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"How Documentaries Work" • Oxford University Press


Published January 23, 2023 – On Sale Now!

How Documentaries Work breaks down the hidden conventions of documentaries in clear and accessible language for film students and documentary enthusiasts alike. Jacob Bricca, ACE, an award-winning documentary director, producer, and editor, provides a behind-the-scenes, under-the-hood view of what's really going on in the construction of nonfiction films and television shows.


This book presents examples from contemporary documentaries and docuseries and delivers insights from some of the most exciting nonfiction filmmakers and craftspeople working today, including director Steve James, producer Amy Ziering, editor Aaron Wickenden, and composer Miriam Cutler.


Chapters such as "Flow," "Narrative," and "Time" offer a new way of looking at documentary film language, while others like "Titles," "Music," and "Sound" deliver extraordinary insights on seemingly ordinary topics. A compact volume written in plain, easy-to-understand language, this book promises to change the way you think about nonfiction films and television shows forever.

Jacob Brica's brilliant new book is a thoughtful and thorough exploration of the grammar of documentary. This is a must read – for filmmakers and viewers alike – as Bricca deconstructs the tools and tricks of our trade. As someone who has been editing documentaries for years, I found that every word of this book rings true.

                         – Kate Amend, ACE

Deftly combining practical experience and scholarly sources, How Documentaries Work is an ideal primer for introducing students to documentary practices and conventions...  The range and clarity of the explanations make this a great resource.

                           – K.M. Flanagan, George Mason University

A masterful deconstruction of documentary techniques, with impressive original research. This book is recommended for everyone interested in how documentaries are made, especially students in film production and critical studies.

                           – Mark Freeman, Professor Emeritus, San Diego State University

Los Angeles Book Launch

Thanks to the American Film Institute for hosting the Los Angeles Book Launch of How Documentaries Work!

Bricca Interviewed on New Books Network Podcast

Thanks to Joel Tscherne for the great extended interview

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Tucson Book Launch

Thanks to University of Arizona Bookstore for hosting the Tucson book launch of How Documentaries Work.

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