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Building Documentaries in Celtx

May 23, 2011

I spent much of last weekend watching documentaries at the annual New Mexico Filmmakers’ Showcase.  Documentaries are often extremely difficult to develop on paper, but Celtx is an excellent tool for conceptualizing, developing, scripting and producing a documentary.

Documentary novices often think documentaries are built in “post-.” Go out and shoot some interviews, go out and shoot some B-roll, and voila, a few back-and-forth edits and you’ve got a documentary.

The end result is almost always a disjointed and unfocused experience for the audience. It explains why so many people say they don’t like documentaries. In truth, they just don’t like bad documentaries.

Documentaries, of course, require a different sort of preproduction workflow than entertainment films — and the type of workflow will vary depending on the genre of documentary being made.

Traditionally, many different files might need to be created in the early stages of developing a documentary. But a single Celtx project file can contain dozens of online research links, dozens more research media (stills, archival audio), a Powerpoint slideshow for potential investors, a Word document that outlines the documentary itself, another Word document that synopsizes the documentary (possibly for grant-writing or fundraising), and so on.

Celtx’s index card feature can help outline the structure of the documentary, and preproduction calendaring and production scheduling can all be done — within the same project file.

Celtx Studios provides an online project management environment for a small production team needing to collaborate on the project file.

Narration can easily be scripted on any desktop or laptop, an iPad, or an iPhone or iPod Touch.

If you’re a documentary filmmaker, I recommend you check out Celtx and its official guide, Mastering Celtx.

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