The most obvious way in which students will learn a lot while being taught with a documentary is through the process of storytelling. Students who have been subjected to documentaries as either a student or a teacher will generally develop a keen understanding of how filmmakers approach the creation and distribution of their work. They will be able to draw on this knowledge when they are making their own work, and when they are listening to and studying the work of other people who are trying to tell similar stories.
You can also learn a great deal about the business side of filmmaking through working with a documentary maker. Students will learn how to manage their time, how to find funding, how to attract viewers and how to market their work. As a teacher, you will be able to impart some of this information directly to your students so that they can also develop an understanding of the business end of making a documentary. This knowledge will be invaluable to anyone wanting to go into the business and can open up many doors for a student who is ready to take it on.
It is also important to note that the impact of this form of teaching will extend beyond the classroom. Many students who have been exposed to documentaries as either a student or a teacher will be encouraged to pursue careers as writers and producers of their own documentaries. You can use the same approach to teaching students about storytelling by inviting them to read works of the budding filmmakers they have encountered. If you encourage them to read more, you will find that they begin to understand more about the process of getting from a story idea to a completed film. You can then share some of the works of these budding filmmakers with your students so that they can learn from them and create their own unique style of storytelling. As the student grows, they will be able to apply this knowledge to their own work.
In addition to teaching students how to analyze and critique the work of other filmmakers, you may find that your student’s love of documentaries will lead them towards other types of work. Many students who have worked in film production before will gravitate towards the editing room because they enjoy the creative process. Other students may find a directing career in fine arts, performing arts or theater, which can be very fulfilling and help them develop into versatile human beings.