Documentary script templates: Guidelines for writing effectively

A script template is a structure that defines how the visual, aural, behavioral, and lingual elements of a documentary, video, movie or drama will appear in the post-production stage.

A good template extends an outline that paints a picture of how the final product will look like. Hence, you can prepare, arrange, and proceed with your documentary project.

If you’ve found this blog post because you’re searching for tips on how to prepare a template or shot list for your documentary project, you’ve come to the right place.

Here is our quick guide on how to write a documentary script and script templates to help you.

How Do You Write a Script for a Documentary?

When writing a script, think of it as a guide and prepare to slice, dice, and modify it during your video editing process. A lot of things tend to change during this process. Some scenes and quotes that didn’t seem important during the scripting process may become significant during editing.

There’s no perfect formula when it comes to writing a script for your documentary or film. Just start writing the script and find what works for your story.

Below are some few key points on how to write the perfect script templates for your documentary:

  1. Research: Before you start writing your script or outline, ensure you dig deeper into every important detail. This way, you’ll be able to come up with the best documentary idea.
  2. Prepare a list: Make a list of potential interviews, characters, drama, and basic storylines.
  3. Prepare a shooting script or outline: When preparing a documentary, you can’t have a script until after the video footage has been shot. That’s the only time you’ll be able to piece the story together based on your discovery. However, making a template, outline or shot list in advance will help point you in the right direction.
  4. Be creative: You need to come up with unique and creative ways to spice up your documentary and wow your audience. A great script will include special elements like shot list, time-lapse, stop motion, recreations, background music, and even animation. Documentaries deal with real people and real issues that touch them. Therefore, your script should capture your viewers emotionally.
  5. Decide the style you want: Decide the style, look, and feel of your documentary. You can search for web videos online to get inspiration for your documentary. Netflix is a great place to start.
  6. Get funding for your project: You need to raise enough funds for your documentary. Luckily, due to advancements in technology, you can get multiple resources on the internet. These will help you produce a high-quality documentary on a budget. You can also get funding from like-minded individuals, nonprofit organizations, companies, etc.
  7. State your point of view: Sometimes it may seem hard to present facts and opinions without been biased. As a director or producer, you need to be flexible enough to allow the story to unfold. Even if it will take a different direction than you expected. Deciding in advance what you want your documentary to transmit, can only bear fruits if you present the message to your audience with clarity. This will compel your viewer to connect with your project. Whether they agree or disagree.
  8. Create mini-scenes: Divide your video footage into mini-scenes. That way, your documentary will have interesting mini-stories.
  9. Evaluate the big picture: After reviewing your video footage, you’ll notice that new characters and plots have surfaced. Include them in a way that will make your documentary worthwhile.
  10. Transcribe your video footage: It may be a tedious and difficult task, but worth the effort.
  11. Hero and villain: Determine the heroes and villains in your story.
  12. Create a Roller coaster: Decide on the kind of ride you want to take your audience on.
  13. Start strong: This will help grab your audience’s interest and hook them during the early stages. Creating curiosity and suspense will compel your viewers to continue watching your documentary until the very end.
  14. Making documentary script templates: You can make your script using a 2-column script template. One column for video and the other one for audio.

Do Documentaries Need a Script?

Naturally, all documentaries are unscripted. Since you cannot fully predict how the events will turn out in your documentary, you cannot write your script beforehand. You will only be able to prepare your documentary script template after collecting interviews, research, and data. After the footage has been shot and you have gathered all the facts and materials, you can now sit down and write your script and narration.

A script template will help you create an exciting story from your raw footage. After examining all the raw video footage, you will be able to come up with a good outline for your documentary script template. It may seem daunting at first but as you arrange the clips into sequences, the big picture will begin to unfold and you’ll be able to tell your story the way you want it.


Does Microsoft Word Have a Script Template?

The answer is a resounding yes. You can create documentary script templates on Microsoft Word. However, setting up everything correctly with MS Word is not going to be easy. This is because you’re trying to create your new own scriptwriting program.

Microsoft Word is a very sophisticated program and if you have mastered its advanced features, you can set it up to do many tasks using macros, hotkeys, templates, and other methods. With MS Word, there’s no need for buying scriptwriting software which can cost you hundreds of dollars.

Microsoft Word is one of the most powerful programs and can be used to make professional script templates. You can use macros or create your own custom style and formatting options. MS Word will enable you to produce great script templates for your new documentary or film in no time.

What Are the 5 Elements of a Documentary?

Making a high-quality documentary film requires a lot of planning, preparation, and incorporating all elements of a good documentary.

Below are the 5 elements you need to make a good documentary film:


Narration is the inclusion of a voice over (narrator’s voice) in a documentary in order to help the audience understand what is happening in the documentary. It also provides them with relevant information. Sometimes the Narrator can be visible on the screen. A good documentary narration should have a clear and logical structure to help the viewer to fully understand the subject.


Interviews should be included in order to provide eyewitness statements, expert knowledge, and context to the documentary. However, you need to edit the interviews so that the interviewees’ statements can fit into the logical structure of the narrative of your documentary.

Live Location Shots

Location shots are sometimes included at the beginning to provide a setting for your narrative. They are very important especially when discussing or showing where particular events took place. If it’s a historical event, you can use computer-generated reconstructions to paint a picture in the viewer’s mind of how the location looked like.

Music and Sound

Music and sound are integral parts of many sections of documentaries. They add drama, emotional tone, suspense, and generate a sense of irony to documentary films.


Graphics are visual scenes that appear on the screen but in the actual sense were not filmed. They are widely used in the opening titles, subtitles, translated text, credits, etc. Computer-generated graphics are often used to create images of ancient buildings, extinct animals, and nonexistent objects. You can also use graphics to explain ideas in a visual diagrammatic form.


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Next time when making your documentary script template, know that it’s nothing more than just a well-written description of what you expect your audience to see, hear, and experience on the screen. Good documentary script templates should be able to capture the targeted audience’s imagination.

If you are writing a script for the first time, the templates above will assist you in the whole process. This guide was expertly designed to help you come up with a great template for your next project.

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