1st Edition

The Documentary Filmmaker's Intuition Creating Ethical and Impactful Non-fiction Films

By Shannon Walsh Copyright 2024
    256 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    256 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book is an introduction to the art and craft of documentary filmmaking with a focus on ethics and impact from development through distribution. Author Shannon Walsh explores point-of-view storytelling, writing for nonfiction, and the art of social change documentary.

    Offering an overview of the documentary filmmaking process – from idea to pitch to a final film and impact campaign – this book provides nonfiction filmmakers with the methods required to find a voice, style, and cinematic approach to documentary filmmaking. Key areas covered include definition of styles and genres of documentary film; project development and proposal writing; basic elements of documentary storytelling such as interview techniques, vérité filming, use of archives, stills, and point of view; the process of preparing and delivering a project pitch; pre-production; and finding the necessary elements to tell a story cinematically. With a specific focus on ethics and character-driven storytelling, Walsh shares her own personal insights on talking to strangers and the importance of empathetic listening skills and intuition and provides useful worksheets that filmmakers can use for their own projects.

    This book is ideal for both students of documentary filmmaking and aspiring documentary filmmakers who are interested in creating ethical and impactful films.

    1.  Documentary Production: Fear, Failure & Intuition  2. Finding Stories & Ideas  3. Research, Access & Point of View  4. Ethics: Representation Subjectivity and the Colonized Image  5. Challenging Forms: Ecstatic Truth & Elusive Fiction  6. Intimacies: Autobiography, Family Histories and Personal Story-telling  7. Script & Treatment Writing For Documentary  8. Developing Strategies for Impact  9. Shooting & Editing in Development  10. Preparing the Pitch: Structure and Components of a Good Pitch  11. Directing with the Moment: Aliveness, Adaptation and Awareness  12. Preparing for Production: Considerations As You Start Shooting  13. Ethics in Production: Dealing with Film Participants and Crews  14. Talking to Strangers: Establishing Relationships & Doing Interviews  15. Building Community Through Filming Community  16. Post-Production Editing, Organizing Material and Re-writing  17. Sparking Impact: Creating Strategies for Change  18. Marketing & Distribution in the Digital Age . Further Reading & Resources


    Shannon Walsh is a filmmaker, an associate professor in Film Production at the University of British Columbia, and a research associate at the South African Research Chair in Social Change at the University of Johannesburg. She has written and directed six feature documentaries. Her films have been theatrically released; broadcast on networks such as ARTE, Al-Jazeera, CBC and Netflix; and screened at film festivals and museums globally. She has also published two edited books and many articles and chapters exploring issues such as inequality, social justice and visual methods. She was a Guggenheim Fellow in 2020 and was awarded the Canadian Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Art in 2023.

    'Shannon Walsh has written an incisive book, which acts as a brilliant primer on how to make and distribute a documentary while dealing with the all-important issue of being an ethical filmmaker. This is a great read and an important volume.'

    -Marc Glassmaneditor POV Magazine

    'The explosion of documentary filmmaking has compelled makers to ask serious questions about ethical practices, representation, our relationship to our subjects and the like. Shannon Walsh’s essential and thoughtful book is a much-needed look at the profound issues we are all facing as the documentary genre continues to evolve.'

    -Ina Fichman, Creative Producer (Fire of Love, Adrianne & The Castle, The Wanted 18)