Video producer Tanner Iskra has extensive experience filming, editing, and promoting documentaries. He explains what sets a successful documentary apart from a mediocre one and offers insight into how to make a documentary that will capture viewer attention and tell a worthwhile story in the most accurate, compelling manner possible.

Choose a Storyline

Iskra explains that the first step is to choose a storyline. It should be one that grabs attention and resonates with the target audience. The director should also be passionate about the topic, as his or her feelings of enthusiasm, anger, joy, or sadness will inevitably be conveyed in the documentary.

Find the Right Angle

Once a topic has been chosen, Tanner Iskra strongly recommends extensive research to collect information on the topic from every conceivable angle. He notes that it’s all too easy to pick a side and only choose the information that will back up a particular point of view; however, a truly good documentary will offer valuable information to viewers by showing a story from all possible angles. Iskra also points out that it can take weeks or even months to find the right storyline and determine the angle from which the story will be presented; this can be frustrating for those who feel the need to put out material right away and/or have a tight deadline; however, he rightly points out that some of the most notable documentaries have taken years to film.

Collect the Material

Once the storyline and angle have been chosen, it’s time to start collecting the material that will be featured in the documentary, be it photos, interviews, news clips, or excerpts of books or scientific studies. Once again, he notes, this is not a fast process, and a wise director will allow plenty of time for the material collection process. This is especially true if extensive, or multiple personal interviews are needed, as the odds are that not every person featured in the documentary will have experienced being filmed, which means that it may take time to get compelling footage. Furthermore, Iskra reminds would-be documentary directors to ensure that proper permission is obtained in writing for all information used in the documentary to prevent legal hassles after the documentary has been released.


Tanner Iskra has long been passionate about creating outstanding video content, and the planning, research, and passion he puts into each project show in the final result. Moreover, he is also passionate about helping others interested in creating documentaries learn how to do so. Proper planning, he says, is the key to success. He urges directors to choose a storyline and angle carefully and conduct careful research to ensure the final product is an attention-grabbing piece that drives positive change.