Well, you can’t script or storyboard a real documentary until you’ve shot footage. Run the cameras now and deal with narrative structure later.
I love documentaries, though. Documentary is a fun genre, and fiction films often borrow documentary language.
The result? I’ve written two scripts using very different documentary film approaches. They are fiction films, and therefore aren’t strictly documentaries. The idea is to give you practice using the camera in a documentary, truth-telling way.
Both films offer many opportunities for the actors to improv. And you’ll see in the edit suite that the editor is never objective. You’ve always got the power to make someone in front of the camera seem more likeable, or unlikeable, or crazy, merely by the way that person is filmed and edited. As truthy as you may wish a documentary to be, the narrative structure a director imposes on the footage implies a beginning, middle, and tidy ending. Real life, of course, marches on well past the tidy wrapping.
Pseudo-documentary #1: Mockumentary.
The proliferation of inexpensive recording equipment has supported a boom in documentary film creation. Followed by the rise of a pseudo-documentary cinemetic style called the Mockumentary.
Working Title: “Murray, the Christmas Tree Salesman”
Log line: This documentary-style short film follows a Christmas tree salesman through the mean-spiritedness which all too often accompanies Christmas holiday shopping.
Casting: 4 actors (including 1 child!), 1 actress, 3 either actor or actress
Pseudo-documentary #2: Improv
Working Title: ”Storytelling Poker”
Log line: This documentary-style ensemble piece features a group of writers who also enjoy gambling. They have invented a game called Storytelling Poker. Follow them and their stories through the course of a game. Winner take all?
Locations: 1 (possibly 2 or 3 if you have multiple locations you love)
Casting: 2 actors, 3 actresses, and “various” additional
Get the Pseudo-Documentary screenplays in the collection: