Documentaries are a great way to tell stories and share information in an engaging and compelling way.

This guide will cover the key steps to making documentaries, so you can create your own documentary masterpiece!



What Are Documentaries About The Filmmaking Process?

Documentaries are a genre of films that takes a look at real-life events and stories through the lens of filmmaking.

There are many documentaries out there that explore every aspect and angle of filmmaking, from how it all started to what goes into making a film.

Documentaries are often about the filmmaking process and how it all comes together to create what we see on the screen.

They can be a great way for aspiring filmmakers, from novice to expert, to learn more about the industry and get inspired by others in their field.



Best Documentaries About The Filmmaking Process

Did you know that documentary film has a long and varied history? It’s true. In fact, they’re one of the oldest genres in filmmaking!

The first known “real” documentary was created by Auguste and Louis Lumiere in 1895. And even though documentaries have changed over time, there are still some great ones out there today!

The art form of Filmmaking takes years to perfect.

It’s not just about picking up a camera and pressing record, it’s about understanding the story you want to tell, carefully selecting your cast and crew, composing shots in post-production, and ensuring that everything from sound design to color grading is done with utmost care.

There are many documentaries out there that offer an inside look at this process of filmmaking. But which ones give a comprehensive view of all these aspects?

My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn (2014)

In 2013, Nicolas Winding Refn released the film “Only God Forgives” to much critical acclaim.


The movie followed two American brothers who move from Bangkok to the fictional town of Chang Mai in Thailand’s deep south, as they track down a man involved in their mother’s murder.

But while it was hailed by many critics and audiences as one of the most stylishly beautiful films of the year, there were also those that found its violence too excessive and all-consuming.

This film was directed by Nicolás Winding Refn and premiered in 2014. The director of the film is a Danish filmmaker who has been directing films since 1991.

My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn
  • Liv Corfixen, Johnny Andersen, Alejandro Jodorowsky (Actors)
  • Liv Corfixen (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Burden Of Dreams (1982)

The movie starts off with an interview between Werner Herzog and James Grissom about how when people watch Fitzcarraldo they are also watching his life unfold because everything he does becomes part of a story for him.

This is what makes Burden Of Dreams so fascinating; it shows us how much work goes into making a film from start to finish.

Burden of Dreams is a 1982 documentary film by Les Blank about the making of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo. The film was shot on location in Peru and has been released as both an audiobook and DVD.

Burden of Dreams (The Criterion Collection) [DVD]
  • Werner Herzog, Klaus Kinski, Claudia Cardinale (Actors)
  • Les Blank (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

American Movie (1999)

An American Movie is a 1999 documentary film directed by Chris Smith. It follows the story of Mark Borchardt, an unemployed electrician from Milwaukee who discovers his talent as a filmmaker and writer but struggles to make ends meet while trying to get his first feature-length project off the ground.

In this age where Hollywood has taken over everything from superhero franchises to animated family films, there’s still room for independent voices who are willing to take risks with their work. And thanks largely to Netflix and other streaming services, we’re seeing them flourish.

American Movie is one such voice: It tells the story of a man whose passion for making his own film no matter what he had to go through was inspiring and moving.

Before the term “independent film” was coined, there were movies like American Movie. This is a documentary about one man’s attempts to make his first feature-length movie.

It follows him as he struggles with many of the obstacles that independent filmmakers face: lack of funds and time, difficulty finding crew members, dealing with creative differences on set.

It seems like any other indie movie but turns out to be something more than that.

Mark has been trying to write and direct movies since high school but had never been able to make one because he lacked funding. This was not going to stop him from making this dream a reality.

American Movie
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Mark Borchardt, Mike Schank, Matt Weisman (Actors)
  • Chris Smith (Director) - Chris Smith (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Lost In La Mancha (2002)

The documentary Lost In La Mancha is directed by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe.

It is a tribute to film director Terry Gilliam’s failed attempt at making the movie The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.

Lost in La Mancha follows Gilliam through his journey as he tries to make this long-awaited film, which has been plagued with problems since its inception in 1989.

With an elaborate script and an all-star cast including Johnny Depp, Vanessa Paradis, Jean Rochefort, and Christopher Lee (R.I.P.), things seemed to be going well until the unexpected twist…

Lost In La Mancha [DVD]
  • Keith Fulton (Director) - Keith Fulton (Writer) - Lucy Darwin (Producer) - Jeff Bridges (Narrator)
  • German, French (Subtitles)

My Best Fiend (1999)

My Best Fiend is a 1999 German documentary film written and directed by Werner Herzog, about his tumultuous yet productive relationship with German actor Klaus Kinski.

The film opens with shots of Klaus Kinski performing, after his own interpretation, the role of Jesus. Kinski harangues the audience for not paying attention to him, curses wildly, has the microphone taken away from him, and, screaming, steals it back.

This is the tour Kinski left to star in Herzog’s film Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972). This was the first of five films that the two would make together, the others being:

  • Nosferatu the Vampyre (1978);
  • Woyzeck (1978);
  • Fitzcarraldo (1982); and
  • Cobra Verde (1987).

Kinski: My Best Fiend [DVD]
  • Werner Herzog, Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani (Actors)
  • Werner Herzog (Director) - Werner Herzog (Writer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Visions Of Light: The Art Of Cinematography (1992)

Cameramen and women discuss the craft and art of cinematography and of the “DP” (the director of photography), illustrating their points with clips from 100 films, from Birth of a Nation to Do the Right Thing.

The DP tells people where to look; changes in movies (the arrival of sound, color, and wide screens) required creative responses from DPs; and, these artisans constantly invent new equipment and try new things, with wonderful results.

The narration takes us through the identifiable studio styles of the 30s, the emergence of noir, the New York look, and the impact of Europeans. Citizen Kane, The Conformist, and Gordon Willis get special attention.

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Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013)

In 2013, director Alejandro Jodorowsky released his film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel “Dune”.

The movie was met with mixed reviews and a low box office turnout. However, the film is being revisited by critics and scholars in light of its artistic value to cinema history.

Jodorowsky’s Dune is a 2013 documentary film that explores the history of the unmade movie. Alejandro Jodorowsky, Chilean-French filmmaker, and artist began work on his adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel Dune in 1974.

The project was never completed due to a lack of funds and pressure from producers to casting more bankable stars such as Orson Welles or David Carradine.

Director Alejandro Jodorowsky was one of the most imaginative, visionary, and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema.

His films are full of imagination and creativity that are unmatched by many directors today.

He considered himself a shaman who could awaken people’s minds with his movies. One film he made that has had an impact on generations to come is Dune (1984).

Jodorowsky's Dune (Blu-ray + DVD)
  • Nicolas Refn, Michel Seydoux, Alejandro Jodorowsky (Actors)
  • Frank Pavich (Director) - Frank Pavich (Producer)
  • English, French (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)

Overnight (2003)

Overnight is a 2003 American drama film directed by Michael Polish. The film stars Jason Clarke and Olyphant as friends who get fired from their jobs in advertising.

They decide to start an Internet company overnight and see how far they can go with it before the business fails, so they set up a website called Overnight Success.

The movie follows the two guys through all of the ups and downs that come with starting your own company and trying to make it succeed.

The 2003 film Overnight, directed by Troy Duffy, follows the story of a struggling filmmaker who is given an opportunity to make his dream project: a biopic on Jesus Christ.

The film stars Brian Jones as Sean McManus and Jonathan Tucker as John C. McGinley respectively.

It might not be what you think when you hear “investment banker,” but that’s exactly what Joe Girard was for most of his adult life.

But when he alienated the powerful studio executives who had given him his big break with his arrogant attitude and insistence on following his own vision rather than theirs, they made sure that no one else would ever work with or hire him again.

  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Troy Duffy, Mark Wahlberg, Willem Dafoe (Actors)
  • Tony Montana (Director) - Tony Montana (Writer) - Tony Montana (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991)

The film Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991) is a documentary that follows director Francis Ford Coppola and his crew as they struggle to complete the Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now in the Philippines.

The film features footage from behind-the-scenes, on-set, and interviews with members of the cast and crew.

A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse including war, madness, filmmaking, nature vs. civilization, family dynamics, and more.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006)

In 2006, documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick made a movie called “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” to shed light on the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) system.

The film contends that filmmakers who produce independent and/or foreign-language films are typically punished with harsher ratings than those who work in Hollywood.

The MPAA has always been a secretive organization about their process for assigning ratings to films.

But through Dick’s investigative journalism and interviews with many directors, producers, actors, and others involved in filmmaking around the world, he uncovers what he believes to be an unfair bias against independent filmmakers.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

Corman’s World: Exploits Of A Hollywood Rebel (2011)

Corman’s World is a 2011 documentary about the director of exploitation films Roger Corman. The film was made by Alex Stapleton and narrated by actor/director Ron Howard.

It’s a documentary on DIY producer/director Roger Corman and his alternative approach to making movies in Hollywood.

The film charts Corman’s life from his early days as an aspiring actor to becoming a Hollywood mogul in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, detailing how he launched careers for many stars including Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, and Francis Ford Coppola.

In the early 1960s, Roger Corman was one of the most influential directors in Hollywood. His low-budget productions were sometimes just as profitable as those of his more well-funded competitors.

Corman's World
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Roger Corman, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro (Actors)
  • Alex Stapleton (Director) - Mickey Barold (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures (2001)

Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures is a documentary film by Jon Ronson about Stanley Kubrick.

The film features interviews with people who have worked closely with the director, as well as clips from his films, and footage of him directing.

Born in the Bronx, New York City on July 26th, 1928 Stanley Kubrick was a director and producer of feature films. His work is easily recognized by his use of high contrast lighting, extreme close-ups, tilted camera angles, and slow tracking shots.

He directed classic movies such as Spartacus (1960), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) A Clockwork Orange (1971).

Stanley Kubrick, an award-winning director, and scriptwriter has directed 26 films over a career that spanned 50 years.

His most famous work includes Spartacus (1960), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), and The Shining (1980).

His first film was “Day of the Fight” in 1951 when he was only 21 years old.

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (DVD)
  • The moviemaker?s career comes into sharp focus in this compelling documentary narrated by Tom...
  • Woody Allen, Arthur C. Clarke, Tom Cruise (Actors)
  • Jan Harlan (Director)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films (2014)

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films (2014) is a documentary film that tells the story of how two brothers from Queens became Hollywood moguls in the 1970s and 1980s.

It’s an incredible coming-of-age story about two kids from a traditional Jewish family who were outsiders on Long Island and then went on to conquer Hollywood by making low-budget films with big stars.

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Sam Firstenberg, David Paulsen, Luigi Cozzi (Actors)
  • Mark Hartley (Director) - Mark Hartley (Writer) - Veronica Fury (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Best Worst Movie (2009)

The movie Best Worst Movie is a documentary about the cult film Troll 2. The director, Michael Stephenson, sets out to find why this particular film became so popular.

He interviews the actors and filmmakers who were involved in making it as well as members of the audience of various ages. There are also clips from other films that are similar to Troll 2.

It explores the phenomenon of “bad-good” movies by following two cases: Troll 2 (the worst film ever made) and The Room (considered one of the best).

Michael Stephenson examines how these films have captured cult followings among viewers who revel in their ineptitude while also exploring how family members respond to seeing their loved ones subjected to such embarrassment.

Best Worst Movie
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • George Hardy, Michael Stephenson (Actors)
  • Michael Stephenson (Director) - Lindsay Stephenson (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

That Moment: Magnolia Diary (2000)

The movie “Magnolia” has had a huge impact on the way filmmakers and audience members have thought about storytelling.

The tone of this film is reflective and contemplative, with an undertone of sadness. It was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson in 1999-2000 and released in 2000 to critical acclaim.

The focus of this documentary is to document how they are living in their daily life and what decisions they have made as well as the struggles they face.

It is a documentary-style film that follows three actresses as they prepare for their roles in a play.

The movie is broken into three parts: “the lead actress,” “the supporting actress,” and “the theatre company.” This film provides insight into what it takes to succeed as an actor on Broadway.

Magnolia (Blu-ray)
  • Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, Jason Robards (Actors)
  • Paul Thomas Anderson (Director) - Paul Thomas Anderson (Writer) - Michael De Luca (Producer)
  • English, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (1995)

“Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies, A (1995)” is a documentary film by American filmmaker and director Martin Scorsese. The documentary was released in 1995 and it features interviews with many famous directors of Hollywood.

This documentary explores the history of how movies have shaped America’s culture over the years, as well as exploring other aspects like how they are made and what has influenced them.

Martin Scorsese is an American, Italian-American filmmaker who was born in Queens and raised in Little Italy.

He has been nominated for 12 Academy Awards, four of which he won: Best Director for “The Departed” (2006), Best Picture for “Goodfellas” (1990), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Actor in a Supporting Role for “Raging Bull” (1980).

Martin Scorsese is one of the most legendary directors in Hollywood. His films are known for their gritty, fast-paced style and his use of music to add power and emotion to a scene.

A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (3 Discs) [DVD]
  • A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies - DVD Used Like New
  • Martin Scorsese (narrator) (Actor)
  • Martin Scorsese (Director) - Martin Scorsese (Writer) - Florence Dauman (Producer)
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)

In Search Of Darkness: A Journey Into Iconic 80s Horror (2019)

A new documentary series from the horror streaming service Shudder, In Search of Darkness: A Journey Into Iconic 80s Horror is an exploration into the most iconic horror films to come out of that decade.

The show not only explores what made these movies so special and why they have endured for decades but also delves deep into their production process with interviews and commentary from some of today’s top filmmakers in the genre.

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The Story Of Film: An Odyssey (2011)

Film has been a part of human life for over 120 years. For the past century and a half, the art form has grown from infancy to adolescence, but it is only now that film is truly coming into its own as an artistic medium with no limits.

For the past century, movies have been an integral part of our society. They have changed the way we communicate and tell stories to each other.

The movies that were made in the early 1900s are so different from those released today, yet they all share one thing: a story.

Movies are not just a form of entertainment; they’re a form of art that has helped shape who we are as humans.

The Story of Film: An Odyssey
  • Amitabh Bachchan, Claire Denis, Robert Towne (Actors)
  • Mark Cousins (Director) - John Archer (Producer)
  • English (Publication Language)

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (2018)

Many people think that the most important part of a person’s legacy is what they leave behind after their death.

They believe that it is not only how successful and productive someone was during their lifetime, but also about how much money they made and what kind of mark they left on society.

However, there are some who believe that one’s legacy is actually created when you are still alive.

In the documentary, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (2018), director Morgan Neville explores Orson Welles’ remarkable and controversial life in depth.

The film covers his early days as a radio star, through his years as a Hollywood filmmaker to his later years of political activism.

It also addresses the many myths surrounding him–most notably that he was an “enfant terrible” who didn’t care about anything other than what he could do for himself.

This film explores his life in-depth with interviews from friends, co-workers, family members, and even archival footage of him as an actor.

Orson Welles's Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind
  • Hardcover Book
  • Karp, Josh (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 04/21/2015 (Publication Date) - St. Martin's Press (Publisher)

Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey Of Richard Stanley’s Island Of Dr. Moreau (2014)

The Island of Dr. Moreau is a 1996 science fiction horror film loosely based on the novel by H. G. Wells, directed and written by Richard Stanley for New Line Cinema with starring roles from Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, David Thewlis, and Fairuza Balk.

Filmmaker Richard Stanley had a promising future in the movie industry until he made his debut with The Island of Dr. Moreau in 1996, which was a critical and commercial failure.

Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau is a film that I would categorize as “so bad it’s good,” but not in the sense that it has any redeeming qualities or is entertaining.

Instead, the movie is so terrible and nonsensical in every way that you can’t look away from its mistakes.

Lost Soul: the Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau [Blu-ray]
  • Richard Stanley, Kier-La Janisse, Michael Gingold (Actors)
  • David Gregory (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Key Steps To Making Documentaries

First off, before anything else, you have to come up with a topic for your documentary.

There are many different topics out there and all kinds of things can be covered from current events or history to something more personal like someone’s memoirs or an individual’s story.

Next, find your funding! This might sound easy but it is actually difficult because not everyone has the funds available for this project which means that crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter would be perfect for this type of venture.

Documentaries are a type of film that is often used to tell stories. They can be entertaining, but they are also informative and may even have the power to change perspectives on certain issues.

Documentarians must take great care in their storytelling process so that they can show both sides of an issue as well as present all the facts.

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