Moonshine Moonshot Blog

Using graphics in your documentary

Jan 10, 2023

Welcome back (and a happy new year!) 


As we enter this new year, take pride in how far you’ve come along and your persistence through the pre-production process. If everything falls into place in 2023, who knows, maybe this year is finally the year you see your film on the big screen. 


If you’ve been following our documentary series, you are well into your films pre-production and are ready to move forward to the next stage. 


Hopefully, as you were conceiving your film, developing your pitch and considering the final product, you would have been thinking carefully about graphics and its overall look. But not just within the documentary itself, but the film as a brand. 


It’s important to approach your graphics with an overall eye, as your graphics are in, out and around your film. Especially in documentary. You will need to consider not only your title card, but lower-third text for names and locations, trailer titles, logos and poster design. 


Why is it important to think about graphics early on?


Though having some graphics is far from your finished piece, it does put a face to your documentary and begins the process of moving from concept to a tangible film. With this in mind, I would encourage you to start developing these graphics as early on in pre-production as you can. 


It could seem slightly dramatic, but think about all your favourite movies! All of the best leave their designs stuck in your mind. After all, how many of them can you immediately identify by the title card, font and poster designs?


Creating the graphics will not only help you begin to develop your marketing strategy, it will also create an identity for your film that can be recognised by the public and potential investors. 


For example, when we were pitching concept pieces to fund Conquering Cancer: Making history by eliminating cervical cancer everywhere at Moonshine Agency, investors were thrown by the temporary graphics we had been using. Especially, as they didn’t accurately represent the films they were viewing. 


And lastly, one other reason this is vital is simply because it allows you the time to adapt and change. You may be convinced on the styles you choose initially, but as time goes on and your film begins to get a life of its own, you may realise the documentary now requires a different style to reflect the film it has evolved into. 


Where do I start?


Before you go on your man-hunt for a graphic designer, you need to know what the intention of your graphics are. Depending on your target audience and where you would like to place your emphasis, this could be many things. 


Bear in mind that the most stylistic choice, is not necessarily the best one. Have ever been in a meeting where the presenter uses a PowerPoint with ridiculous transitions on every slide? It's a nightmare right. 


Consider all the elements for your graphics. What sort of font best reflects your film should you use high contrast colours and impactful lettering? These choices could be used on later, beyond the film in things like your social media places and poster art. 


After you have an idea of what you’re looking for, you need to find your graphic designer. Though there are plenty of sites that you can locate designers, finding the perfect one for your project can involve some trial and error. 


It's vital to have clear communication with your designer which usually starts with a detailed brief. The designer is the one that will create a variety of graphics will likely need to compliment each other. Not only will this help with brand recognition, but it may also further your story and intended meaning. 



What about animation?


Similar to regular graphics, it's incredibly important to think about animation in conjunction with the rest of your documentary and how it compliments the film. Sometimes, when you need to get through a section of your film that is information dense, an animation can counterweight this and help simplify these ideas. 


Though animation is a fantastic way to create variety and communicate ideas in your film (and it is!), it can be incredibly time consuming. It is important to note that when dealing with animation, it may involve you collaborating with a whole team rather than an individual. 


If this is a route you are going to take, then scheduling this is into your production plan is incredibly important. If you’re a bit unsure on how to do that, be sure to check out our previous blog, video and podcast on scheduling!


Still need help?


I get it. The pre-production phase can be very overwhelming. And after the closing of the silly season, having some extra assistance can be a lifeline. Luckily, we have plenty of resources here on the Moonshine Communication Academy website. If you just scroll up to the resources tab, you can find a plethora of tools to help you through the complexities of pre-production (and beyond!). 

If you can’t find what you’re looking for, be sure to message us on our Instagram or Facebook and we’ll do our best to accommodate you. 


Moving forward… 


It’s an exciting time, as with every week you are edging closer and closer to entering production! But the more you plan, strategise and schedule, the easier your production will be and the more it will open up for you to be creatively inspired and fulfilled. 


If you’re feeling up to it, next week we’ll be pushing on through the nuts and bolts of pre-production and discussing exactly who your production team are going to be and how you’ll decide what working environment will be best for you and your team. 


But for now, plan on! And be sure to be actively reviewing, reassessing and potentially updating your graphics all the way through your development process. 


Good luck and happy designing! 




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