Class

Documentary Story Structure Workshop: Learn the Script-Based Approach the Experts Use

Learn the method developed by many of today's best working documentarians to edit their footage, using a text-based plan to craft their stories from their footage.

6–7pm (Other)Note: This is a 6 part class (6 hours)This class has already started

We're going digital! You'll get an invite to the virutal classroom after you register for this class. 

If you’ve ever sat helplessly in the edit room with hours and hours of documentary footage that you don’t know what to do with, this is the class for you. 

Learn the method developed by many of today’s best working documentarians to edit their footage, using a text-based plan to craft their stories from their footage. And, even better, after you learn this plan, you can deploy it while shooting, streamlining both your shooting plan and your post-production plan later. So, this class is also for you if you haven’t yet shot anything and would like to approach your next documentary project armed with a script-based approach to help guide you. 

The instructor for this documentary structure class is Renée Silverman, an award winning documentary filmmaker who has also worked as an archival producer on Oscar nominated documentary, RBG, the HBO documentary, United Skates, and Carol Channing, Larger than Life for PBS.

DAY ONE

On day one, we’ll dive head-first into the 3 Act Structure, focusing on the short verité documentary, the Oscar winning film, Period. End of Sentence. Here, you’ll explore the fundamental elements of the documentary story: introducing the main idea and supporting themes, the inciting incident, the character arc and how to maintain a strong second act and build towards a satisfying climax and denouement in the third and final one. 

Renée will also walk students through additional considerations, like archival materials, recreations, animations, and explore musical scoring as a story element. Using her short documentary film Refugee Kids, you’ll be provided with hard copy examples of loglines, selects, outline, and script to use as a reference in planning your own film. 

For homework, you’ll watch RBG and The Cave, noting the three-act structure in each film. 

DAY TWO

On day two, the class will use the Oscar nominated, The Cave, as an example of the verité feature documentary to guide conversations on strategies for a strong opening; introducing and developing characters; balancing tragedy with the personal and the political.

As a class, we’ll revisit RBG discuss how to deploy and organize archival footage for the historical or biographical film. 

Finally, the class will cover different genres of documentary film, including first person, investigative, essay, and archival / biographical genres. 

Renée will leave time for discussion of class questions and concerns, so bring your ideas and questions! 

What You Will Learn

  • A text-based approach to aid in shooting and editing your next documentary project.

  • 3 Act Structure: the fundamental elements of the documentary story.

  • Strategies to structure both a short and feature verité documentary

  • Explore loglines, selects, outline, and script as it relates to planning for your own doc.

  • How best to consider working with archival materials, recreations, animation, and musical scoring as a story element.

About the instructor

Renee Silverman

Renee Silverman

Renee Silverman is an award-winning director, producer and writer. She is currently the US producer on the feature documentary, Wim Wenders, Desperado which will open this year and on the Telluride hit, It Must Schwing: The Blue Note Story, 2018, executive produced by Wenders.

Together with Peter Miller, she has made two documentaries: Sosua: Make a Better World, broadcast on PBS affiliates; and Refugee Kids: One Small School Takes on the World, awarded best juried short at the Teaneck International Film Festival, best documentary at the Immigrant Film Festival in Washington DC and broadcast on PBS affiliates. Renee and Peter continue to co-direct short documentaries for the NYC Department of Education and the Teachers Channel.

Renee has also worked as an archival producer on Oscar nominated documentary, RBG, the HBO documentary, United Skates, and Carol Channing, Larger than Life for PBS.

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