Entertainment

Difference Between Documentary and Feature Film

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Main Difference

The main difference between Documentary and Feature Film is that Documentary is a reality-based film used to inform the audience, whereas Feature Film is a fiction based film made for entertainment purposes.

Documentary vs. Feature Film

The documentary is a reality-based film used to inform the audience, whereas feature film is fiction based film made for entertainment purposes. The purpose of a documentary is to teach and educate the audience; conversely, the feature film has the purpose of entertainment. Documentaries are often shot when they are happening, and then the script is written, but in case of feature films, dialogues and scripts are written beforehand.

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As a documentary is based on real situations, so they are shot at real actions; on the other hand, feature films are sometimes shot on locations and sometimes on sets. The shooting span of documentaries is less; on the flip side, feature films may take months and years to be shot completely.

The documentary is mostly shot when some incident is happening so common people are taken instead of professional actors; opposingly, a feature film is performed and acted by professional actors. Documentaries usually take a low production budget as compared to feature films, which take a lot of budgets.

As a documentary is based on real situations so the actions and locations should seem real and be logical; on the flip side, feature films are fictional, so they do not necessarily need to seem real. A documentary must have some emotional effect on the audience; conversely, feature film does not need such an effect as it is made for entertainment. Documentaries usually convey some information, so there must be a seriousness tone, whereas feature film can have humorous elements.

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Comparison Chart

DocumentaryFeature Film
A documentary is a reality-based film used to inform the audience.A feature film is a fiction based film made for entertainment purposes.
Purpose
Inform and educateEntertain
Script Writing
After the film is shotWritten beforehand
Locations
Mostly real locationsReal locations and sets
Shooting Span
LessMonths or years
Budget
Less budgetMore budget
Genre
Reality and real-life eventsFiction
Emotional Effect
PresentAbsent
Humor
Humor is absent in it.Sometimes they may have a humorous element.

What is a Documentary?

A Documentary is a reality-based film used to inform and educate the audience. It usually uses real-life situations and people. It must have some information on it and should cause a cathartic effect on the audience. It is generally shot at a single location, and the script is written after the shot is over. It must have logical unity in it as it is based on reality. Documentaries must have the seriousness of purpose as they are made for educational and informational purposes.

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Documentaries are also shot for maintaining a record of history. Historical films are probably the most-watched genre of documentaries. Initially, the period of documentaries was too short about a minute or so, but nowadays, extended and well-detailed documentaries are made. As documentaries are based on real-life situations so, real people perform instead of professional actors.

The history of documentaries is quite interesting. Initially, they were called actuality films as they contained a minute shot of actual action. It may be a person working in mills. These documentaries were often made for mercantile purposes. Documentaries often have narration in them as the script is written after it is filmed.

Sometimes there is a voice-over narrator, and he never appears on the screen; rather, a voice tells the audience about whatever happened. Another type is a silent narration in which the main dialogues appear on the screen, and the viewer reads them. In the case of hosted narrations, the narrator appears in front of the camera and often tells his own story or someone else’s.

What is a Feature Film?

A Feature film is a fiction based film made for entertainment purposes. A feature film is also called a full length or theatrical film. It is based on a long period, most years and months. Firstly script and dialogues are written and when they are performed by professional actors. It includes many sets and locations and must have a large scale budget.

Feature films are generally made for entertainment purposes and have fictional stories. The main aim is to show a colorful world to the people in which they want to live. So there are sometimes illogical elements in a feature film. The time of a feature film is generally two hours and sometimes more than that.

The history of feature film is quite interesting. The word feature film was coined to refer to films shown in the cinema. The advertisements for these films were made beforehand, and people had to watch them in cinemas. This term was designed to differentiate between short films, serials, and animated films from the full-length feature film. With the evolution of cinema, these films also evolved and grew.

Firstly the cinema was the only source of films but later came the time of CD’s and DVD’s, which was a great advancement and provided people with home cinemas. These things promoted feature films, and the number of the audience increased dramatically. The latest cameras, and especially digital cameras, increased the picture quality of feature films. New techniques in shooting and editing also made these films quite interesting and worth watching.

Key Differences

  1. The documentary is a reality-based film used to inform the audience, whereas feature film is fiction based film made for entertainment purposes.
  2. A Documentary is always based on real-life situations; on the other hand, the feature film is mostly fictional and imaginary.
  3. The purpose of a documentary is to teach and educate the audience; conversely, the feature film has the purpose of entertainment.
  4. Documentaries are often shot when they are happening, and then the script is written, but in case of feature films, dialogues and scripts are written beforehand.
  5. As a documentary is based on real situations, so they are shot at real actions; on the other hand, feature films are sometimes shot on locations and sometimes on sets.
  6. The shooting span of documentaries is less; on the flip side, feature films may take months and years to be shot completely.
  7. Documentaries are mostly shot when some incident is happening so common people are taken instead of professional actors; opposingly, the feature film is performed and acted by professional actors.
  8. Documentaries usually take a low production budget as compared to feature films, which take a lot of budgets.
  9. Documentaries are generally filmed at a single location, whereas feature films use many locations as well as sets.
  10. As a documentary is based on real situations so the actions and locations should seem real and be logical; on the flip side, feature films are fictional, so they do not necessarily need to seem real.
  11. A documentary must have some emotional effect on the audience; conversely, feature film does not need to be serious and tragic as it is made for entertainment.
  12. Documentaries usually convey some information, so there must be a seriousness of purpose, whereas feature film can have humorous elements.

Conclusion

So, documentaries and feature films differ based on genre and purpose. One is reality-based made for educational purposes, and the other is fictional made for entertainment purposes.

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson

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