How to Film a Mockumentary

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How to Film a Mockumentary

A mockumentary is a documentary-style filmmaking technique that follows a fictional event in satirical form. While the mockumentary will certainly differ greatly from what you might expect from a traditional documentary-style film. Many of the steps involved in learning how to film a mockumentary are the same. You’ll plan a little, improvise a lot. And ultimately provide a comedic storyline that drives the narrative similar to that which would be expected from the found footage of a horror flick. Let’s go.

Our Camera Crew Filming an Interview Team Beverly Boy

Step 1: Come up with an Over-the-Top Subject

If it’s odd, it’s good! Mockumentary films are often the outcome of what occurred during an April Fool’s day prank. Think of a subject that’s off-the-wall, totally over-the-top insane. Add some amusement and a bit of reality.

And you’ve got yourself a great plan for a mockumentary. Keep in mind that your subject must be interesting, albeit, potentially outrageous. Think outlandish characters that have some underlying realistic tones about them.

Step 2: Define Your Characters

Absurdity is okay and even considered somewhat the norm for a mockumentary. But as you’re focusing on how to film a mockumentary keep in mind that your characters are going to be important. They can be monotonous, to a degree, if this is the comedic stance you’re looking for.

It can definitely be offbeat. They should be some mix between reality, and absurdity, that is believable to a point.

Step 3: Aim for a Single Camera Approach

That’s right, we said it! You can aim for a single camera approach to capturing your mockumentary footage. The goal here is to focus on improv style scenes. In which a single camera can be used to provide the desired feel of the film.

Too many cameras and camera angles will simply provide too much for the editor to work with. And that’s not what a mockumentary is about. If you MUST use two cameras, it’s okay. But plan for the majority of footage to be single camera capture.

Step 4: Film Like You’re the Amateur that You Are

Okay, even if you aren’t an amateur, film like you are! The mockumentary film style is generally shaky and rather amateur-style. Think, over-the-shoulder style, what you see is what you get. Shake and zoom your way through.

This is not the time for elaborate camera setups, and advanced technique. A mockumentary is your chance to let it all hang out.

Step 5: Keep the Lighting Simple

Natural lighting is ideal for a mockumentary and is actually the norm. If you must include technical use of lighting. Keep it appearing as natural as possible. Minimal lighting is key.

Mockumentaries are commonly filmed using just the on-camera light that is available. And rarely include any added lighting for the scene. 

Step 6: Don’t Overplan, Improvising is Key

As you’re learning how to film a mockumentary, one of the key factors to consider. And probably the most difficult for a filmmaker is that over planning is bad!

You really don’t want to overplan shots or scenes or any of it. You want to improvise your way through much of it. Testing out ideas and skills as you go. Really, you’ll be surprised at what you might come up with if you just improvise your way through.

Step 7: Include Real Live Interviews

Finally, for the finishing touches on filming a mockumentary. Consider the addition of real, live interviews. That’s right, don’t use actors for this part!

Include interviews with actual people that will sit with you as you ask them questions that are outlandishly absurd and amazingly disconnected from reality. The footage you’ll get will most certainly be amazing and will add great candor to your mockumentary.

Now that you know how to film a mockumentary, what kind of crazy and absurd mockumentary subjects can you come up with?

Need inspiration, or clearer examples of mockumentaries? No Film School does a fun job of explaining all you need to know about the genre: