Skip to content

Narrative vs Documentary

narrative vs doc

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to us at no cost to you. You can read our full affiliate disclosure in our privacy policy.

Much like how we separate books in a library into fiction and non-fiction categories, narrative and documentary classifications serve a similar function.

Of course, there are plenty of areas of overlap between these two classifications, but in general, they tend to be quite different.

Narrative Film

A narrative film is a scripted work of fiction. Even if the story is based on true events – as is the case with biopics – it is still considered a fictional account.

This can be anything from a Hollywood blockbuster to an experimental art film. As long as the film is deliberately telling a story, it falls into this category.

Documentary Film

Documentaries are films that “document” a real-life subject. They can be observational, where the filmmakers simply observe and document what is happening such as with a nature documentary. Or they can be more involved, where the filmmakers are interviewing subjects and attempt to get to the heart of a story (similar to an investigative journalism piece).

The equipment and tools used are the same for both narrative and documentary films, however, the production elements and general workflows involved diverge quite a bit. We’ll focus mainly on narrative work in this guide, but much of the discussion will still apply to documentaries as well.

Next up, let’s have a look at an overview of the stages of film production.

Share this post on social