Documentary Film Reviews, Making Documentaries, and Nonfiction Storytelling

Writing a Shooting Script and Editing Script for Documentary Film or Non-fiction Project

Depending on the subject and the style of filming, a script for a documentary or non-fiction film may take a number of forms and be of varying degrees of detail. If the subject about to be documented is predictable, in a particular environment or demonstrates a routine, a script should be written to get coverage in three areas:

Action, Interviews and “B” roll.

For example a documentary about a restaurant owner shot on location, in the restaurant and researched by visits to the restaurant before shooting should have a script. Perhaps it starts out with exterior shots of the restaurant after which, the staff preparing for breakfast.

A shooting script can be written detailing what the shots will be of the staff, the kitchen and what questions will be asked if interviews are going to be done at that time. Planning for coverage of the subject allows for more options during the editing process.

A shooting script and editing script for a documentary or nonfiction project look pretty much the same. They both use a multiple column format beginning with two columns one for picture and one for audio. Additional columns may be added for storyboards or other information. Here we have added a column for shot number and another for time.

A multiple column script can be quickly  formatted by using the “table” drop down menu in Microsoft Word. Creating the script with the “table” menu produces a multiple column script in which the cells in each row all expand  at the same time so that picture and audio stay in line.


Once shooting is finished an editing script based on the actual footage acquired and other factors is written. For example “B” roll might be added to supplement a shot like the Farmer walking toward the barn.


There are times when a detailed shooting script can’t be written because it isn’t known exactly what will happen. An open shooting script based on a wish list of coverage or a shot list of various shots and angles for action and for the interview can still be written. After the shoot the footage is logged and an editing script based on the actual footage is written.

Click Link for  related Article below.

Making A Short Documentary article.

Excerpted from Create Documentary Films, Videos and Multimedia, Third Edition 2014, by James R (Jim) Martin

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