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Three Things That Will Make Your Documentary Big Enough for Theatrical Release


Photo by B Rosen CC BY-ND 2.0

At the recent Sheffield Doc/Fest, there was an excellent session that asked Feature Docs: What Makes a Doc Theatrical? Here are three things that could make sure your doc makes it onto the big screen:

1)  Borrow some attitude from the movies.

Simon Chinn, producer of the Oscar-winning Man on Wire, revealed that the film’s approach was inspired by Reservoir Dogs and a French heist film, Rififi.

2) Get a director on board who can deliver a cinematic experience.

Simon said it was also vital to get a good director on board, who can deliver something that works on the big screen.  Kevin Macdonald delivered on One Day in September, and that brought him to the attention of John Smithson, producer of Touching the Void. Acquisitions exec Paula Crickard said that you need to shoot the film ‘big’ and use music and FX that suit the cinema environment.

3) Make people want to get up off their sofas

You are asking people to leave the comfort of their home and spend good money on watching your film, so you have to make it worth their while.  Jon Battsek, producer of In the Shadow of the Moon, The Age of Stupid and the Oscar-winning One Day in September said that if you want your film can’t be off-putting, even if you have a hard message to convey.  For example, The Cove – the story of dolphin slaughter in Japan – tackles a distressing subject, but it is told as a detective story so you get pulled in to the story without feeling like you’re being bludgeoned over the head with its message. There needs to be something uplifting and inspiring about a theatrical documentary film, such as the portrait of human spirit in Touching the Void.

Get more development and pitching tips in Greenlit: Developing Factual/Reality TV Ideas From Concept to Pitch



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