Visualising development: our experience of making documentaries

William Shatner, a Canadian actor once said, “I didn't realize that, in doing a documentary, there is this process of discovery. It's not like a film or a play with a set script. It sort of reveals itself.” One of the motives of starting our company, Nepal Institute of Research and Communications (NIRC) was to depict this reality as it is – with of course the creative touch, which our awesome team of videographers have plenty. NIRC is blessed to have a talented bunch of videographers led by Manish Maharjan - giving us a “voice” to talk about development.

In the course of a year of our establishment, we have been fortunate to work on interesting documentary projects and the experience has been amazing. We have begun to realise what it takes to develop even a one-minute video. There are numerous considerations to take in with regards to the content and still make it lively and watchable.

Script is supreme

A well written script makes a job of a documentary team much easier. A detailed storyboard and script ensures proper direction and approach that the team needs to take before the filming takes place. It also prepares the subjects involved for their role, for instance, having questions ready before an interview or explaining about a certain scenario or the surrounding.

Bringing team together

Easier said than done, bringing everyone on the same page is difficult, people have different opinions about where should a particular content go in the documentary, how should it look like, language, tone, visuals or B-rolls, sound and visual effects, among others. In that situation, it is up to the project focal point and the documentary lead to initiate the review process and take decisions, also taking into account what other team members have suggested.   

Emphasising on ethics

As a team, we were also mindful of ethical considerations before putting out a video. So, we discussed with our collaborators before starting the shooting and also during the post production stage. We discussed about the informed consent, anonymity and not disclosing identities of special subjects such as people with mental health problems.

Blending creativity with rich content

As a company we were just starting out but had a good team of creative people. Our major concern was how to blend our creative instincts do discuss on social issues such as mental health and menstruation. The direction or the approach was not so clear in the beginning but gradually, we are learning to find the middle path. Contemporary techniques such as drone shots, background scores and close up shots have been extensively used on one hand while on the other, rich discussions with the collaborators to finalise the content, language and tone for clear messaging.

It has been a great learning experience so far for us, NIRC as a team to use documentary as a medium for visual storytelling – getting the message across to advocate on various development agendas in Nepal. We are grateful to our collaborators – TPO Nepal and Visible Impact.

Our mission to communicate for development continues ...