15 Good Short Documentary Ideas for Students | Newbie Film School (2022)

Doesyour upcoming project is a documentary film? It must be both exciting andchallenging. Perhaps the most daunting task is coming up with a good topic. Inthis article, I will help you come up with great documentary ideas.

Asa student, there are plenty of subjects on which you can base your documentary.You need to make sure that your documentary meets the followingdesignations:

  • Relevant
  • Engaging
  • Insightful

You have the opportunity to cultivate people’s thoughts with your upcoming series. It will be challenging, but it will also be fun and educative.

15 Short Documentary Ideas


Here is an overview of 15 great topics that would make for a good documentary. I will also share tested and proven tips to get you started.

1. Climate Change

Climate change is one of the most prominent subjects of global discussion today. It is reshaping policies in Europe, and itis one of the key talking points for politicians in the United States. The measures under consideration regarding mitigating climate change will radically change how we live and work. These are some of the crucial factors that make climate change an excellent documentary topic.

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Photo byStefan StefancikfromPexels

Climate change would make for a simple,relevant, and insightful documentary. There are a ton of materials to workwith, whereby most of the research is already done. Focus on reconciling thedifferences between advocates for climate change and the naysayers usingscientific information.

2.Environmental Pollution

Climate change is directly linked toenvironmental destruction and pollution. For instance, the rise in temperaturesaround the world is blamed on air pollution, particularly the release of carbonin the air.

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Environmental pollution is happening allaround us – you will not need to travel to distant lands to get your material.You can cover all forms of environmental contamination or focus on a specificone that affects your community the most. Keep in mind that you will witnessthe reckless destruction of our environment. So, expect some depressing sights.However, the awareness created will be worth it.

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3.Recycling

There is growing concern that the humanrace is using more resources than what is available at our disposal. Some ofthese resources are at risk of being depleted. Experts have come up withseveral solutions, one of which involves recycling.

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Recycling is an excellent idea. For starters,it will slow down the rate at which we exploit the earth’s natural resources.It also creates employment and subsidizes the cost of products made usingrecycled materials. Unfortunately, most people have not realized this. It iswhy a documentary on recycling would be educative for your audience.

4.Renewable Energy Sources

Most of our energy is from non-renewablesources such as oil. These resources have been blamed for much of theenvironmental pollution and climate change. Renewable energy, however, isconsidered clean, and many concerned parties have come up with creative ways oftapping into renewable energy sources.

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The young generation stands to lose the most from the ongoing environmental destruction and climate change. As one of the concerned parties, you should consider contributing to the continuing discussion about renewable energy.

Also Read: 31 Creative Ways to Generate Your Short Film Idea

5.Mental Wellness Ties to Technology

There are concerns that the young andupcoming generation is not as happy as it should be, or as previous generationswere. Young people today have too much to deal with. They have access to lotsof information, and this is taking a toll on them. Young people do notcommunicate as much as they ought to and base most of their interactions onsocial media and the internet.

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There is much research on the impact oftechnology on mental health. This topic would make for an excellent andrelevant documentary. It would also be an eye-opener for you and your peers.

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6.Healthcare

Like climate change, healthcare is also ahot topic globally. Developing countries are trying to come up with betterhealth solutions for their citizens. Some of the developed countries alreadyhave excellent healthcare plans, but some are still working out somestrategies.

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Healthcare is one of the critical pillarsof humanity’s advancement. Proper healthcare is crucial to improving livingstandards and mortality rates. You can ignore the pesky politics and come upwith a documentary on scientific breakthroughs in medicine and healthcare.Alternatively, you can try to reconcile the two and get people to the commonground.

7.Opioid Crisis

Poor healthcare is one of the reasons behind the ongoing Opioid crisis that affects the United States. People take opioids for a variety of reasons, including to calm mental conditions such as as anxiety, and to cope with physical pain. Many people have become addicted to these drugs, and most have lost their lives as a result.

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Credit – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

There are many angles to cover when itcomes to the opioid crisis. I suggest you look into how doctors and medicalinstitutions have enabled the crisis through prescriptions. You may also investigatethe companies behind the influx of opioids.

8.Drug Abuse

Americans are looking to more than justopioids to cope with things that may overwhelm them mentally. Specifically, aconsiderable population of Americans is turning to illegal drugs such ascocaine, heroin, and opium.

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Drug abuse has been a pestilence in the U.S. It is posing a higher risk today as more young people are getting lured into the snare. It is the reason why the community and relevant authorities should talk about it. A documentary would contribute to the conversation, and perhaps inspire people in power positions to do more to contain the crisis.

9.Smoking and Vaping

Smoking is an unhealthy habit.Unfortunately, there are hundreds of millions of smokers across the world. Manydo try to quit. “Vaping” has been credited as a great way to stop smoking.

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Vaping is a close alternative to smoking.It utilizes technology to vaporize flavored juices that produce smoke eerilysimilar to tobacco smoke. It helps to quench the smoking urge. At first, vapingwas marketed as a healthier alternative to smoking. However, there are growingconcerns that vaping is equally unhealthy. These concerns keep growing in thewake of several deaths and chronic health complications associated with vaping.As a student, a documentary on smoking and vaping would perfect as most“vapers” are students.

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10.Marijuana Legalization

Marijuana was once frowned upon as anillegal drug. Today, however, people all over the world are changing theirattitude towards marijuana. Science has uncovered many health benefits ofmarijuana and even touted it as a potential treatment for some forms of cancer.It has also been credited to help manage chronic conditions such as anxiety andPearson’s disease.

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Marijuana is gaining mainstream acceptanceacross the world. Several countries have legalized it, and the United Statesmulls federal legalization. Since the legalization of marijuana is still new,it would make for an excellent documentary of the move’s expected benefits ofconsequences.

11.Immigration

Immigration is another hot topic dominatingglobal news. There is an influx of migrants in Europe, and the U.S. Most ofthese immigrants are from North Africa and the Middle East. The issue has beendivisive in host countries as some people have been welcoming to immigrants,while others consider it an invasion.

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The ongoing immigration will dramaticallychange the world. It has its benefits and demerits for all parties involved.There is a lot to be explored here, and it is essential to talk about it. Beobjective in your research and provide a fresh insight into immigration in ashort and insightful documentary.

12.War and Destabilization

There are several ongoing wars in thecountry. Most of the conflicts are in the Middle East, and some countries inNorth Africa are also at risk of destabilization and war.

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There should be no wars in an ideal world.World leaders come into power with the promise of stopping ongoing conflicts,but nothing ever gets done. Nevertheless, people should not stop talking aboutwar as the continuous pressure will yield positive results someday. It would besmart to make a short documentary about the adverse effects of war. I wouldsuggest that you investigate how the ongoing wars and destabilization campaignsacross the world contribute to the global immigration crisis.

13.Cyber Security and Privacy

Technology has been instrumental in most ofthe advances made today. It has made communication seamless. Thanks to theinternet, people thousands of miles apart can communicate in real-time.Information is also much easier to come by today. However, technology has alsocome at a price. It seems that people may have to compromise on their privacyto enjoy the conveniences that technology has to offer.

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The young generation relies on technologythe most. Unfortunately, most young people do not realize the dangers theyface. A short documentary on the subject would be an excellent eye-opener foryour peers.

14.Sex and Gender Identity

Attitudes have changed towards sexualliberty and gender identity. Those in the LGBTQ community continue to emergewith greater confidence. People have also been changing their gender identitiesto suit their lives. It is a hot topic, and one worth talking about in a bid tosensitize more people on varying sex preferences and gender identities.

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Your documentary should focus onnormalizing different opinions and making these minor groups feel more acceptedand associated with the society.

15.Technology and Education

You can also look closer to home andexplore how education and technology are intertwined. Technology hastransformed almost every facet of our lives. The education sector, like manyother sectors, has become intimately intertwined with technology. You canintrigue your peers by giving them a sneak peek into how education will look inthe future.

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Thereare many angles to cover regarding how technology has been modeling education.The use of virtual and augmented realities in teaching is an excellent angle tocover. You have all the resources at your disposal from your school.

Also Read : How To Come Up With Unique Short Film Ideas

Related Questions

Can a short film be a documentary?

Yes, a short film can be a documentary. However, the film has to meet several requirements. First, it should be factual and based on reality. It has to have credible research back up. Besides, the film needs to be educative and informative. It would also help if the short film bases on a topic that is relevant to your audience.

How can I find documentary subjects?

The best way to come up with a documentary subjectis to come up with a relevant topic dominating discussions in your circles. As mentioned, the documentary should focus on reality. You can also get great tips from experts in the field. This videowill help you get started.

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FAQs

15 Good Short Documentary Ideas for Students | Newbie Film School? ›

15 Short Documentary Ideas
  • Climate Change. Climate change is one of the most prominent subjects of global discussion today. ...
  • Environmental Pollution. ...
  • Recycling. ...
  • Renewable Energy Sources. ...
  • Mental Wellness Ties to Technology. ...
  • Healthcare. ...
  • Opioid Crisis. ...
  • Drug Abuse.

How do you make a short documentary for school? ›

Key Steps to Making Documentaries:
  1. Tell a story you care about. Start with a subject that excites you. ...
  2. Research. Learn everything you can about your documentary subject. ...
  3. Make a Plan. Create an outline. ...
  4. Create a Shot List. ...
  5. Start Shooting. ...
  6. Write a Script. ...
  7. Begin Editing. ...
  8. Check Legal and Copyright Issues.

How can I get documentary ideas? ›

Another way to find great documentary ideas is to pay attention to the news. Read your local newspaper, follow blogs in your areas of interest, follow thought leaders on Twitter. Keep an eye out for odd bits of information or a nuggets of a story that could lead to something bigger.

Can a documentary be 5 minutes? ›

The length of a mini documentary might be anywhere from 2-25 minutes. A mini-documentary might also be referred to as a micro-doc or mini-doc. Mini documentaries are a fantastic way to get a message or story across in a limited amount of time.

What are the 5 types of documentaries? ›

In 1991, American film critic and theoretician Bill Nichols proposed that there were six different modes of documentary—poetic, expository, reflexive, observational, performative, and participatory—each containing its own specific characteristics.

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