Documentary Storytelling : Creative Nonfiction on Screen book cover
5th Edition

Documentary Storytelling
Creative Nonfiction on Screen

ISBN 9781032267296
Published July 8, 2022 by Routledge
394 Pages 34 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

For nearly two decades, Documentary Storytelling has reached filmmakers and filmgoers worldwide with its unique focus on the key ingredient for success in the global documentary marketplace: storytelling.

As this revised, updated fifth edition makes clear, nonfiction storytelling is not limited to character-driven journeys, but instead encompasses the diverse ways in which today’s top documentarians reach audiences with content that is creative, original, and often inspirational, all without sacrificing the integrity that gives documentary its power. This book is filled with practical advice for writers, producers, directors, editors, cinematographers, and others committed to reality-based filmmaking that seeks to reach audiences, raise awareness, address social issues, illuminate the human condition, and even entertain.

In this new edition, Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and author Sheila Curran Bernard offers:

  • a closer look at the way ethical nonfiction filmmakers take creative, authorial leaps while also remaining transparent with audiences;
  • new tools for understanding how documentaries are structured, how they may rearrange time for storytelling effect, and how a simple narrative throughline can convey complexity without being a conventional "hero’s journey";
  • new conversations with filmmakers and educators including Dawn Porter, Madison Hamburg, Tracy Heather Strain, June Cross, Heidi Gronauer, and Julie Casper Roth, and another look at conversations with Stanley Nelson and Orlando von Einsiedel.

Please visit the book’s website, available at, for further information, related articles, and more.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Part I: Understanding Story

2. Story Basics

3. Identifying the Story

4. Structure

5. Creative Approach

6. Watching Like a Filmmaker

Part II: Working with Story

7. Research and Casting

8. Project Development

9. The Film on Paper

10. Shooting

11. Editing

12. Narration and Voice-Over

13. Storytelling: A Checklist

Part III: Talking about Story

14. Julie Casper Roth

15. June Cross

16. Heidi Gronauer

17. Madison Hamburg 

18. Stanley Nelson  

19. Dawn Porter

20. Tracy Heather Strain 

21. Orlando von Einsiedel

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Sheila Curran Bernard is an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker and writer whose credits include numerous projects for broadcast and theatrical release. She has served on film juries and led master classes in documentary storytelling in the United States and Europe and been honored with residencies at MacDowell and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She is an associate professor in the Department of History and the Documentary Studies Program at the University at Albany, State University of New York.