UPSKILL: Writing Documentary, Shaping Story

Craft Director Jen Peedom discusses her story-focused approach to documentary writing, from pre-production through to editing.

What does it mean to ‘write’ a documentary?

For BAFTA-nominated filmmaker Jennifer Peedom (Sherpa, Mountain), writing — and re-writing — defines each step of the filmmaking process. Emphasising the difference between covering an issue and telling an emotional story, this session will explore lessons borrowed from drama storytelling in shaping Jen’s compelling on-screen characters and journeys: encompassing thoughtful planning in research and pre-production, course-correction through principal shooting and interviews, and an openness to challenging feedback throughout editing.

Further points of discussion for this session include the differences between writing historical and unfolding stories, writing observational documentaries (when the outcome of a situation is unknown at the outset), and incorporating additional editorial tools (such as graphics and cards) at the editing stage for clarity.