Skip to main content

Making a Short Documentary

Lesson 29 of 35

What Video to Keep in The Edit?


Making a Short Documentary

Lesson 29 of 35

What Video to Keep in The Edit?


Lesson Info

What Video to Keep in The Edit?

Were gonna move onto the next section, which is the post production work flow. You know, this is where you roll your sleeves up, and you go down into the mine. And you do that, kind of, you know, intensive labor. To now to take all of those beautiful gems in the raw, and polish them up. So, in order to get started, so, I'm gonna go through a work flow process. But I wanna make it really clear, I mean, this is not a Premiere entry level workshop. At this point, so I have downloaded all the media, I have renamed everything, so it meets my naming convention. And I will say, after years and years of working, I can't stress enough, the importance of organizing your media and naming it consistently. And naming it so it's really searchable, because it may seem like one small project, it doesn't really matter. But when you have 50 small projects, and five years, ten years later, you will hate yourself, if you don't organize well from the beginning. So treat it all as precious media, label it a...

ll clearly, know what camera it came out of. Have it really broken down properly. When you do that, in your file structure, you can bring it all into Premiere, and it matches your file structure. So, I can't express strongly enough, the need to be super, super organized with all of this. It makes it much easier, and the more complicated your films are, the more smoothly they're gonna flow, if you take this seriously, up front. When I imported everything into Premiere, it's already broken down into, here's my media, I'm gonna blow this window up. So, I've already broken down my media, you can see I've labeled it as an A camera, a B camera, the Osmo. And then, I did transcode the Osmo footage, because it was 4K and my computer couldn't handle it, so I couldn't actually watch it play in real time. So I down-res'ed it. So, when it brought it in, as you can see within each of my folders is, the media, all the media clips, this gives you a little window into how many clips came out of each camera. That's out of camera A, as you can see, it's quite a lot of clips, camera B, so you got a lot of media in there, to work with. Which is part of why it's so daunting, when it comes in. The Osmo, three clips, you know, it was one take, basically, the, he obviously had experimented, a tiny bit, before the actual take. Or maybe he started and stopped. So, it's daunting, when you open up Premiere, and you've got all this great footage, and you just don't even know where to begin. So, I always begin with my interview. Because, that is the one thing, that I know, can create a roadmap for the narrative spine of the story. In this instance, we had two cameras running, so I brought in the interview, and then I synced up the two cameras, so I could work in a multicam. So one of the things, in terms of workflow is, you don't want to start cutting something, and then, I decide, "Ooh I cut this, using the wide shot, and now I wanna cut to the tight shot, and where is that tight shot, and how am I gonna match up picture and audio, just for that sound bite?". So I don't know if folks here have worked in multicam, but a multicam, basically all you're doing is, creating a sequence that has both cameras and, allows you to toggle in between the two cameras. So here is a multicam for David's interview. Premiere has a multicam function, so as you can see here, I'm able to toggle between his tight shot, wide shot, so as I go through, it's really easy for me to decide, in the end of the day, when he's on camera, whether I want him tight or wide. I don't waste time going to find that segment, in the footage. So, in terms of my workflow, what I did is, I took the footage in, and I multi-cammed it and again, I'm sure you can learn how to do that, through one of the other, you know, this Premiere boot camp. But I wanna work with the multicam, and then what I did is, in my sequence, I dragged in the entire interview, into one sequence. And what I like to do, before when we were talking about transcribing, typically, this would have been transcribed. I would have read my transcript, and then I would have highlighted, what were the best sound bytes. And then I would have started to figure out, "Well what do I think might be in here?" And I would actually, now pull all of the best sound bytes in Premiere, so I could start working. When I'm under a time crunch, that's not happening. And also, I've been working long enough, personally, and if I'm the only one editing, I didn't need to transcribe, this interview is under half an hour, twenty-five minute interview. So, I like to work, sometimes, directly in Premiere, it saves me time. And I can hear my sound bytes easily enough, because I've been doing this long enough. So, what I did is, I went through David's interview, I played his interview, and then, every time I had sound byte that I liked, I raised it up to the next level in my program. So, here's an instance, where here's the first thing he said that might be usable. "My name is David Goad, and we're in my workshop." You can see my splicing, I elevated that up, maybe usable, this next bit, not using it. So then, my next, "It's in West Seattle,", not gonna use his pause, his ums, his ahs, "My workshop's in West Seattle,". He's said it twice, I don't know yet, which one I might use. So, I went through this whole interview, and I just started pulling what's usable. "And, I've been here for about nine months now. I do violin repairs and restorations, and sales, do some bow work and I have a small rental program." Alright, so right now I'm just weeding, to see what is viable, if it's boring, I didn't bother. "What's the name of your violin shop?" "David Goad Violins." "Okay". Alright, he's just gonna tell me the name of his shop, I'm not gonna use that. So look what happens, this next one, oh my gosh, it went to the second level, that's my, like, double star level. "I do violin repair and restoration." Ooh, that's probably all I need to know, so, that got bumped up to level two, for me now, three for me now. You're gonna see that, as I worked my way down, all of a sudden down here, you start to see, some level fours. "The time you spend learning to work on the instrument, is kind of equivalent to the time you spend, learning how to play the instrument." That was a great sound byte, of things he said. So what I do, I literally, am scrubbing through this, to find what rises to the top. Figuratively, and literally. So, to your question earlier, what about B roll, and you can't really transcribe all of that. I do this for everything. So anything that might create a narrative spine for me, is, you know, I'm listening, and then, I visually map it in this way. And what that does, is already, you can see in this sequence, I already have the beginning of what will be, the finished film. I am pretty confident, that anything that hit this level, is in my film. Then, there's a good chance that, I needed some of the other things that are in levels two and three. So, I'm using the actual tools here, to build a script physically. That I am, literally going to copy in. So, that was phase one, for me. And, you'll train your ear, but everybody knows, in a moment in an interview, when it's like, "Ding" that was it, that was the goal. You know it, you just feel it, you hear it. So, in this first round, I would suggest, anything that has a possibility of being used, is here, sometimes that's just the, and this is level two, so that's like maybe, a lot of the time, that's just like the, like the necessary information. You know, it's stuff that I might need. I will probably never go back to, this layer down here. I can almost discard, you know, half of the interview, at this point. I don't actually discard it, but you know, in terms of this sifting, which is what you're doing. You're sifting out the stuff that, you know, you're able to disregard from here on. So, it's a really helpful way for me to work. I think it's a really, you know, especially for those of us who struggle scripting on paper, 'cos that's the way a lot of people work, is on paper. So, you would have this transcript, you'd highlight, and then you would create a new document. Where you would drag your sound bytes into this, new document, and in column A, you would have your sound bytes, and in column B, you would list your visuals. So, it's another way of working, that's very efficient, but it may be more efficient, or comfortable, for some, than others. I tend to work, you know, I like using my hands and my eyes, you know, and for me, this works really well. So, to get then from point A to point B, now that you've got this, I have literally taken, and this is his complete interview. I have literally highlighted, these are not linked, right now, but I highlighted what's on tracks 2,3,4, I also grabbed all of the audio attached. I'm sorry, these are not linked, but they were brought in unlinked, but you can see, I highlighted everything, and if they had been linked, audio would have come with. It would all highlight. And then, I threw that all into, the next sequence I created, which is called his string out. In his string out, I then, literally, created title cards, and now I'm gonna go back to my window, so you can see. So, I literally created title cards, I'll get out of the multicam, because it doesn't, you don't need to see it that way. So, if I apply this I, literally, now have title cards, "My name is David Goad, and we're in my workshop, it's in West Seattle.". "My workshop's in West Seattle, and I've been here for about, nine months now." "I've had my business here, for about nine months now." "Early on, when I first started, I worked on guitars, as well, I was working for a music shop in Dallas, and I was doing, like, inventory and stocking, and stuff like that and it was pretty boring, and I liked hanging out in the repair shop. And eventually, they had a spot open up, in the apprenticeship program, so I got into it there. And, that's where I got started." "I do violin repairs and restorations," So I've broken this down, as you can see, to just, I came up with categories, and then I started moving sound bytes around too. Because in the end, he might have said something relevant to what happened earlier, so I do title cards, that are themes. So, as you saw, I had a, you know, what he does, I believe I don't have this highlighted, which is why we're not seeing those. So, I came up with the themes that he had addressed. Which is my next level of organization. So, once I've come up with these themes, then I'm also able to now here group together, the same topic thoughts, and I can hear, which was the best version. If he said things multiple times, now I can start the next level of distilling to what is a keeper, and what's to be tossed out. So, if you look at my string out, I've now moved onto this, right, so now you can see that I've, usually what I'll start to do, is bring these together as well, I start to close up my gaps, so that I can listen to it more continuously. And I work my way down. Now you can see that, I've still got stuff that's, kind of, rising higher than other sound bytes. And I really grouped this by what I thought was interesting and what I felt he was addressing. So then, from there, once I'd done that, and I've listened, and I've started to, kind of, hear, "alright, what's the usable stuff?" Now, I'm at this place where, it's like, I'm making a really rich sauce, because I've gotten rid of all the fat and the water and everything else, and I'm trying to get to the essence of the flavor here. So, the next step, for me is to take that string out, and I start to, actually, build my script. So, then I went into my first, lemme pull down, by the way, older sequences we stick in a bin called, Z archive, put the Z on it. So that it's always at the bottom. I never throw a sequence away, in Premiere you can have as many sequences as you want. So just in case you want to go back to version you had yesterday that, you know, maybe you thought you'd moved on from, but you know there was that one great bit that you had put together, but now you ditched it. It lives somewhere. So, I always keep my older sequences, and the next thing I did then, was I started to put together, the radio cut for David. So, I have a feeling, because I was in a rush, I may have condensed time here. So, let's see, lemme go back to his string out, it's possible, okay, so I think I pictured up my radio cuts. So, the next thing I would have done is put together just the radio cut, where I'm actually building the script, that we'll end up, here it is, I believe this is it, that will end up in his finished piece. So I'm, literally, just creating now, the actual audio, no picture, I don't care at this point, if his face is gonna appear on screen, not on screen, wide type, I don't really care. But I am boiling this down, just to a radio cut of his best sound bytes, and I'm putting it in an order. And I can do that in my sequence, and start to mix it up, and move it around. Now what happens is, I will keep my string out intact, so I don't lose anything that I might want. And I will start a radio cut. As opposed to, you know again, throwing things away. It's just the way I prefer to work, I think it also gives me license to make and remake things, and not worry that I can't recreate what I did yesterday. So, kind of, frees me up, because I'm always afraid of losing something.

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


  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.

  2. How Did We Start Making Documentaries?

    Ed and Julie describe their backgrounds, explain what has led up to their careers as documentary filmmakers and talk about how to start making documentaries.

  3. Universal Themes Through First-Person Storytelling

    See some of Julie and Ed’s early work and listen to them discuss the importance of first-person storytelling, the integration of stills and video, and publication across media platforms.

  4. Use Visual Language to Tackle a Theme

    Julie and Ed show a more recent project to talk about how to structure a documentary and the infinite options for tackling a theme.

  5. Issue Driven & Non-English Story Development

    Ed shares his documentary about young Syrian refugees and discusses documentary story development. He talks about what it’s like to create an extremely personal project that is both emotional and newsworthy.

  6. Translate a Theme Into a Film **Warning: This lesson contains scenes of graphic violence**

    Learn about the differences between themes and stories, how to translate your concept into an actual film, and what goes into the documentary storytelling process. **Warning: This lesson contains scenes of graphic violence**

  7. Turn Failures Into Lessons

    Look at an example of an idea that didn’t pan out and learn about the mistakes documentary filmmakers make.

  8. Finding Your Subjects

    Your subjects are your collaborators. They’re with you throughout your journey of making a documentary, so it’s important to learn how to find a documentary subject.

  9. What is Your Motivation?

    Discover what your motivation is for telling a particular story and learn about finding a documentary theme.

  10. Follow Your Passion & Invest in Yourself

    Sometimes you need to invest your own time, money, and energy to do a project. Julie and Ed talk about getting started in documentary filmmaking.

  11. Client Work Vs Legacy Work

    Learn how to bring your documentary filmmaking skills to short videos for clients.

  12. Translate the Idea to Reality

    The first thing to do once you have an idea is to do a lot of research. Learn about researching a documentary so you can understand the issue inside and out.

  13. Create Multiple Products from One Idea

    Sometimes you can create smaller pieces that focus on a particular story from larger projects. Here you’ll learn more about documentary storytelling techniques.

  14. Pre-Production Plan

    Before you start shooting, get on the phone with your subject to talk about logistics, background information, and other essential aspects of the documentary production process.

  15. You Just Have to Dive In

    At a certain point, you need to just dive in and get to the work—there’s really nothing to lose. Here you’ll go over the steps to documentary filmmaking.

  16. Time & Cost for Projects

    The harsh reality of trying to get films made is the difficulty of raising money to get the job done. Ed and Julie help answer the question of how much do documentaries cost—from person hours to equipment to travel.

  17. Writing a Strong Pitch

    Learn how to pitch a documentary idea so you can clarify your vision, get others excited about your project, and propel your idea forward.

  18. Develop a Fundraising Trailer

    Creating a documentary pitch video will help you showcase your idea and raise money for your project.

  19. Identify & Approach Partners

    Learn about finding documentary partners who might be interested in working with you or supporting your idea and how to approach them.

  20. Define Your Desired Impact

    Finding a topic for a documentary means you’ll have to think about what you want to accomplish with your work, whether it be a personal goal or something more far reaching.

  21. Introduction to Working in the Field

    Get an introduction about working in the field and location scouting for film.

  22. Shoot: Interview Set Up

    Learn about documentary interview setup, including doing a pre-interview, coming with the necessary equipment, and knowing where you’ll be placing your cameras.

  23. Shoot: The Interview

    Here are some interviewing tips for documentary filmmaking, including how to prepare your subject, figure out your questions, and allow your subject’s voice to truly come out.

  24. Different Types of Interviews

    There are many different documentary interview styles. Some have a formal set-up with artificial light, some are more casual with natural light, and some are done on the go.

  25. Shoot: Capturing B-Roll

    B-roll is everything you shoot outside of the interview and is used to establish a sense of place, put your character in context, and tell more of your story through visuals. Here are some things to consider with b-roll.

  26. Shoot: Detail Shots

    Detail shots allow you to focus on something small and particular that helps to illuminate your story. Here’s how to create a filmmaking shot list.

  27. Shoot: Capturing a Scene

    A scene is an opportunity to watch your subject interact with someone else, offering further information about their life and character. Learn some key documentary film shooting tips.

  28. Shoot: A Set Up Shot

    Creating a great set-up shot involves thinking about the lighting, the background audio, and the camera angle. Here you’ll learn about some filmmaking shots and angles.

  29. What Video to Keep in The Edit?

    The film post-production process workflow is an intensive process of figuring out what to keep, what to toss, and what to polish for your final product.

  30. Identify Strongest Audio as Starting Point for Edit

    Learn about audio post-production techniques, including starting with your strongest piece of audio so you can begin with something powerful and compelling.

  31. Use Audio to Guide Narrative

    Ed and Julie discuss the importance of sound in documentary. Listen for the narrative spine, the unfolding of information, and the integration of multiple voices.

  32. Transform Raw Content Into Finished Piece

    The quality of your final cut depends on your visuals, music and ambient sound, and the editing rhythm. Here you’ll learn about documentary post-production editing steps.

  33. Building Scenes in Your Edit

    One way of creating a short documentary is to focus on building your scenes and try to create some drama within them. Find out about some key drama film editing techniques.

  34. Short Doc Created from Pre Shoot: Resonant

    Watch the final cut of “Resonant,” the documentary that Julie and Ed created for this course, and learn about finishing a documentary film.

  35. Final Thoughts

    Ed and Julie talk about why they work on documentaries and provide some filmmaker inspiration.


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!