Ask the Screenplay Doctor: Writing for Documentaries

Inspired by the upcoming all-documentary Salem Film Fest that runs from March 6 – 13, and my March 6 online class Writing the Documentary, this month’s column is focused on the process of documentary writing.

In documentaries, writer/filmmakers have their own work and creative processes; what works for one may not work for another. I talked with four award-winning documentary filmmakers: Allie Light (In The Shadow Of The Stars), Emer Reynolds (Here Was Cuba), Eric Steel (Kiss the Water), and Alan Zweig (15 Reasons to Live)

And I asked each one of them this question:

How does your process start or is it different each time? For example: Do you begin by writing an outline or with a list of interview questions? How much do you draft and how much do you leave to chance? And, what do you find are the pros of cons of both?