Conflict Elicits Emotion in Your Documentary

    • Unit 06: Structuring Your Documentary (Scenes, Sequences, Acts and Beats)

    • Unit 07: The 7 Major Plot Points

    • Unit 08: ACTIVITY // Analyzing Story Structure (Worksheet Pack)

    • Unit 09: CHECK-LIST // Start Building Your Documentary's Narrative Spine (PDF)

    • Unit 10: LESSON 4 // Your Thoughts, Questions

  • 6

    LESSON 5 - Testing Your Idea

    • Unit 01: Testing the Waters: The Internal Greenlight Process

    • Unit 02: Why Make a Short Film or Fundraising Trailer First?

    • Unit 03: Testing The Waters - Why Make A Short Film First? (8:37)

    • Unit 04: Watch: "Something's Gonna Live" Documentary - The Short Version (6:42)

    • Unit 05: Watch: "Something's Gonna Live" Documentary - Feature Version (1:17:52)

    • Unit 06: ACTIVITY // Create a Short Film or Fundraising Demo

  • 7

    LESSON 6 – Formatting Your Script

    • Unit 01: Welcome to Lesson 6 - Formatting Your Script!

    • Unit 02: Documentary Scriptwriting Template: VIDEO TUTORIAL ('Final Draft' Version)

    • Unit 03: Documentary Screenplay Template: VIDEO TUTORIAL (Microsoft 'Word' Version)

    • Unit 04: Real-World Documentary Script Samples & Formats

    • Unit 05: Full-Length Documentary Script: "Something's Gonna Live"

    • Unit 06: Documentary Screenplay Template - Preview (PDF)

    • Unit 07: DOWNLOADS + TEMPLATES

    • Unit 08: LESSON 6 // Your Thoughts, Questions

  • 8

    LESSON 7 – Post-Production: From Paper Edit To Assembly Cut

    • Unit 01: Welcome to Lesson 7 - Post Production!

    • Unit 02: Introduction: From First Draft To Assembly Cut (3:40)

    • Unit 03: Introduction: The Dance Between Paper and Timeline

    • Unit 04: Zen and the Art of Writing and Editing Your First Draft

    • Unit 05: How to Transcribe Your Footage (5:52)

    • Unit 06: Step-By-Step: Transcribe Your Footage

    • Unit 07: Case Study // The “Harold and Lillian” Script: From Transcript to Topic Heading Strips (6:31)

    • Unit 08: Workflow // From Transcript to Assembly Cut (14:35)

    • Unit 09: Workflow // How to Create Topic Heading Strips (1:11)

    • Unit 10: Workflow // Assigning Colors & Macro Editing in Final Draft Scene View Mode (3:29)

    • Unit 11: Using Topic Heading Strips and 3X5 Index Cards To Find Structure

    • Unit 12: LESSON 7 // Your Thoughts, Questions

  • 9

    LESSON 8 – Post Production: From Rough Cut To Picture Lock

    • Unit 01: Welcome to Lesson 8 - You made it!

    • Unit 02: From Rough Cut to Picture Lock (7:36)

      FREE PREVIEW
    • Unit 03: Storytelling Tip from the Creators of South Park

    • Unit 04: What To Do If Your Story STILL Isn't Working

    • Unit 05: WORKSHEET // Final Check-List Before Picture Lock

    • Unit 06: COURSE RECAP // You Made It!

  • 10

    Course Survey

    • How did you like this course?

  • 11

    Next Steps//Resources

    • Further Reading

    • Overcoming Writer's Block and Resistance

    • The 100 “Greatest” Documentaries

    • The Best Websites For Documentary Filmmakers

    • Scriptwriting Services

  • 12

    Submit Your Success Story

    • Your Documentary

  • 13

    BONUS: Documentary Case Study - "HAROLD AND LILLIAN"

    • CASE STUDY - "Harold and Lillian" Documentary (Storytelling Challenges)

    • PRIVATE PASS: WATCH "Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story" (1:34:42)

    • Full Script: HAROLD AND LILLIAN: A HOLLYWOOD LOVE STORY (PDF)

    • CASE STUDY - Your Thoughts, Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does the course start or end on certain dates?

    When signing up for the course, you can begin immediately or whenever is the right time for you. With the LIFETIME ACCESS pass, you are free to take the course at your own pace for as long as you need it. There are no beginning or ending dates. Ideally, we recommend taking 8-weeks to go through the content, focusing on one section/module at a time once per week. But you can take the course in 8 days, 8 weeks or 8 months.. whatever works best for you!

  • Will I have a completed script by the end of this course?

    That depends on you! If that is your goal, then yes. This course takes you step by step through the scriptwriting process from beginning to end. So if you already have your interviews shot and content gathered, then this course can definitely get you to the finish gate.

  • What is the format of the course?

    The format of the course is a mix of video instruction, screencasts, text, downloads, quizzes, and assignments, plus weekly Office Hours with the instructor via a chat forum inside the course.

Guarantee

You get a 30-Day 100% Money Back Guarantee, so there's absolutely no risk.

Immediately following your purchase you'll have instant access to the course and you can get started on your first lesson right away.

Finally Finish Your Film

You've worked SO hard to get this far. It's time now to pull it all together and finally create the film you've been dreaming about.

What Students Are Saying

REALLY love the course"

by Erica Nikolic, Documentary Filmmaker

"I REALLY love the course. Doing each assignment thoroughly thus far has helped me drill down and recall so many things that I'd forgotten about where I wanted to go and do with this film. It's also given me new things to think about that are bringing up new possibilities where I've been stuck. I think now I'll have the tools to finally finish my film."

"Fantastic!"

Melissa Thornley

"Its fantastic! The questions and assignments are doing just what I wanted. Great support for getting my treatment wrapped up so we can submit for funding."

All that was promised (and more)...

by Ana Nicolau, Filmmaker/Storyteller

"This very first lesson has already made me think about and realize a few things I hadn't really considered regarding my documentary. I can tell the course will be all that was promised (and then some more) and a truly precious help in getting my documentary made. Thank you, Faith and Daniel!"

"Very gracious"

by Dean Haycox, Documentary Filmmaker

"It's a great course and still can't believe the access Daniel is giving to filmmakers like myself, despite him being very busy and an awesome filmmaker, he is very gracious with his time which is amazing for an award winning doc filmmaker."

"Fascinating Class"

Nitsan Tal

"Thank you for the fascinating class you created. I took continuing education classes on the subject of documentary film making at NYU and SVA and none of them came close to the quality of material you covered in just the first 3 chapters I took so far."

"Well worth the $$"

Deb Hernandez

"Excellent course. Easily understood and put together. Each lesson packed with info. Well worth the money."

"A Guide and Collaborator"

by Tim Courlas

When I started the course I approached it like any other course, that is to say as a body of information to take in and apply down the road. Instead it has turned out to function as a guide and collaborator. It's as if the course is an actual person I engage in dialogue. I'm moving through the course much slower this way but the impact is exponentially greater."

"Absolutely delighted"

by Bob Williams/Films For Good

"I am absolutely delighted...The proof will be when I produce something, but for now, the course has given my project a much needed burst of energy and knowledge."

"Bringing clarity and structure"

by Matthew Young, Documentary Filmmaker

"I have to say - I am thrilled with the course so far. It is bringing some much needed clarity and structure to the post production process."

"Super Helpful"

Rose Barroga/Writer (aspiring doc filmmaker)

"I really enjoyed this course, especially because it contained some very specific tips that I didn't expect at all. Super helpful and really feels like Daniel put a lot of thought into making this meaningful for all the aspiring documentarists who are gonna study his course."