Documentary Ideas For High School Students: The Ultimate Documentary Hack

Documentaries are perceived to be the most challenging academic project by most high school students. Most students struggle with selecting topics as well as creating content.

A documentary is only as good as a story. This is why selecting the correct account to document is an invaluable step in making your school documentary.

A documentary should be made to educate, inspire as well as entertain its audience. So, what are the best documentary ideas for high school students?

There are hundreds of ideas that students can create a film on. However, the best documentary idea should be based on a story worth telling. A perfect idea should be relevant and appealing to your target audience.

 Some of these ideas include the impact of human activities on the environment, technology, health care, and substance abuse. All these ideas feature relevant and insightful subjects.

Documentary Ideas 

Here are some documentary ideas for you.

1. Impact of human activities on the environment

Climate change

Now more than ever, individuals and activists around the world are championing policies to curb climate change. An excellent documentary on climate change can help get their message to the world.

A documentary on climate change can feature in detail the trend in climate change. For example, a student could start by painting a picture of how the environment was before industrialization. 

He can then compare that with what it is now and extrapolate the trend to project the future outcome.

Information in such a documentary should be factual and referenced to increase credibility.

One can also focus on the causes of climate change. Then, a student can explain the reasons and educate the audience on how to control the problem. This idea is ideal for anyone with a passion for environmental conservation.

Environmental Pollution

You can also score well with a documentary on environmental pollution. This is perhaps the biggest challenge that comes with industrialization. 

As cities ad industries continue to grow, more wastes are released into water bodies, land, and the atmosphere.

A documentary on environmental pollution can take several angles. You can decide to focus on one form of pollution. 

For instance, a feature on air pollution alone can pass as a documentary. You will, however, be required to provide new and insightful information on the topic.

Another angle could be featuring a specific industry/ organization and highlighting its contribution to the problem. 

Such a documentary should reveal any atrocities committed by the organization. All information published should be backed by proof for purposes of credibility.

The most insightful angle would be narrating stories of people whose lives are affected by pollution. 

For example, it’s known that gas effluents from industries cause respiratory problems. Find such victims and tell their stories on record.

2. Investigative documentarie

Crime

Crime documentaries are also a popular idea for high school documentaries. These documentaries can be as straightforward or as complicated as the student pleases. 

But, regardless of the level of simplicity, they should inform the audience of some hidden truth.

The simplest form of a crime documentary could be narrating stories of wrongly convicted individuals. 

Do your research well and find suitable correspondents to your documentary. With permission, you can then reconstruct their versions of truth with the help of experts in the field.

A story of a missing student or family member can also be a good documentary idea. Your documentary should shed light on their disappearance. 

You can also feature the history of crime in a particular area of interest. Such a documentary should explain some of the hidden causes of the crime if any exist. For example, one might study the effect of arms legalization and its relationship to crime rates. 

Substance abuse

Substance abuse is a common problem amongst youths. Unfortunately, most of them do it because of peer pressure, oblivious of its consequences. This makes it an excellent idea for a documentary. 

Such documentaries are ideal for creating awareness. For example, you can document a victim’s life who probably met a tragic end from drug abuse. If well scripted, such a documentary can have an insightful effect on the audience.

Include health experts in your documentary to explain the effects professionally. Stories of reformed addicts making a difference in the world can also be inspiring to the audience.

3. Historical Documentaries

Religion

Religion is also one of the best documentary ideas. There are many religions globally, some of which are known, while others remain unknown to many. Exposing such beliefs to the world could form an excellent documentary.

The origin of most religions is also a controversial topic. Therefore, a documentary on religion can also be centered on explaining the basis of a given religion. 

The researcher will need to utilize all sources of information to come up with a documentary.

 For instance, one might refer to written accounts and interview experts on the topic to authenticate findings. It should be noted that historical documentaries require a lot of research.

Ascertaining facts can also be a challenge due to the unavailability of scientific proof of concept. This might damage the credibility of a documentary.

War 

With facts in hand, a student can score remarkably with war documentaries. Furthermore, such a project can be used to address a specific war with relation to its causes and effects.

For instance, a student can create a documentary on World War I, which can be used as a learning aid.

Like any other historical film, war documentaries require a mastery of knowledge backed by a ton of research. 

However, a war documentary can be scripted to outline the effects of war on human lives, the environment, and the loss of life.

The best way to bring out your point would be to have war victims as your correspondents. For example, you could feature injured vets and point out how their lives have been affected. Such accounts will go a long way in conveying your message to your audience.

How To Prepare A Documentary

Preparing a documentary can be categorized into these steps; 

1. Pre-production

This is the most elementary stage of making a documentary. It entails all the things that one has to do before grabbing a camera. It determines how effective the entire process of filming the documentary will be.

The first step of pre-production involves coming up with the idea. A good documentary idea should be a story worth telling. It should be informative, engaging, and insightful to the target audience.

It’s a good practice to write down ideas as they come to you. You can then vet the ideas depending on the relevance of the project.

It is vital to keep your audience in mind while selecting an idea. This will guide you to come up with a documentary relevant to your audience.

The next step involves determining how to tell your story. Your audience should also guide this. You can use a narrator, a host, or a third person to tell your story. However, the best idea is to give your subjects a chance to tell their stories.

Do your research well to find out what people already know about the topic. Then, try and identify any gaps in the information and use your research to fill them. This is what will make your documentary juicy.

Use your research findings to develop a detailed script for your documentary. Your research should also give you an idea of the best shooting location and logistical considerations.

2. Production

This is the intermediate stage of filming a documentary. It involves shooting videos of subjects and taking a record of all the relevant accounts.

You will need to have the right pieces of equipment as well as the technical knowledge to deliver. Take multiple shots of each scene for easy editing.

3. Post-production 

It entails media managing practices. It’s in this stage that the recorded videos are converted to the final documentary. Narrations are also recorded at this point to tell the story. 

Come up with different versions of the documentary and share them with your friends. You can then use their feedback to select and improve the best version for the presentation.

Tips To Making An Excellent Documentary

These guidelines will help you come up with an excellent documentary for your school project.

Find a relevant topic

Your documentary should feature a story worth telling. This is the only way you will be able to attract and maintain the attention of your audience.

Your story should entertain and educate and offer your audience a deeper insight into the matter.

Pick a topic that is interesting and relatable to your audience. This will make your documentary more engaging. 

Let your subjects tell the story

It’s important to remember that a documentary tells the story of the subject. This is why the subject should tell the story as they can easily evoke emotions from the audience.

If you are using characters to represent the actual subject, then your characterization should be accurate.

Simplify the content

Present all the relevant information in a simple manner. This will help your audience to understand better and make meaning of your message.

It’s a good practice to present all the critical information at the beginning of the documentary. This helps in attracting the attention of your audience.

Conclusion

Coming up with a documentary project can be an uphill climb. Most students struggle to choose the most suitable topics for their documentaries. As a result, some end up wasting their time and resources in creating irrelevant documentaries.

However, it is difficult to go wrong with documentaries touching on environmental issues, historical events, and investigative features. 

The learner should choose a topic familiar to them and tell the story creatively to win their audience’s attention.

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