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Making a Short Documentary

Lesson 1 of 35

Class Introduction

Ed Kashi, Julie Winokur

Making a Short Documentary

Ed Kashi, Julie Winokur

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Lesson Info

1. Class Introduction
Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur, a husband and wife filmmaking team, offer an overview of this class on how to make a short documentary.


  Class Trailer
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1 Class Introduction Duration:13:55
7 Turn Failures Into Lessons Duration:13:46
8 Finding Your Subjects Duration:15:07
9 What is Your Motivation? Duration:02:10
11 Client Work Vs Legacy Work Duration:17:51
12 Translate the Idea to Reality Duration:16:25
14 Pre-Production Plan Duration:09:32
15 You Just Have to Dive In Duration:30:40
16 Time & Cost for Projects Duration:28:21
17 Writing a Strong Pitch Duration:11:38
18 Develop a Fundraising Trailer Duration:12:28
19 Identify & Approach Partners Duration:06:35
20 Define Your Desired Impact Duration:21:21
22 Shoot: Interview Set Up Duration:34:38
23 Shoot: The Interview Duration:32:08
24 Different Types of Interviews Duration:13:35
25 Shoot: Capturing B-Roll Duration:21:54
26 Shoot: Detail Shots Duration:18:09
27 Shoot: Capturing a Scene Duration:27:02
28 Shoot: A Set Up Shot Duration:24:03
31 Use Audio to Guide Narrative Duration:09:33
33 Building Scenes in Your Edit Duration:03:41
35 Final Thoughts Duration:03:01

Lesson Info

Class Introduction

Totally excited to share with you a lot of the skills that we've come to acquire over the years. We do work together. We're a husband and wife team, and you'll get to see a little bit of how that plays out. We do well together in the field, we dance well together in the field, but you'll also see some of the tensions that come up and some of the on the spot decision making and get a little taste of what our process is like. So this course, making a short documentary, is going to cover a tremendous amount of information in just two days. And we know how daunting making a film can be, especially if it's your first film, even your second, third, and fourth film. I don't know about the folks in the audience if you've made short films before, but I know every time I start a film, I am overcome with dread, because you have an idea in your head, and the idea of then taking that, which is quite vague 'cause it's still up in here in the gray matter and taking it all the way to the point where y...

ou can actually share with somebody a finished polished story is overwhelming. And even though I've done this hundreds of times at this point in my career, every time I start I'm anxious 'cause I feel like I have no idea how I'm going to get from there to there. So what I would like to impart to you guys during this session, and Ed and I are gonna take you through those steps, is how do you make it less daunting? Don't be afraid. That's right. This is parachuting 101, right? You're jumping out of the plane, you're gonna do it, you're all here because you know you want to do this. So now that you're gonna do this, it's like take your foot off the brake, and you're gonna run down that hill. You'll accelerate down that hill, but we're gonna give you the building blocks that will take you from a concept all the way to what to shoot, how to shoot, what is the story that you are trying to capture, really articulating what's the story, 'cause a concept isn't a story. Big difference. And then we're gonna walk you through those steps of what does it mean to do pre-production? What does it mean to get in the field? What does it mean to then take all that material, suck it into your system in your computer, break it down, and do the post-production so that you can actually get to the place where you have something that's nice and tidy and in the end looked effortless. And it is not effortless, but it's also not a mystery. So what we're trying to do in this course is to help you demystify, decode, break it down, and make a film. And also to inspire you. CreativeLive has a number of classes that delve into the nuts and bolts of how do you use Premier, how do you use your gear, lighting techniques and all that. That's not what this will be about. Of course you will probably glean some of those elements, but what this is really about is inspiring you to get in touch with why, if you do want to make a film, this course is really geared for either the beginner or sort of an intermediate, someone who is an intermediate in this form of documentary filmmaking. Yeah, so the objectives. So again, as Ed said, this is not going to be the nitty gritty of technical skills, how to use your camera, what aperture setting, we're not gonna take you through software, hardware, gear. We really want to give you big picture information so that you know what to do once you have those skills. We don't need to teach you how to hammer a nail in. What we want to do is help you build the house. That was good. I wasn't sure where you were going with that. I never know, it just comes to my mind out my mouth. So what is your story? So what is your story? That's where we start, right? And what is your story? We're going to look at really what is it you're trying to tell. So as I said before, a concept isn't a story, and there's a difference between a profile of somebody versus a narrative arc in a story. So we'll talk about how do you sniff out your story, and how do you really be mindful in the film that you're about to make? Then we're gonna move on to what are you going to capture? So that's the how, how are you going to tell the story? What are the visual elements that will be the things you can film in order to translate it into a visual story? To bring it to life. How do you bring the story to life? Support and distribution is the next thing that we'll tackle, and we moved this very high up in the breakdown of this class, because as we all know, you have an idea, and then the first question that somebody's gonna say is how do I get support? Who's gonna pay for this? How am I gonna do it? Because it sounds great, but we all have rent to pay. So support and distribution. And working efficiently in the field. This is something especially with this very specific form of filmmaking. We're not talking about making 60 or 90 minute films, feature length films. This is really about I would say the three to 30 minute film or even the three to 15 minute film. One thing we've learned over the years is we can overshoot, and then that creates all these other knock on problems in a way or issues, where you have now all that material to go through, and then it makes the editing that much more arduous. So working efficiently in the field, it might take time for you to get that, but it's so critically important to try to understand when you have that shot or you have that scene, you've captured enough on that character. But at the same time, you get enough material, a rounded amount of material so that you can tell that story. Right. Then we're going to move on to post-production workflow. Now, I think a lot of people when they imagine filmmaking, probably 80% of your bandwidth is about shooting. And in reality, probably 80% of your bandwidth is going to go into post-production. It's the dirty little secret. It's also the thing that when you're determining a project's time and budget often gets short shrift, because you're so obsessed with how can you capture on tape or film the story as opposed to how you are going to craft that material once you've got it. And it's a whole other skill set, and the way digital media works now, we're all in this moment where you have to know how to do soup to nuts. People are being trained now as one man bands where you are expected to be able to do all your own pre-production, shoot your own video, come back and edit your own video, color correct your video, sound mix your video, do some titles, and deliver. I mean, my head wants to burst. And motion graphics right on top of it. So we're not going to cover that in this class, 'cause that would be a whole 'nother class, and I'm sure there's a wonderful class to cover it. But it is absolutely 20 skillsets wrapped into one human being right now. Now, if you're lucky, you will get to collaborate, and you will work with others who excel at many of those other skills. We're very fortunate because we have complimentary skills, even though we overlap in what we do. But that post-production piece of it is a heavy lift. And so we'll walk you through some of that and what's expected, and again, back to how do you tell a great story. 'Cause again, we're not here to give you the ins and outs of how Premier works. We'll do a little bit of that, but it really is how do you stay true to the vision of the story so that when you get into your editing phase you refer back to the beginning of your project. Is this meeting that threshold of what my story's about, and can I deliver on that story? I want to pick up on something she said, collaboration, 'cause even though this sort of one man band idea, it's really evolved with in a way the gear, the equipment. When the Canon 5D came out, I can't remember what year that was, 2008 or something, it really sort of changed how publishers and the people who hire us, clients, looked at their budgets. And for me, it's been a bit problematic, because I really love collaborating with people. Now, you don't have to marry your collaborator, all right, but it has worked out for us. But it is so important to find people to collaborate with. There is that rare bird who really does, as Julie says, do everything soup to nuts, right? But most of us, as I say, I'm a coal miner. I'm not a diamond polisher. I've been working for almost 40 years coming out of the world of photojournalism, and we'll get into where we came from in a sec. But I just want to emphasize how important it is to find collaborators, that it makes the work richer. It makes the experience richer as well. And then one thing that we've really excelled at and has been a part of our DNA from when we found Talking Eyes Media is this idea of generating multiple outputs. And part of that is because we come out of this sort of print world of journalism, and over the last 15, 20 years, we've morphed into filmmakers while I'm still a photographer as well. And so what can come out of this genre of work are final pieces that can go on the web, that can go into broadcast, that could be distilled and put into even print media as well, and that's something we will talk more about, because it's really, I find, especially for the advocacy work we do, it's a wonderful way to have greater penetration with your message, that in some ways, as weird as it may seem, maybe it's not enough to just have the cover of Time or National Geographic. Of course, that's a wonderful mountain to ascend, but that there is so much more out there in terms of ways we can reach people, including social media. And I just also would like to say because we're gonna go through so many aspects of producing a film that even though you may learn all of them and be the jack of all trades, there's a good chance you're a master of one or two as time goes on, and that's all right. And I think it's important to understand every piece of production. That doesn't mean that you will be equally good at each of these. I love asking people when they come to us for advice or because they'd like to work with us, and I always say to them, well what are you really great at? What piece of this do you love doing? And so while it's wonderful to learn every piece, I think it's important to recognize your own strengths and the things that feel natural, the things you do because you have to do to be able to be a one man band if needed, and then when you look for your collaborators, to try to find the people who really excel at the things that are maybe your weaknesses, and to be honest with yourself about that. So hopefully in the course of this, even though we will go through all of this, I would hope in your own minds you're kind of looking at yourself and thinking, oh yeah, I'm really great at constructing a story, but I'm not great at shooting. I'll learn these things. I'll do them to the best of my ability, and then hopefully down the road you'll be able to team up with folks so that you can really soar when you put it all together. Actually, I want to pick up on this last point that Julie made, because I have, as I jokingly said, I'm a coal miner. I'm a shooter, that's what I do. I don't know how to edit. But working with, not just being married to, but working with someone so closely who is a great editor, it has made my shooting so much better. There are things, especially coming out of the still photography world, that as a filmmaker I didn't think about. Details, scene setter shots, these are the kinds of images that as a photographer I wouldn't necessarily make, 'cause I didn't think they'd make great still images. But working with Julie, I've learned so much about the kinds of images I need to get. Even though I can't edit, there's certain visual connections I'll make, because now I'm thinking like an editor.

Class Description


  • Figure out what your story is and create a story arc or narrative.
  • Perform extensive research and gather background information.
  • Prepare for, conduct, and edit an interview.
  • Use B-roll footage to round out your story.
  • Master the post-production process and create a polished finished piece.
  • Find partners and funders through pitching and trailers.


Documentary film is an incredibly powerful way to tell a story, but it can also be a daunting project to undertake. How do you figure out your story, theme, and vision? What’s the best way to interact with your subject? What about all the technical aspects—from lighting to audio to editing? And of course, how will you get the funds to complete your film?

If all these uncertainties are causing you to rethink your idea of making documentaries, then this class is a must for you. Award winning documentarians and photojournalists Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur will give you all the information and inspiration you need to tackle your project and see it through to the finish.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Identify a great subject and define your vision.
  • Research your subject thoroughly and find other work that’s been done on it.
  • Choose and gather the equipment you’ll need.
  • Prepare for your interview, including formulating the right questions.
  • Conduct an interview, including setting up your lights and capturing the audio.
  • Create a post-production workflow.
  • Write a compelling pitch and create a trailer to gain funding and support.
  • Generate a variety of end products, including videos for social media and still photos.

Whether you’re looking to create shareable videos on social platforms or hoping to gather funding to produce a bigger project, this class will help you simplify the process and begin creating documentaries for clients or to fulfill your own artistic vision.


  • Photojournalists and photographers wanting to get into video to expand their capabilities and explore new ways of telling stories.
  • Budding filmmakers who need the knowledge and inspiration to get started on their project.
  • Those who want more technical information and skills on how to develop and produce video and film


Elisa Correa

wow, wow, wow! what a amazing course! I learned so much, I was inspired so much... congratulations, Julia and Ed, you are excellent teachers and do a really wonderful and powerful work. thank you!

a Creativelive Student

OUSTANDIING COURSE, congratulations creative live for bring Julie and Ed in teach about documentary filmmaking. I have watched and bought a fair few courses on this subject and not one of them comes close to this. You can see the amount of work Julie and Ed have done to make this course amazing. The best bits for me are the real teaching opportunities when Ed and Julie are making their violin documentary. I have never seen this before in any course. Thanks Ed and Julie for an amazing course and letting us see inside there work that you do and sharing all your experience with us. I've never really written any feedback for most courses, so this must be a good one :)

a Creativelive Student

Ed & Julie provide so much insight & knowledge into the documentary making process. This is a high-level class that gives you a wonderful overview of what goes into making a powerful and interesting documentary film. It was so helpful to watch them work on an actual short film from start to finish, and to hear their workflow. You'll need to learn the technical nitty gritty elsewhere, but this course will help you dive into how to tell stories on video. I particularly loved the segment on doing interviews, and Julie is an absolute pro at this! Also really nice to see Ed & Julie working/teaching together and how their different skills complement each other. It was a pleasure to learn from them!