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How To Hone Your Filmmaking Skills With Mini Docs

Now, more than ever, creators have the capacity to share content directly with an audience. Through YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, or other social media apps, you can upload content with the click of a button. The digital creator world is moving past the need for an institution or publisher to help distribute your content. This has opened a world of opportunities for filmmakers today.

In just over seven minutes, Sony Artisan Ben Moon shares an emotional story about his bond with his dog, Denali. It doesn’t take long to connect with a character, be it human or dog. 

Practice Makes Perfect

While talking about the creative process, Ira Glass, American public radio personality and host and producer of the series This American Life made this famous statement: 

“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there is this gap. For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good…But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you. A lot of people never get past that phase. They quit…

And if you are just starting out or if you are still in this phase, you gotta know it's normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you’re going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.

I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It takes a while. It’s gonna take you a while. It’s normal to take a while. You just have to fight your way through that.” —Ira Glass

The meeting of creative practice and easily publishable content makes for an exciting time for filmmakers. As Glass mentions, creating a large volume of work is the best way to improve your skills. And for filmmakers, you can quickly accelerate your filming career and skill set through the art of mini docs.

What Is A Mini Doc?

A mini doc, or “mini documentary,” is pretty much what it sounds like: a doc that is 10 minutes or less. By making a film that is confined in scope and length puts creative challenges in place that force the filmmakers to think creatively and try new techniques. It also is a small enough project that you can churn out a number of mini docs quickly. This will get at Glass’ advice of creating a huge volume of work. 

Mini docs can be shot with high-end hybrid-capable gear like the Sony Alpha 7R V, or on a vlogging camera like the Sony ZV-1 II or Sony ZV-E10, or even filmed on a phone like the Sony Xperia 1 V. They can focus on an individual, an organization, or even a single day or event. The opportunities are endless. 

It is a popular topic among filmmakers that shorter stories can be more challenging than longer ones. This is because you have to pack the narrative into a shorter piece. So continually producing mini docs will not only aid your technical skill set, it will also help you enhance your narrative and storytelling abilities.

The New York-based nonprofit organization, Josephine Herrick Project, teaches photography to and exhibits work by people from a broad range of under-resourced communities. This video was created as part of their Create Action Grant and in less than five minutes the viewer learns how art serves as a powerful form of expression.

The Mini Doc Challenge

With these benefits of mini docs in mind, we want to challenge you to create as many mini docs as possible this year. Set yourself a realistic goal: weekly, monthly, or even quarterly. Find a local subject that you have great access to and create a mini doc. Check out past Alpha Universe articles for more resources on short form storytelling. From technical skills to creative story structure, you'll find articles that will help you learn about creating mini docs and aid in your work. And please share your mini-docs in our community of collaborators and creators in the Sony Alpha Community Forums. We want to see what you create. 


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