Producing the short historical film

Minnesota Local History Blog.

Minnesota Local History Blog.

Advice and help with building history capacity.

The Minnesota Historical Society’s Local History Services helps Minnesotans preserve and share their history. This blog is a resource of best practices on the wide variety of museum, preservation, conservation, funding, and non-profit management topics. We’re here to help.

All MNHS Blogs

Subscribe by e-mail:

 Subscribe in a reader

Producing the short historical film

By: John Fulton | Information Technology | September 29, 2020
Image from Minnesota Historical Society Collections.

A Short Historical Film (around 5 to 20 minutes long) is a great way to get a lesson or story across in a limited amount of time. A short historical film could be used to focus on one collection item or a recent research finding. Taking the opportunity to do shorter, cheaper, faster videos can be useful and rewarding.

When planning your historical film you were well-served by devoting time and attention to overall planning, research, script, budget. Turning from planning to production is the next step.

Production and post-production usually involves hiring professional filmmaking help. But this depends on goals, scope and budget. Part of the point of short historical films is to keep as much control over the film as possible in the hands of the historical organization or historian.

Basic steps toward producing a Short Historical Film:

Production. The second part of the film project marathon also begins with overall planning. Assess, collect and organize all of the parts available to the film. Historical films are often built on archival footage, interviews, b-roll to support the interviews and recreations.

Post-production. The script should need revision in light of archival assets found and interviews. Get broad agreement on the script as needed before starting to finish the film. Editing all of the film and sound elements of the film will be the main work of post-production. Editing is a form of writing itself and can transform the intent and meaning of all elements. The researchers should stay involved in this process.

Final Format. Hopefully you decided in the initial and overall planning how you want to use the short historical film. Knowing this will help determine your final format. Do you plan to upload the film to YouTube, output to a DVD, or incorporate it into a physical or digital exhibit? Each choice entails its own workflow.

If you like what you produce there are venues for short documentaries.