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Rocco Forte
Doc / News / Reality Structure & Language
on Mar 2, 2010 at 12:39:10 am

Lets propose you have the following lines from an interview subject:

1. "it was an amazing experience. I learned so much about myself."

and

2. "Throughout the trip we saw many things including Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace. Not to mention, too many pubs!"

OK.... So the question is, do you put line 1 before or after line 2? And why?


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Michael McIntyre
Re: Doc / News / Reality Structure & Language
on Mar 2, 2010 at 5:32:24 am

Depends on intent.

1-before-2 is your 'hook' with details to follow. Works as the tease for the trip.

2-before-1 functions as wrap-up.

Entirely dependent on how you're building an entire section or act. Not just arranging lines.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Doc / News / Reality Structure & Language
on Mar 2, 2010 at 4:24:40 pm

Or in pursuit of brevity, kill one of the two as redundant.

If you have to play a clip of someone saying they learned something about themselves, then you have not SHOWN the audience that, you've failed if they haven't already grasped that without being told, by watching the footage and reatons unfold.

Show, don't TELL.


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Michael McIntyre
Re: Doc / News / Reality Structure & Language
on Mar 3, 2010 at 9:02:40 pm

Mark Suszko wrote:
"If you have to play a clip of someone saying they learned something about themselves, then you have not SHOWN the audience that, you've failed if they haven't already grasped that without being told, by watching the footage and reatons unfold.

Show, don't TELL."


Not to drift too far off-topic from the original post but I'm not sure that I'd always agree with that. Sometimes, there's no substitute for first-person narrative. It's relayed information that transcends cover.

I don't know how you'd capture footage of 'someone learning something about themselves'. It's an internal process. Staring off in the distance? Nodding approvingly and reflecting?

Another example would be a vet describing storming Normandy. Using your logic, you'd rather see actors in period gear on a faked beach. In that instance, I'd take a first-person account over "Show, don't TELL" any day.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Doc / News / Reality Structure & Language
on Mar 3, 2010 at 9:59:54 pm

I think if I show someone wracked with the pain of loss, or overwhelmed with joy, I don't need to ask them: "how do you feel? Can you describe it?" It reminds me of that horrible job Bob Costas does when he narrates all over the Olympic Ceremonies' artistic performance on TV like he was calling a radio play-by-play. I can SEE it is the "Child of Light", Bob, you can please shut up now and let me watch and hear the entertainment unfold without you describing everything, God forbid you should give me dead air and just ambient audio for five seconds. We don't do that in good documentaries; we don't write a radio play and then slap b-roll all over it until the video track is filled up and call it a finished video. Do we?

As far as "capturing footage of someone learning about themselves", well, one example that comes to mind would be a scene of someone at a gathering or party being offered some liquor, and at the decision point, cutting to a fast flashback montage of that person obviously drunk and debauched and getting in huge trouble, at some point in their past... or a shot of them limply draped over their hangover bed like a Dali clock, at 3:30 PM... or just a fast flashback shot of them at the scene of a car accident where they'd run someone over... and cutting back to them looking thoghtful for a beat and waving the offered drink away. That tells me what their motivation is, what their character is, what their reactions should be, and what they've decided about changing themselves... all without a line of dialog.

Obviously, you can't illustrate everything like that, and in a straight documentary you may at times have reasons not to, but I subscribe to the idea that action informs character and action IS character. In a reality type format or a doc format, when you're following someone around, you pay more attention to what they DO, and HOW they say something, than what they merely say. You look to see their body language, to check if it agrees with their speech. Are they talking about how green they are, while at the wheel of a Hummer on a 2-block drive to pick up an ice cream? That was my point I guess, that the best story telling is spare and sparse, that you chop out redundancy and show thru action and re-action those things that are abstracts, intangibles, instead of relying on only the words.

Some guy saying he grew from an experience is meaningless by itself if we don't yet know him; he could be lying or mistaken, what he learned may be a different lesson than we would have learned. It is only when we take the statement he made, and compare it to some visual proof that we can tell if he's bloviating or deluded or being truthful. I think that's what elevates storytelling above a simple recitation of who said and did what. Don't tell, SHOW. Its a visual medium.

And to bring it back to the original question:
_______
2. "Throughout the trip we saw many things including Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace. Not to mention, too many pubs!"
_______

Why would I say that line if I can SHOW it? If you can't show visuals of Big Ben, Parliament, and Buckingham Palace interspersed with the fronts of a dozen pubs, while the guy talks about what he's learned as VO... seems like Editing 101 to me.:-)



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Michael McIntyre
Re: Doc / News / Reality Structure & Language
on Mar 4, 2010 at 8:03:55 am

I'll just stand by the 1st line of my 1st post: "Depends on intent".

Grinner sums it up best with the knowing-rules-to-break-'em angle.

Seems we've drifted pretty far off-topic and opened up the whole 'documentary' definition can-o-worms. That's not just a whole other thread but never-ending discussion. Happy cuttin'!



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grinner hester
Re: Doc / News / Reality Structure & Language
on Mar 2, 2010 at 6:26:08 pm

It depends on the piece.

because all videos are different.



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Timothy J. Allen
Re: Doc / News / Reality Structure & Language
on Mar 3, 2010 at 12:49:12 am

Of course, these guys are correct - it all depends on where you are trying to lead the viewer. All other things being equal, I'd probably go with the content, then the observational commentary. ("What" followed by "What does that mean"?)

But sounds and visuals in the scenes around those clips could easily change my mind. It's not always specific words that make a scene flow, it's considering all things audio and visual that might push the viewer one way or another emotionally.




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Bill Davis
Re: Doc / News / Reality Structure & Language
on Mar 3, 2010 at 3:25:16 am

And let's not forget that if an actual comedic actor were to read #2, he or she would likely nail the final line with the kind of wry precision that would leave the average audience laughing.

So that if you put it EITHER first or second, you'd need to hold for the laughs to subside. And that would greatly change the rhythm of the piece.

If it's the ONLY joke, then a short hold, maybe. If it's the perfect 15th joke in a Vegas style "Dean Martin's tipsy" routine and the house is rocking, you might need to hold for a full minute.

This is precisely why machines can't yet edit for us.

Too freekin' many variables to EVER make a rule about something like this.



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grinner hester
Re: Doc / News / Reality Structure & Language
on Mar 4, 2010 at 3:16:21 am

That's the bif handicap in some film/art schools. They'll teach something as if it's a rule. That's just a limitation.
180 rule? What if I wanna shoot from the other side, man?
Legal levels? What if I wanna buzz the dog outta someone's old set?
;)
What line goes first? It depends on what's on second.
Rules. It'd best to know them
so you can break them properly.



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Rocco Forte
Re: Doc / News / Reality Structure & Language
on Mar 4, 2010 at 11:02:38 pm

SO DO I PUT LINE 1 FIRST OR LAST???!!!

;o)

Just kidding... It's interesting seeing the discussion unfold to include so many different elements. The human vs. computer debate often pops up and I wonder if its possible to organize sentences in such a way so as to assign a value to each sentence and then hit the edit button. I rarely watch reality TV but when I do I'm amazed at how efficiently and similarly structured all the episodes are; the ruthless producing you witness looks almost like a computer is doing it.

What happens to the "art of editing" when we have to squeeze information into pre-existing patters? Is the art lost or is that the art actually happening right there? What's the difference between a big ol' mess and a tightly structured documentary that adhere's strictly to "set-up" and "pay off" kinds of rules?



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Mike Cohen
Re: Doc / News / Reality Structure & Language
on Mar 4, 2010 at 11:13:53 pm

Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament


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Timothy J. Allen
Re: Doc / News / Reality Structure & Language
on Mar 5, 2010 at 8:08:28 pm

"A tightly structured documentary that adhere's strictly to 'set-up' and 'pay off' kinds of rules" can still be "a big 'ol mess". ;-)

The "art" often comes in where you break the rules. The challenge of the artist is finding the line where the audience still enjoys of at least appreciates the surprise that's inherent in those broken rules.

You can do it to a point that makes the art difficult for the audience to appreciate. But stretching that line out is what defines an artist.

My advice? Go too far. You'll never learn where that limit really is unless you push against it once in a while.




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