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Inspiration for Your Next Mini-Documentary


Mini-documentariesor mini-docshave been making a big splash in the filmmaking world. Film festivals like Hot Docs have entire categories devoted to the genre, celebrities such as Michael Kors have been chronicled in the format, and news outlets like the New York Times have started recurring mini-documentary segments. Micro- or mini-docs provide an accessible and legitimizing way for emerging filmmakers to break into the world of feature-length documentaries. 

One particularly popular documentary theme is the outdoors. Recent films such as Free Solo, Mind the Gap, and Icarus have brought outdoors-focused documentaries to new heights of popularity and have introduced larger audiences to mini-docs as well. Many communities of outdoor enthusiasts or adventurers, such as skiers, kayakers, and rock climbers, have long utilized the mini-doc format to document their adventures. In an effort to encourage more emerging filmmakers to explore this growing genre, we have compiled a list of tips and inspiration for your next mini-doc project.

Document a common outdoor activity in an uncommon environment

San Francisco-based content collective, Avocados and Coconuts produced this film alongside director Spencer MacDonald for Rapha, a biking attire company. Following artist/designer Geoff McFetridge as he discusses how biking lends a different perspective to Los Angeles, the 3-minute film offers the viewer a new way to view the city and the sport of cycling. 

Tell the story of an influential adventure icon

This short film for Adventure Canada features author and geographer, James Raffan, and was filmed in the Canadian and Greenlandic High Arctic. Produced by Dot Dot Dash and directed by Jason van Bruggen, it brings to life a part of the world most of us have never and will never see. 

Follow people who make a living on the outdoors

On Jeju Island in South Korea live a group of female free-divers who collect seafood free of modern scuba gear. The mini-documentary, created by Mindlake Films, shadows an 82-year old diver who discusses the dangers of the venture, the changes it has undergone over time, and what its future holds. Haenyeo: Women of the Sea offers an intimate look at the influence of the outdoors on an entire way of life. 

Chronicle an up-and-coming athlete

Nathaniel Hansen’s short documentary chronicles rising golfer, Katie Robinson. The portrait demonstrates how documentary filmmakers can tell a story even when limited by time. Hansen offers detailed insight into Robinson’s golf career and aspirations even though the film runs at just two minutes.

Whether you are offering a small window into someone’s passion for a sport or deep diving into a culture’s reliance on its natural environment, short documentaries offer a convenient and compelling way to tell a story.

FYI Network is offering emerging filmmakers the chance to see their short documentary-style films air on national television with its Great Stories from the Great Outdoors short film contest. Submit your mini-doc by 1/5 and you could also win a trip for two to Denver, Colorado and up to $1,000 in cash.

This article is a sponsored post for the FYI Network. FYI is partnering with Submittable to find Great Stories from the Great Outdoors. Interested in more creative calls and opportunities? Sign up for our creative opportunities email.

Abby Lessels

Abby Lessels moved to Missoula, Montana, by way of a small town in Western Massachusetts. She enjoys writing and photographing for publications like Edible, drinking Constant Comment tea, and compulsively quoting The Office.