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Editing a documentary

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rocco
Editing a documentary
on Jan 7, 2007 at 10:25:50 pm

I'm editing a short documentary. There's 15hrs of footage and we want a 15 min short. It explores the lives of a sportsman and his wife. I've mentally divided it up into three broad categories of SHOW, TELL and EXPERT.

The SHOW part is where we see him at work or her at home. The TELL part is where we listen to them talk about what its like to live their lives and the EXPERT part is a selection of interviews with sports commentators and other industry pros.

There are also subject themes like Relationships, Family, Stress, Routine etc.

With this in mind, how might you aproach the project? If you've edited a documentary in the past, what were your experiences and difficulties?

Any info appreciated THANKS


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Chaz Shukat
Re: Editing a documentary
on Jan 8, 2007 at 12:49:14 am

Keeping your audience and your story objective in mind, select the best material you have, lay it out in a sequence, rearrange it until it flows nicely and then start trimming it down to time. Let the material be your guide.



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Pixel Monkey
Re: Editing a documentary
on Jan 8, 2007 at 9:08:41 pm


[Chaz Shukat] "Let the material be your guide."

Exactly. Also, follow the drama. Documentaries don't just document life, they present it. Drama is the difference between watching a good documentary and scanning through a security video.



______
/-o-o-
`(=)`/...Pixel Monkey
`(___)

A picture says 1000 words. Editors give them meaning.



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Mark Suszko
Re: Editing a documentary
on Jan 10, 2007 at 3:40:15 am

If you just lay all the Show/ Tell/ Expert things into three sequential chapters, I think that's excessively linear and dull.

What you could do though is ask some leading questions then let the variety of answers from those categories fill in the responses. In each case, perhaps a different aspect of the triad would lead the exploration.

For purposes of illustraton, let's say this was going to be about Steve Irwin. No reason, just go with it.

Example topic: "Kids".

Some b-roll "show" with voice-over from "tell", cutting to and from on-camera interview sources from Tell section, describing the couple's ideas about their own childhoods, child-rearing, setting limits and laying out examples and giving inspiration, then a confirming opinion and anecdote from the outside "expert". In Steve's case, (and this had to be dealt with in an actual documentary on the subject) there was a lot of agonizing, introspection, and re-assessment going on after the "holding your baby too close to crocs during a public performance" affair.

The doc used b-roll of Steve interacting with the kids, his own and others, intercut with the controversial footage, then up-close interview footage of a discussion of the affair afterwards, sort of a post-game analysis. The doc did much to rehabilitate the late Irwin's career after massive negative world press from the baby-croc affair, and Irwin's star was again in ascendency when he unfortunately met the stingray.

It's the hopping between past/present, and subject/evaluator perspectives that fills out the idea of what happened and how people thought about it then and now, how it changed them. I liken this mode to how the cubists like Picasso sought to try and show multiple perspectives in one 2-d image, to make, not anything photo-representational, but something that really evoked the inner nature or character of the subject. Done poorly, it's a jumble; done artfully, it's more than it was before.



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Scott Davis
Re: Editing a documentary
on Jan 12, 2007 at 4:12:40 am

The best advice I ever got was from a guy who after 45 years of editing; still found immense joy in filmaking. He told me first, spend time with the material (meaning watch and listen without judgment) Dont think oh this fits in this category that fits over there. Just listen, let it "flow over you". Then find "moments" of truth/beauty/honesty and cut them into your timeline and flesh them out. Then figure out how to put these islands of truth/beauty/honesty into a cohesive story. His approach is not easy nor fast; but the results are well worth it.


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rocco
Re: Editing a documentary
on Jan 12, 2007 at 7:18:28 pm

Some excellent advice in this thread. Thank you all for sharing; hopefully these ideas will emerge in the documentary.


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