Production Diary #5 – From the Editing RoomTeam Larry / Monday, December 19th, 2011 / 2 Comments »
Sometimes it’s hard to believe what goes into a film. Each time its like you’re scaling your own mountain, usually with your bare hands. That’s how we feel when we stare down (up… if your still in the mountain metaphor) the monumental task of editing Ride with Larry. We have plenty of footage and now an editor is working hard to get us a first cut of the film! Hopefully this January!! *fingers crossed*
In anticipation of that first cut, we thought we’d revive our dusty blog to give you some insight into the work that’s been going on behind the scenes.
After a year of filming we stacked up quite a few yards of film (to use the old terminology). But we couldn’t just take all this footage and unceremoniously dump it onto an editors lap. That would be kind of rude (although not unheard of) in the world of filmmaking. Just like a narrative film relies on a script, so too does a documentary. We’re not talking about a fiction script with dialogue and prose but a comprehensive outline, a vision, of where we want the film to go and what we want it to look like.
To take a step back… We first had to organize everything we had. Organization is the KEY to editing. The messier your project, the longer it will take. Pretend your writing a book or an essay. You’ve read countless sources for your research, marked what you liked, and now you’re going to quote them, put it all together. If your footage is all over the place, unorganized, imagine ripping out every page of each book, article, source material you used and then throwing them up in the air. Now try to find that one quote you wanted!
To get ourselves organized we created a logbook of all our footage. We’re talking about hundreds of PAGES filled with tables describing the location of each video clip, the date, how many cameras were present, what sound equipment was used, the name of the clip, who appeared in the footage, a summary of what happened, and some editorial notes (the time we get to be the peanut gallery). No slave driving interns for us!
Now that all the footage was logged, we had to let our editor know how to approach all of it. Picture that mountain again, perhaps Everest… So we sent him a list of all the topics our film covered, then the sub-topics, and the sub-sub-topics. This way as our editor goes through all the footage (which he is, every second) he can take all the snippets he likes and start dragging them into these folders to access later.
Jumping back ahead, these two steps are completed, the logbook and the topic list. Now it was time for the outline, our story! Back to our other metaphor: writing an essay. Essays are seldom written off the top of one’s head. And when your dealing with footage that’s in minutes, seconds, hours, and days (that’s right… days of footage) you can’t just scan through it quickly and put it all together. We wrote up an outline detailing the structure of how we want the film to come together in its three acts. To truly discover our film we debated the essence of Ride with Larry – what exactly are we trying to say – discussed how to introduce our subjects, and how to weave our main story with our side stories (such as the science behind Parkinson’s, 23andMe, or why cycling works). We’re still searching for the flow of the film, its rhythm and pacing. That will emerge in the editing room. For now, the outline is essentially our film’s blueprint, living, breathing, constantly shifting, from which the editor will begin to sculpt.
Part of working with the editor, a key component in the story telling process of filmmaking, is to allow him free access to his own creativity, sense of style, structure, tone, and rhythm and provide the collaborative framework for him to infuse his perspective with ours. As he starts to shape the film, he’ll see where we need to deviate, what doesn’t work, what does, and what’s missing.
How do you carve an elephant? You carve away everything that’s not an elephant. And that’s where the conversation will take place. Ideas flying left and right. He’ll drive us crazy. We’ll drive him crazy, and somewhere the elephant will emerge.
At the same time we’ve also brought our editor various documentaries that we find inspiring, similar in tone, or what we would like to emulate in some fashion (structurally, rhythmically, etc…). By giving the editor these films we’re expanding our creative vocabulary. Instead of discussing Ride with Larry in a figurative sense we have literal films to dissect, critique, find the best parts of and apply it to our film. A fun process.
We’ve also had the bulk of all our interviews transcribed. A guesstimate… we’ve done somewhere between 50 and 100 interviews… minimum. That’s a lot of talking, nearly impossible to keep track of. Taking all those interviews we grab our handy highlighters and get to work. We mark up our favorite phrases, important quotes, and sound bites. We mark where they go in terms of our story and send them all off to our editor. Luckily all of these interviews are time stamped so he can easily locate and extract all of these sound bites.
Since our film is not based on interviews we weren’t able to create a paper cut version of the film. What’s a papercut? A paper cut is when you transcribe all the footage, highlight all the important quotes, then start organizing them into a movie. What you wind up is an essay comprised of as many voices as you choose to include, all flowing in a logical progression that makes up the story. Then you find that matching footage, put it all together, add b-roll (the non-interview footage), and start cutting it down. Usually you’ll wind up with an assembly of these interviews that can range from 2 to 8 hours. It all depends.
Ride with Larry is more of a verite film. We feel the most poignant part of our film lies in the quiet observed moments, when people were themselves. That’s where we want to find and tell our story. Thus, our interviews are more accents than the driving force.
Once this first cut is all put together our job will be the long road of cutting it down. Shaving off pieces. Cutting a minute here, 20 seconds there, another 5 minutes at the end, 10 seconds in the middle. This will go on and on until we have a movie!
Did we forget about the opinions… we’ll need a lot of opinions on the way, make changes, start over….
Thank you for your patience! We look forward to bringing an amazing movie!
Alright… back to work