Student Made Documentaries

(Special Thanks to Anne Shaw, Executive Director of 21st Century Schools and friend for this imformation.)

"It starts with the writer - it's a familiar dictum, but somehow it keeps getting forgotten along the way. No filmmaker, irrespective of his electronic bag of tricks, can ever afford to forget his commitment to the written word." Steven Spielberg

Here we will be posting a list of possible topics for student-made documentaries along with possible rubrics to guide student design and production. In the meantime, please visit our page on Media Production for links to information and fantastic resources.

Articles and Videos:

Loud and Clear: Student Find Their Voices Through Multimedia - very inspiring article and video of how filmmaking as a tool can help students make a difference in the world, and make learning relevant.

Teenage Filmmakers - Who Says Successful Documentarians Can't Also Be Kids?


Contact the following departments at nearby universities:
  • RTF - Radio/Television/Film - perhaps there are some professors who would be interested in helping you with your project. There also may be some graduate students who would like to work with you on your project as credit for an independent study, or as the subject for their thesis or dissertation!
  • Business School - Advertising and Marketing - help with using art and music in creation of television commercials, print ads, and more.

Contact your local:
  • Public Television Station. Many have equipment and facilities for television production. They offer classes at reduced rates, or free, in all aspects of television production. They can help your student plan, produce and broadcast a show or a PSA (public service announcement.) They can also probably assist in technical skills, equipment and facilities for your documentary or film production.
  • Actor's Guilds
  • Theater Companies

Online Resources:

MediaRights - an excellent starter place for creating student-made documentaries focusing on news and critical social issues; includes excellent resources for educators. Create a documentary and enter it in their annual film festival. Download the free Teacher's Discussion Guide to Media That Matters. And check the Tour Page of their web site for many great links.

Creating a Curriculum Guide for Your Documentary Film - excellent information and links to additional resources.

The script is what you've dreamed up-this is what it should be. The film is what you end up with." George Lucas

"When you're making a movie, you can't think anybody will ever see it. You've just got to make a movie for the values it has. The greatest films were made because someone really wanted to make them. And, hopefully, the audience will show up, too." Clint Eastwood

"I've really only had one (dream) since I got into this business at 13 years old, which was to be in this business forever. Once I did my first television commercial, I caught that itch and that bug. I want to be a part of pieces of art – as far as cinema is concerned – that people will want to see for generations to come. That's my dream." Leonardo DiCaprio

"I look for a thematic idea running through my movies and I see that it's the outsider struggling for recognition. I realize that all my life I've been an outsider, and above all, being lonely but never realizing it." Martin Scorsese

"Pick up a camera. Shoot something. No matter how small, no matter how cheesy, no matter whether your friends and your sister star in it. Put your name on it as director. Now you're a director. Everything after that you're just negotiating your budget and your fee." James Cameron

"A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something." Frank Capra

For questions or concerns about this page or have technical issues, please send an e-mail to Mark Swiger.