How to Write a Documentary Proposal (Treatment) | Julia Ward | Skillshare

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How to Write a Documentary Proposal (Treatment)

teacher avatar Julia Ward, Producer I Writer I Director

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

13 Lessons (22m)
    • 1. Introduction into the Course

    • 2. Before we start...

    • 3. Intros and Titles (Format)

    • 4. Logline

    • 5. Genre and Time Length

    • 6. Purpose

    • 7. Summary

    • 8. Acts I-III

    • 9. Characters

    • 10. Interview Questions

    • 11. B roll

    • 12. Extras

    • 13. Outro

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About This Class


You have this great idea for a documentary, but what to do next? It's time to write the documentary proposal!

Here in this class, I will take you step by step on how to write a proposal for your documentary.

Topics covered:

‣ Genre and Time Length

‣ Logline




‣Interview Questions

‣Documentary Style



Most importantly, it helps YOU to understand where your documentary stands and how it can be fixed. Investing this small amount of time into making a proposal will save you lots of time and money in the long run. This is kind of like the self-care of filmmaking. This is the time to organize your film and have it be prepared to be filmed.

This class is for all levels and you will either need Microsoft Office Word, Google Docs, or Pages to write your proposal.

Happy Filmmaking!

Julia Ward

Meet Your Teacher

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Julia Ward

Producer I Writer I Director



Welcome my fellow filmmakers, directors, producers, and writers! My goal is to help YOU on your filmmaking journey. Let's get started!



 Hi, My name is Julia and I'm a director, writer, and producer in my mid-20s. I have been passionate about filmmaking since I was 12 . In high school, I have directed a few plays, made films, and become an international thespian, and taught filmmaking seminars. While getting my degree in media production and journalism, I had a few filmmaking internships, one was teaching how to make a documentary to high school students, and another was at the Cannes Film Festival. Since graduating college, I had a student film at the Cannes Film Festival at 21, and at 22 I had my first award-winning documentary. Sin... See full profile

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1. Introduction into the Course: Hey guys, I'm Jules and welcome skill share. And so today I'm going to be teaching you guys how to write a documentary proposal. Now in this course we'll go into why you need one, the different aspects of a Giacomo proposal and to have my very own example to help you, to inspire you for your own and to make your own project. And just show you how simple, how simple it is to make one. Just takes 123. And you'll get there, and you'll have a beautiful proposal at the end of this course. Now, for this course, you're probably going to need, we're a dog or pages notebook. Anything that can help you write the document out on the computer. I recommend a computer instead of handwriting. So then you have a safe copy and it's easy to edit on. And that's everything you need for this course. Besides being able to watch share on Skill Share. And now this is an update course. I made this course by year and a half ago. And since then there's been so many changes I've made to my dogma proposals. So I thought, why not reinvented, remake it and show you guys my update version of what I do. What I do as a career and job is that I am a freelancer in the film industry. I've done film producing as a freelancer, film writing, film consulting. I've wanted to work for one of my documentaries. Actually a documentary. I was produced her on one a couple of words this year. Very excited. I have been a film judge, the SIR, and more. So here I am to help you with your process of filmmaking, to help it go smoother. If you have any comments or questions, you can just let me know. I will say this is probably a beginner's level for proposal because just, I'm gonna take you step-by-step and make a simple, easiest possible. But if you are an advanced filmmaker, this is a great way to go back to the basics and relearn things you might need or that you did not learn in the past. All right, let's get started. 2. Before we start...: Welcome back. Okay, so I hope you have your laptops and your computers ready for today. We're gonna go right into the proposal and exactly what you need to do to get started. So what you really need to do is make sure you have your Word document ready to go. I'll set I like using Google Doc because it always is a great backup plan and essentially use that my clients because it's easy for me to have access to it and then I can share with them what I've been working on. And I can have them at the Google Doc. And it makes things a lot easier. Now you can use MeV one, you can use Word doc, you can use pages, you can just use Notebook on the computer, anything that you're most comfortable with. The most important part of this proposal, especially for coming to me today to learn about this as usually, it's because personally you need a proposal. But like I said, I'm showing you proposals I usually make for clients. Now, I will be using example proposal today about a French Baker. Now this is a completely 100% false documentary. This is not real, maybe it's real somewhere. I don't know. I just made this up and I actually have the same example from my old proposal videos on skill share and decide just to use the same one and just morph it into my new update it documentary proposal because I thought it just be easier, more and more smooth. So when you have your computer ready to go and start it, try to follow along with me as you're watching the videos and have it open. Just so then you can kind of see the layout on your own computer of what you want to do. And this is also another thing just to mention is that this is your proposal. If there's something that you don't need that I'm suggesting for your course, your class, or for your client. That is A-OK. it's, you know, it's totally cool. You can just skip that part or section. Remember, this is just something that I do personally with my clients and has been very successful. Okay, so once you open up, we are going to get right into the titles. And that's the number one thing I found is this is why I've changed. I have put the titles in right away. I put a title at the top of who are the people on the project are right at the tippy, tippy top up there. That documentary proposal. 3. Intros and Titles (Format): We're gonna start off with titles console by my oh, proposal that will show you here. This was from a year ago. And I'm going to be taking the same information, interchanging these random showing my new format. So as you can see, I have my two people. So I'm just going to transfer those names and put them onto my newer documented proposal symbol, John Smith on the filmmaker vine. If I can spell it right. Let me put Sally Sue for the writer of the proposal and now you can write a proposal or writer of treatment. They're both the same exact thing. And I'm paying John Smith for all the other titles because two years now at the Charpy CF document proposal and drawing on top. And then we'll begin to the tile with documentary. And I use, as you can see, the font I'm using the size and when I bold things. That's how the documentary is John the Baker. And I'm also going to put that in quotes and have it as a working title. And I'm going to then change working title and put it underneath and small letters because that's not super important. And title can change all the time in filmmaking. In every now. And then, I'm going back and unfolding the names because I don't like them to stand out more than titled stand out. And that's it. 4. Logline : Next we have the logline. We're gonna go into first grade and take a look at our old scope we have here or old treatment. And we're going to take the exact logline. It just make some slight changes, but basically that's a very good logline. And we're just keeping it simple. And we are definitely going to zoom in a bit more. There we go. So as we can see here, it's got the baker's, we have the subject moved from France, New York City when he was 17. He pursues love for baking. So we have dislocation and what is noted and spare bytes, grandma. So we have the heart warming part of it and about her. And then I have some quick edit, some doing about how he now has one of the great speakers and New York City known for his core salts. So now I'm getting more of a purpose. The documentary some highlighting a couple of key factors about John and why it's great to do a documentary about him. Now, going on for your own log lines is to make sure you always have a subject, has a motive or a call to action about the documentary in your logline, and also have your location. So after you figure out your logline and going through those steps, then we'll move on to our next part of the documentary. 5. Genre and Time Length: Next we have Genre and the timeline that we'll be getting into. So let's head back to the old script to see what it says. And it's not even in the same order I have anymore. There's actually even know genre that have Melbourne. So usually a gentlemen, this one usually it's a lifestyle documentary or just documentary. There's the typical ones. You can also have a reality TV show. You can have a documentary which is making fun of a documentary basically like making five a topic or a dromedary, which I does pilot how it's pronounced. But it's a drama documentary where it's more of a dramatic time in someone's life or the location. So we're gonna take the time limit also and we decipher this documentary. It's gonna be 1210 to 12 minutes long. For just the solid documentary, you can have episodes, you can have series of things. It doesn't matter the length. It just matters that you have a clear picture of what the length is and what the genre. 6. Purpose : So the purpose is the next part of the proposal topic. Now, with the purpose, this is, we're taking it from the old dark matter proposal and putting into the new one. Like I said, I am keeping the same storyline about the same content on be showing it in a different format, in my update format and adding some more things here and there. For example, right here where I'm showing the filmmaker as an I that you could put it in. I, you can say the filmmaker. So you have to decide for yourself, do you want the purpose to be in third person, for first-person, whatever you do for the purpose, for if you do first-person and third, please make sure you add that into the summary. Hopefully I didn't write the summary. Two will find out the next video and what and if there's any changes, I will discuss them and make changes for them. Okay. So we have here is that it's as I walked to John state grew one day because I heard about these amazing results. Go Re and now we have a cute little story with this document or so about how you found out about the topic. This is also is an amazing served behind the bakery and why he came to New York City to pursue his offer baking. A lot of us as documentary filmmakers that we get curious sprite as filmmakers are very curious people. So it's a very, I think, typical thing to go into a bakery and really love something or even go to anyplace, really love something, and then want a story behind that, they want more. So this is great. So we had discussed that here for the purpose. So any producers responses, your MOOC, okay, this is very organic feeling. Now it says that in the jock Merrill discuss how I became sessile business owner. This includes the love of baking, whose grandmother turned him into owned his own business. Stressful. We wonder why people choose the path they choose what to inspire them to. Their outs are called action is to show in this documentary how people can be inspired by other people in their life that are close to them. And that's where I'm explaining here that the call to action is finding inspiration in others or feeling like inspired by other people with their dreams and taking certain paths because of that, you know, people in life, we go and certain paths, paths that the Kim's OK. Why don't we go and certain paths that people, and it brings us to new parts of her life, right? So this is what's going on with this documentary that this fake documentaries about. And you wanna make sure you find that core called the auction and put that in. Your purpose, of course, will be saying a lot more in this purpose. But for now, we're gonna just stick with this purpose. Like a set can be two to three paragraphs, each having like five sentences each, all of the patents. But that is the purpose. And just make sure I've got called action and mix. You know, if it's first person or third person. And usually it's all about the filmmaker and how they found out, but the story of what they think of the story and why they want the story in the first place. Alright, let's move on to the next topic. 7. Summary : Next are onto summary or a synopsis. Now, we're gonna go back again to our old proposal. The old one that I had before. As you can see, I'm first game to the summary. I'm getting there, get in there, and I'm making some books and go into old one, old summary we have here. I'm going to copy it, and then we're going to paste it. Now the big thing with the submarine is that it can be up to a page. I don't need more than a page because I feel like who really wants to read all the information for a documentary it. So next thing I want to say is that I don't usually do this now. I usually do this more for outlines, but I will do it sometimes for treatments to a story. And that be sort of a story is the main story. The story is the underneath, underlying theme. And I am bringing some more of the summaries you can see here. And I'm just trying to say, hey, it should be a few more paragraphs, but this is just an example of what about the summary should look like in they're starting off just talking about what happens a, B, C, D, E. The happens in the whole, entire part of this documentary is it's where I take Ax 1-2-3 and I put them all out in detail, all in this summary and create the AMB stories so we know what the plan is and that I have a plan and that it's organized and ready to go. So we'll explain more when we go into the Acts. One, 23. 8. Acts I-III: Alright, now let's go on to the next one to three. All right, now let's go back to the old proposal. We will copy and paste as we're doing for the last few times here. And as we get to the next one, this is where I put my axe, 1-2-3, which is going into a mini outline of my summary. Have my introduction. I put in here, I make sure that I label this as the introduction. Then after that I will label where the climax goes, which is here. And the climax is that pivotal point in the film. The tear Joker were helps you shoot off into act three. And then we have the credits and the conclusion or the outro, whichever you like to call it. Now, this is just easy, simple way to take your summary and put it into a more visually appealing, simple format for someone to see and understand and see that you have everything organized. 9. Characters : Alright, now we're on to characters. Now, what are the characters? The characters are the subjects of the film. This means anyone that pops up in the film that has a speaking world, unless it's a very, very time speaking role. But most likely they will all be put here. So here we go ahead and go find my subjects here. And it took a second here, and I copy it and paste them onto my new document here. So this B about it, there would be about this song. Usually the subjects paragraphs describe ages where they've lived, Hobbes, who they're related to, their connection to the main subject in the film. And as you can see, I like to make everything will format it both names, how the paragraphs be unfolded, give little space in between. And like I said, I just discussed who were these characters and what is their part in the documentary. So then a sponsor producer can get to know more about who these people are. Just like An Introduction. 10. Interview Questions: Onto interview questions. Now the big thing about interview questions is that they can be literally anything, meaning that you do not have to be so particular about your questions and you don't have to feel that this is set in stone. This is, this is just to show the producer and the sponsors, et cetera, that you're organized and who have some sort of idea of what you're going to ask the subjects to the documentary. A lot of times may need, may even need to just ask two questions. And that takes care of itself. And then all of a sudden your subject is talking on and on and on. Don't ask anything else. Now, for just this particular video I put, et cetera, just to say, hey, you can see as many questions as you want. It's unlimited. How many want to add in there? But just make sure it looks organized and pretty and that you have the first name of the person and the last thing we would like to full day. And then either on the left indented side or habits centered depending on how long the questions are and how pretty it looks into the proposed. Either way works. But make sure we do interview questions. Think of anything you can ask them for the documentary that can help pull out more answers. 11. B roll : Now let's go on to be role. Now, the big thing that will be brought, it is anything opposite of the integral. What is a role that April is everything that's mentioned. The documentary, as in words, may like the interviews. A lot of times they can be narrations, monologues, et cetera. And usually the B-roll is ascribing visually what's going on in a rule. For example, if John is talking about his favorite curse thoughts that he makes, there will be B-roll footage of him making those results. Not in him talking while he's making them, but hearing in the interview and then having photos or video of him making them. So I usually have it here. Now, this is not set in stone Again, this is just to show the producers and sponsors that, you know, just about what you wanna do and your goals. 12. Extras: Okay, so now we have the extra is not actress, include anything like locations, budgets, and we go staff now, for most of my clients, literally, I think a 100% my clients I do not was the budget or locations or the legal stuff that is up to them what they want to do. Now, I am copying and pasting from my old proposal onto the new one. And so here I have my locations are very general case Central Park, the bakery, John's favorite hot dog cart go rate. Now for budgets, we're gonna go into, so this, this is just brief. I'm not gonna go too in depth into it because it's definitely a budget is a whole nother video series. It's just it's very detailed. It breaks down everything from the crew, budget, travel, location, permit prices, music prices, camera equipment, etcetera. What happens if arraigned scheduling, extra days, etc. Now the thing of budget, why it could work to post about it, write about it in your treatment. Is that producers and sponsors see you that you know how much money you need to make your documentary. Dark matter, I need for the sea turtle film cost around $600 because I needed travel expense, food, and housing. That's very cost that much. I had all the equipment myself and I did all the cool stuff myself and my mom was my helper. So try to get helping you cam because charter to save money and also when you see a budget, you get to see where you can help make things cheaper and stuff like that. Okay. So we have legal step legal stuff is anything like music, location permits, et cetera. And it's good to write out because then you know exactly what is all in front of you for this documentary. 13. Outro: Thank you for watching my course. I hope this helped you create your own darker proposal and please share them below. I love looking at them and commenting and discussing your view about the different things. Like I said, I do have an example that I have up here that can help you along your way, have the fonts exactly. Fonts are usable format to use everything. So this is exactly what I use. So I hope it helps to give you a step-by-step way on how to make your own document proposal. And thanks for watching, go onto my channel, follow because I will be doing more videos in the near future. If you have any comments or questions, please let me know. Like I said, I've been doing this for a couple years now for making proposals. So I do have some idea of how they're supposed to be done. Anyway, I hope you have an amazing day and I'll chat to use it.