Anatomy of a Mini-Doc: What It Is and How to Knock It Out of the Park

April 24, 2018 7 min read540

“Documentary” used to be a dirty word to the average viewer. Normally educational, often stodgy, and more than a little cheesy, documentaries were the antithesis of a fun movie-going experience, and felt more like school than entertainment. But so much has changed over the last two decades with the onset of day-in-the-life reality television, flashy blockbuster documentary features, and, most recently, the massively successful crime docu-series. Documentaries are now a popular nightly choice for millions of viewers, despite whatever stigma they used to have.

Because of this newfound popularity, more businesses have been tapping into creative ways to use documentary style videos to help show off their business, connect with current and future customers, and use video marketing to show off their company in an authentic way.

After all, what’s more authentic than casting aside a flashy advertisement in place of a docu-style featurette about how your business actually runs?

Let’s take a look at one of the latest and most popular forms of video businesses are using right now: the Mini-Doc.

What is a Mini-Doc?

A mini-doc is a short-form documentary, no longer than two minutes, highlighting a company’s core value or mission statement and showing real-life examples of that company and mission in action. Mini-docs follow the format of a feature length documentary, but tell a simpler story in a shorter timespan. Because of this, brevity is important — and getting to the point fast is essential to making a big impression.

Often, mini-docs will partner footage of your business in action with interviews of key employees, founders, or satisfied customers. These interviews are used to highlight your company’s culture, core competencies, key values, and unique strengths. By using real people to tell your company’s story, you’re putting reality in the foreground, which is key for brands looking to build trust with customers.

The Anatomy of a Mini-Doc

Mini-docs are a type of traditional documentary, but in a tight and compact format. However, where long-form documentaries can touch on different topics and numerous aspects of an issue, a mini-doc is uniquely focused on a singular story and vision.

For businesses looking to use a mini-doc to build awareness for their brands, that story is always going to be about your company’s core values and mission.

Here’s a simple guide of how it breaks down:

The Length

While mini-docs can be longer, we recommend keeping your mini-doc to one minute or shorter. Viewership falls dramatically after the one-minute mark, so anything longer has a smaller chance of being seen. Because of the short format, mini-docs need to work their magic as fast as possible. That means setting in motion an authentic voice, a compelling tone, and a motivating message in the first 30 seconds.

The Structure

Traditional documentaries usually follow the same three-act structure of traditional narrative films. They establish a character, set up a conflict, and develop the plot to a climactic conclusion. Mini-docs don’t have that kind of time. Instead, mini-docs follow a more simplified structure.


A mini-doc must quickly focus your viewers on a single character, event, location, story, or aspect of your company. That is the subject of your mini-doc, otherwise known as the “what” of your story, that drives the narrative.


Next, the mini-doc needs to explain in a succinct, simple, and powerful way why the viewer should care about this character, event, location, or story. Why is this person important? Why is this location valuable? Why was this event impactful? Why does this story relate to the viewer’s own set of values?


Once a mini-doc has captured the audience’s attention, it needs to explain how your subject works. If you think of the “why” of your mini-doc as the bones, this is the muscle. Backup your story with the facts of your story. Explain how your character, story, company, or subject works. Let the character tell us a little about themselves.

When you have the what, why, and how of your mini-doc, you should be able to quickly and succinctly tell a complete story.

The Style

Mini-docs can be about a variety of different subjects. When creating a mini-doc for your business, you want to focus on a compelling aspect of your company’s personal story. This could be a profile about why a founder chose to start their specific company. Or a project showcase that highlights a particularly successful project.  Maybe it’s a product highlight that promotes a specific feature with special benefits for your customers.

Let’s look at some of the most popular mini-doc styles.

Personal Profile

A personal profile introduces a character, like founders, customers, clients, or partners, and takes us through that character’s day-to-day. As the audience is shown that character interacting with their business, they, or a third party, reflect on what their work means to them, showcasing the company’s why.

Success Story

The success story mini-doc focuses on a character or multiple characters retelling the story of a company’s recent accomplishment or creation. Told in a concise way, the character reflects on that accomplishment using anecdotes, showcasing how this success has helped others in an exemplary way, once again showcasing the company’s why in action.

Event or Location-Based

This mini-doc type focuses on an event or location as a character, using third party observers to tell the subject’s story and elaborate on the relevance of the subject to the company’s core mission. By focusing on the value of an event or the specialness of a location, this mini-doc style focuses on the company’s surrounding community and provides social proof by showing real people outside of the business interacting with it.

Focus on Issue Awareness

The purpose of this mini-doc style is to focus on bringing awareness to an issue a company is trying to address. These mini-docs start by exposing an issue, focusing on the steps necessary to address said issue, and showcasing specific work their organization is doing to solve that issue.

There is a fifth mini-doc style that focuses on inspiring the viewer into making a direct action, like motivating donations to a fundraising campaign, but this can incorporate elements of all of the above styles, depending on the subject that requires action.

So now that you know the elements of a mini-doc, let’s dive into everything you need to know to create one of your own!  

How to Create Your Own Mini-Doc

Because most mini-docs follow a similar structure, creating them is a lot simpler than you might think. The trick is to get your core story down before you film anything. In four simple steps, you can be on your way to crafting the perfect brand mini-doc.

Step 1: Pick and interview your subject.

Whether your subject is a CEO with a compelling story, a customer with a dire need you helped solve, or a community event your business helped organize, your subject is going to be the chief storytelling and narrator of your mini-doc. The first step is to pick a subject and interview them. Ask them valuable questions to get to the core of the story, while still capturing their unique point of view. You can even select multiple subjects to interview, using the best sound bites to tell your story.

Step 2: Film your b-roll.

After interviewing your subject(s) and structuring your story, go out and film your subject in action. Show them at work. Show your full team working together to accomplish a specific goal. Whatever you do, make sure the footage you film fits with the story you’re telling. If you’re shooting an issue-awareness style mini-doc, make sure you’re capturing footage that documents the issue and how your company is helping solve that issue. If you’re filming a story about a specific event or location, make sure you have accompanying footage that captures those experiences.  

Step 3: Edit your film.

Once you have all of your footage, it’s time to put the pieces together in a compelling and meaningful way. Use tools like music, titles, and color-correction to sharpen your film in a cohesive and enticing way that tells your story.

How Can a Mini-Doc Help You Get More Customers?

Documentaries are all about reality. They capture real stories, show real events, and feature real people. The mini-doc appeals to customers because it reveals the reality behind your company.

It tells a real story, told by real people, and featuring real events and places.

Whether you’ve already been using content and video marketing and are looking for a new tactic, or have avoided content marketing because you find it too promotional, mini-docs can help attract new customers through social sharing; engage new visitors with evergreen web content; nurture prospects with testimonials from real customers; and delight customers with content they can rally behind.

Looking to create a mini-doc for your business? Schedule a call with one of our creative producers today to talk through what stories you might want to tell that’ll captivate and compel new and future customers.   

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