Nazis, Sex & Gypsys: How to Make the Perfect Documentary

September 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

If you want to make people give a crap about the stuff that you happen to give a crap about, you might consider writing a blog. But your grasp of English is worse than Yoda’s, then maybe make you could make a documentary, stick it on TV, and get the whole country giving a crap.

Before you make this epic documentary you should know exactly what you need to make an epic documentary: and by epic I simply mean one that people will actually want to watch. There are certain aspects of a documentary that make it watchable, perhaps not decent or highbrow in any way, but at least watchable..

Nazis make great TV
Although World War II happened a good 70 years ago, and we are on pretty good terms with Germany and whatever they are doing to try and save the Euro, just popping the word “nazi� or “holocaust� into a documentary will have viewers gasping for more. The recent programme The Queen’s Mother in Law (C4) just needed to hint at it in their promos to pull in 4 million viewers. The subject is so varied and all encompassing that you could do a documentary about Goebbel’s left big toe and still end up high in the ratings. It been 70 years and people still enjoy getting outraged and exclaiming “oh weren’t they bad�, whilst of course also experiencing a nice smug “ha ha, we won the war(s)� feeling. Channel 5 are masters of this genre..

Eeerrrmmm.. the Nazis are what now?

Sex Apparently Sells
If outrage and self-satisfaction are then at the heart of a successful documentary, sex would be a good thing to chuck in. Sex (particularly weird sex) in a documentary is the classy way to watch pornography, thus allowing the viewer to believe they are in fact learning during their outrage and of course enjoyment. The Girl That Became Three Boys (C4) was a programme which involved a interesting concoction of transvestism, disguise, dildos, and facebook: it pretty much nailed it in terms of the sexually weird, scandalous, and outrageous. If you happen to watch it, pay particular attention to how a girl pretending to be a boy managed to have apparently convincing sex with another girl who didn’t know the other girl was in fact a girl and not a boy.

Gypsies or Whatever is Fashionable
Since Big Fat Gypsy Weddings (C4) hit our scenes, programmes about travellers and their many social events have boomed. So my advice here is to go with whatever is popular at the time: shamelessly exploit the public’s fickle fickleness. When September rolls around put on countless 9/11 documentaries; when it’s the Queen’s Jubilee go monarchy mad; when there’s a British Olympics put on anything that has the word British in the title. Oh and midwifes and babies are all over television right now so please do follow suit.

Filming 'Mini Gypsy Weddings' was painstaking work..

Titillating Title
Finally you’ll need an amazing title to hook them in: something that sounds serious and straight forward whilst also invoking scandal and intrigue. Some good examples include My Daughter the Teenage Nudist (C4), Accused: The 74 Stone Babysitter (C4), Teenage Vampires (C4), and A WI Lady’s Guide to Brothels (C4). Apparently Channel 4 does the best documentary titles (incidentally they also have the most documentaries on their online service 4od).