Documentary Filmmaker

Coordinate cameras and crew to tell a true story on film.

Quick Stats

Salary Range
$45,000 – $112,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Documentary Filmmakers do?

Understanding world issues through visual expression is the underlying talent of a Documentary Filmmaker. As a Filmmaker, you are a storyteller. You take the viewer on a meaningful journey of fact and awareness.

Your story as a Documentary Filmmaker may be a personal one: life as a young army recruit deployed to Afghanistan, or one that follows the ups and downs of a wannabe Country Singer. It could also be a larger social commentary; or, as is common, something that is both. But whatever your focus, your work as a Documentary Filmmaker is different than short, analytical TV news. You have the opportunity to voice a complete story with a beginning, middle and an end.

The two greatest hurdles you will face is pulling together the necessary crew to make your film and getting your hands on the much needed funding to finance it. Saying that, there are several ways to seek funding; through production companies, network stations (such as the Discovery and Travel Channel), and private investors. Foundations may also fund your choice of topic if it coincides with their charity of interest.

Your working day will differ on a daily basis. Some days you will research your subject, other days you will conduct an interview or direct a shoot. And then there will come the grand finale when you will spend your days editing footage, and bringing your story to life.

A standout Documentary Filmmaker possesses a strong visual eye, excellent observation skills, creative writing, and the gift of the gab when it comes to storytelling.

Should I be a Documentary Filmmaker?

You should have a bachelor's degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Flexible: You're open to change and think variety is the spice of life.
  • Team Player: You're able to listen, communicate, and work with tons of different people.
  • Ready for a Challenge: You jump into new projects with initiative and drive.

  • How to become a Documentary Filmmaker

    We recommend at least a Bachelor's degree. Check out these schools offering Documentary Filmmaker-related education!
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