Shooting a documentary is very different from shooting a narrative film. In many ways it can be on the cuff, guerilla style shooting. Documentaries can also be made of properly planned and composed shoots. Great documentaries are made of both and thus require an organized documentary shooting schedule. Creating a documentary shooting schedule is an effective way to ensure that you get the everything you need to piece together a compelling documentary. It will also help our production stay organized, efficient, and streamlined. Let’s dive into how to create a documentary shooting schedule. 

Documentary Shooting Schedule Template

Choose your software

The first step in creating a documentary shooting schedule is choosing your tool. Of course, you can try to create your documentary shooting schedule by hand using a spreadsheet. But why not use one of the numerous online tools available specifically for shooting schedules?

StudioBinder’s free shooting schedule software is intuitive, easy, and best of all, free to use. Check out how to use stripboards in the app to create your documentary shooting schedule template

Documentary shooting schedule template  •  Subscribe on YouTube

Whether they are created by the 1st AD, producer, or any other production role shooting schedules are meant to be shared. Using the StudioBinder app makes it easy to share your shooting schedule with your whole team so that everyone understands the shooting timeline. 

Documentary Production Schedule Guide

Create a stripboard

The best way to create any shooting schedule is to use stripboards. Stripboards used to be physical strips of paper with shooting details that can be rearranged on a board to create a schedule. Luckily, in StudioBinder, creating a stripboard is easier than ever. Check out our video tutorial below to learn how to create a shooting schedule using stripboards. 

How to Create a documentary production schedule Using Stripboards  •  Subscribe on YouTube

Typically in StudioBinder’s scheduling app you would upload your screenplay so it can be converted into strips. However, when it comes to documentaries, screenplays are not used. Do not fret. You can simply make individual strips based on each video shoot. 

Let’s take a look at how you would make a strip for an interview shoot in a documentary. First, rather than uploading a script, select “Add Scene.”

Documentary production schedule template

Documentary production schedule template

Once you click “Add Scene” this will prompt a strip template. Here you can add the details of the specific scene you are shooting. 

Documentary Shooting Schedule

Documentary production schedule

For documentaries, this may be an event, interview, or simply a general location shoot for B-Roll. Let’s take a look at a few different documentary scenes and how to create stripboards for them. 

Documentary Production Schedule Template

Schedule interviews

One of the most common types of scenes shot for a documentary is the interview. Documentaries will often have various interviews so it’s important to create a detailed stripboard for each to distinguish each scene. This is the stripboard we created for a documentary interview scene.

How to Create a Documentary Shooting Schedule Documentary Shooting Schedule Template StudioBinder Shooting Schedule Software Still

Documentary production schedule template  •  interviews

As you can see from the stripboard above, you can list details of the interview such as the subject, location, and general time of day. Interviews will usually inform the rest of the documentary since B-Roll shout be curated toward what the interview subject is saying. Because of this, interviews will probably fall early on in your schedule. 

Documentary Production Schedule Template

Schedule event shoots

Another common type of documentary scene is a specific event. This scene will depend greatly on what the subject of your documentary is. For our example, an event in the documentary is a restoration project for the Yosemite National Park. To shoot this for our example documentary, we created this stripboard.

How to Create a Documentary Shooting Schedule Event Schedule Template StudioBinder Shooting Schedule Software

Event stripboard

While events will vary greatly documentary to documentary, the template will work for the details of any documentary scene. Locations, scene descriptions, and time of day will distinguish the scene on a schedule. 

Documentary Production Schedule Guide

Arrange stripboard schedule

Once you’ve created your stripboards for your various documentary scenes, it’s time to arrange the strips to create a shooting schedule. Documentary shoots are very different from narratives. 

The order of the shoot will depend greatly on what needs to be shot first to inform the rest of the shoot. Like we said before, these initial shoots are typically interviews. 

In our example stripboard schedule, we scheduled all of our interviews first followed by events. We also clumped scenes that are shot in the same location.

Check out our full example stripboard schedule by clicking the link below. 

Examples documentary shooting schedule

Once you arrange your strips into an appropriate shooting sequence you can add dates and times to organize your schedule. The best way to do this for a documentary in the app is by creating a banner.

Simply click “Add Banner Note” at the bottom of the stripboard. On this banner you can add the date of the shoot. 

Example of schedule

Example of schedule

Documentaries can be shot very much on the fly. However, there are various scenes in a documentary that can and should be planned for. The creating a documentary shooting schedule will help you organize the timeline of your documentary production. 

Up Next

How to Make a Documentary

Creating a documentary shooting schedule is only one part of the documentary production process. To get a full idea of how to make a documentary check out our next article. We dive into everything from ideation to editing.

Up Next: How to Make a Doc →
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  • Kyle DeGuzman graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science in Television, Film, & New Media. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado spending his time writing, filmmaking, and traveling.

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