1st Edition

The Documentary Filmmaker's Roadmap A Practical Guide to Planning, Production and Distribution

By Maxine Trump Copyright 2019
    256 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    256 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Documentary Filmmaker’s Roadmap is a concise and practical guide to making a feature-length documentary film—from funding to production to distribution, exhibition and marketing. Using her award-winning film Musicwood—a New York Times Critics’ Pick—as a case study, director Maxine Trump guides the reader through the complex lifecycle of the documentary Film. Her interviews with lawyers, funders, distributors, TV executives and festival programmers provide a behind-the-scenes look that will assist readers on their own filmmaking journey.

    Written from the perspective of a successful documentary filmmaker, the book covers mistakes made and lessons learned, a discussion on the documentary genre, crowdfunding, pre-production through post, test screenings, the festival circuit distribution, legal pitfalls, fair use and more. Perfect for documentary filmmaking students and aspiring filmmakers alike, this book emphasizes the skills needed to succeed in a competitive production market. An appendix includes useful web links for further study, a list of films for recommended viewing and sample release forms.

    This concise guide is ideal for the classroom or as a quick reference out in the field, at a budget meeting or in the editing room.


    1. Research: Choosing Your Story

    • Archive or Third-Party Materials

      2. Pre-Production

      • Inspiration / Early Analysis and Prep
      • Equipment

      3. How to Choose Documentary Genres

      • The Essay Film

        4. Budget

        • Filmmakers’ Costs
        • Production Insurance and Legal
        • Finishing Costs
        • Example Budgets

        5. Production

        • Releases
        • The Look of the Production
        • Crew
        • Filming
        • BTS
        • Interviews
        • Tracking the Details
        • Editing While Filming

        6. Funding

        • Person
        • Rewards
        • Non-Profits and Other Communities
        • Our Goal

        7. Social Media and Print Assets

        • Social Media
        • Key Art
        • Website
        • Trailer

          8. Crowdfunding

          • Think of Your Strategy and What Crowdfunding Can Do for You
          • Lead Time
          • Outreach/Reaching People
          • Making Strangers Your Funders and Your Audience
          • Then and Now
          • Pre-Launch
            • Team
            • Motivate Yourself as Well as Your Team
            • Why Kickstarter over Other Platforms
            • Press
            • Key Art – Postcards/Kickstarter Video/Kickstarter Page
            • Crowdfunding Homepage
            • Video
            • Rewards and Funding Level
            • Metrics
            • Content to Share
            • Facebook Groups

          • Launch
            • Going Live
            • First-Week Shares
            • During the Campaign
            • Emails
            • Test Screenings
            • Crowdfunding Platform Updates
            • Social Media
            • Your Twitter Influencers
            • Further Rewards
            • Cross-Promoting Content
            • Thanks
            • Last Few Days

          • Results
            • What Would I Have Done Differently
            • Think Outside the Green Blob
            • Well Done

          9. The Edit

          • Story Beats and Structure
          • Voice Over
          • Good Narration
          • Say it Less, Say it Better, Say it in the Best Possible Way to Advance Your Story
          • Music and Sound
          • Finishing and Assembly

          10. Case Study - Cartel Land Edit

          11. Copyright Law, Third-Party Material, Archive

          • Music
          • Third-Party Materials
          • Public Domain
          • Fair Use
          • Privacy
          • Releases
          • When a Release Isn’t Possible
          • Editors and Omissions Insurance
          • Journalism
          • Hidden Cameras, Phone Calls and Door Stepping
          • Satirical Works
          • Trespassing
          • Recreations

            12. Brain Trusts, Test Screenings, and Outreach

            13. In Conversation with: Fork Films Funder; Women Make Movies Distributor; DOC NYC Festival; PBS POV Television Strand Exhibitor

            • Funder: Fork Films
            • DOC NYC Festival
            • Women Make Movies Distributor
            • TV Network – PBS and POV
              • America Reframed on The World Channel
              • Independent Lens or POV or Both?
              • Funders/Sponsorship/Advocacy, Etc.
              • Shorts Digital Platform – POV Digital

            14. Festivals

            • Applying/Premiering
            • Premier Night
            • Distributors at Film Festivals
            • The Festival Circuit
            • Press at Festivals
            • 25 Tips for the First-Time Feature Director on the Festival Circuit

            15. Distribution (or Selling and Income)

            • National
            • International
            • Our Deal
            • Semi-Theatrical/Non-Theatrical Distribution
            • Educational

              16. Theatrical

              • Theatres in our Theatrical Run

              17. Press and Marketing

              • Theatrical Marketing and Press
              • Reviewers
              • Blogs
              • Overall

              18. TV and Streaming

              • Digital Streaming
              • US TV Networks
                • US TV Network Opportunities

              • European TV Networks
                • BBC Storyville

              19. In Conclusion

              • Special Thanks


              • Useful Links
              • Film Festival Short List
              • 100 Documentary Films
              • Release Forms

              About the Author


              Maxine Trump got her start in radio and television, working for seven years in development and commissioning for BBC Comedy in the UK. She emigrated to the US in 2003 to become a director of television commercials and has received both Gold and Silver BDA awards for her work. She went on to direct short documentaries and TV shows for various networks including TNT, the Sundance Channel and Discovery.

              "Imagine that someone who has already successfully navigated challenges you are about to face gives you a magic playbook: a thorough, focused, and generous guide you can consult at every forking of the road. For documentarians, Maxine Trump’s The Documentary Filmmaker’s Roadmap is that playbook."

              —Bruce Sheridan, Chair, CILECT North America; Documentary Director (Spellbound: The Split End Story; Perfectly Frank) and Producer (Head Games; Our Blood Is Wine)

              "I wish I had had this book at the beginning of my career. It tells you all the questions you need to be asking in every step of your filmmaking process and helps you answer them, too."

              —Liz Nord, Documentary Filmmaker; Editor-in-Chief of No Film School