So, You’re Making A Documentary?

Some basic advice for students…

As a Media Student, you will be asked to complete a number of videos. Music videos, Presentation Techniques and Documentaries (more than one; yes)

Having watched the process, what have I discovered is the hardest thing for young film/documentary makers to do? Use a camera? Film in inclement conditions? Edit? No. what I have discovered is – students find it incredibly hard to ASK strangers to be in their productions. It’s all fine and dandy in the comfort of your own classroom or college studio, filming your friends and fellow students – but it isn’t going to cut the mustard when you get to Level 3!

You have to get out there and SPEAK TO PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW!

Students, when interviewing, don’t scratch you feet!

Making a Documentary may require you to get out of the classroom and into the street – especially if you’re doing a Vox Pop. Here’s a little advice for the shy or reluctant.

Apart from the expected equipment – camera(s), spare batteries, Rode mic, camera operative etc, you might also consider:

  • Carry I.D with you – your college I.D/Student Union card.
  • Consent/Release Forms – and a pen or two!
  • Mobile Phone with college number – someone might ask for further proof.
  • Umbrella if it is raining – people do not want to stand still for any length of time in the rain.


  • Practise what you’re going to say – don’t get caught blathering!
  • Take a friend for moral support.
  • You know what you want, you know your questions; and the kinds of answers you’re after. Pick your target; but do not harass. Many people feel on their guard when approached by a stranger.
  • Take a deep breath – you aren’t the first person who has had to do this, and it won’t be the last time you do.
  • Be friendly and polite.
  • Introduce yourself, explain where you are from and, briefly, what you are doing – they don’t need your educational life story.
  • Now ask if you can film them.
  • Explain how long it will take and how much footage you will use. And who will be viewing the final piece, e.g; classmates, tutor.
  • Get them to sign Consent Form.
  • Film what you need as quickly as possible – remember, they are doing you a favour!
  • Thank them.
  • Move on and do it again.

It’s okay if you’re shy, people are generally fine when they discover you’re a student. It will not be easy, but nothing worth having is easy. If you’re going into the Media Industry, whether Film, Television, Radio or Journals, you will need to work on communication skills – primarily verbal.

Just do it.

Oh, and good luck!

BLOG voxpop
Media Students interview for Vox Pop. Have fun!