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The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros

This is a Public Topic geared towards first-time filmmakers. Professional members of The D-Word will come by and answer your questions about documentary filmmaking.

Boyd McCollum
Thu 24 Jan 2008Link

Dean, I'm not sure if you've done this or not, but get your interview footage transcribed. It's a lot of work up front, but it pays huge dividends down the road.

It may be best to sit down with a writer instead of an editor. Figure out the story you want to tell and the structure you want to use. You probably already know the story you want to tell, so write it out. Heck, you basically nutshell the story each time you post on the topic. As an editor, I don't need to watch a hundred hours of footage to get to that basic statement.

Starting with your basic statement, make a one or two page synopsis. Then make a treatment/paper edit, including what visuals, narration, music, etc. that you think will go into different places. Then sit down with a documentary writer or editor to look over what you have and get feedback from them. You can post what you come up with here and get excellent feedback.

Don't put it on your editor to reinvent the wheel. Especially if you know exactly what kind of wheel you want. If it's some Goodyear XKG All Season radials with white side walls, 205/85, etc., then say so.

Take a look at your Need and Problem statements again. You're setting your editor up for failure. I even have the 3 reasons why they will fail – not creative, not collaborative, and/or not the right mix. We could rewrite the statement to read – unprepared filmmaker seeks editor to do the hard work and accept the responsibility for things not working out right.

Editors are creative and collaborative and they don't need to be the "right" mix. The more specific you define the mix, the harder it is for anyone to meet the criteria. It's the filmmakers job to be the "right" mix, that's why they are telling a unique story.

It's really the filmmaker, especially the less experience they have, that lacks those qualities. It's not that the filmmaker isn't creative, or collaborative, rather without the experience, it's more difficult for them to clearly see the vision floating in their head, and then to clearly communicate that. The problem arises when the editor is unable to "divine" what the filmmaker is "seeing".

I hope I don't come across as harsh, and it's definitely not my intent, but one of the most common problems I see over and over again is the filmmaker him/herself getting in the way of making their film as good as it can be. And I'm the first to admit that I've been guilty of that on more than one occasion! But no one said the learning curve was easy or pleasant...

Anyways, my $0.02 – which won't even purchase fumes at the gas station :-)


Boyd McCollum
Thu 24 Jan 2008Link

Dean, part 2 of your question – working remotely with an editor. While it's not ideal, I think the technology today makes it much easier. One solution would be to have duplicate drives and file structures. As the editor works on a cut, they can send the project files to you so you can view what's going on. There's also tools such as Skype, etc. that would allow you to videoconference in and also see a virtual desktop.

There are times when an editor just needs to work alone to actually implement changes that have been discussed with the director. This is especially true in the rough cut stage. As you near a fine cut, there is more value in being there day to day. It all varies and depends on lots of factors.


Lisa Salem
Thu 24 Jan 2008Link

Thanks Boyd – I'm also a first-time filmmaker and am struggling in post. I think a lot of what you've said could apply to me too – v helpful. Cheers!


John Burgan
Sat 26 Jan 2008Link

As well as Boyd's suggestion of the freeware Skype there's an even more ambitious (not free) app called SyncVUE which allows those working on editing in different locations to hook up and work together online.


Matt Dubuque
Sat 26 Jan 2008Link

Has anyone here entered a documentary in the Cannes Film Festival?

What was your experience like? Does entering in Cannes have advantages over entering it in Sundance?

Thanks!


Doug Block
Sat 26 Jan 2008Link

JB, that SyncVUE is amazing. We should post about that in The Future of The D-Word topic and its potential for future collaborative projects.


Doug Block
Sat 26 Jan 2008Link

Matt, Cannes shows very few docs, especially if you're not named Michael Moore. And much more expensive than Sundance, which is mighty expensive itself. Cannes has a market, too, but that's mostly for distributors selling shlocky films.


Matt Dubuque
Sat 26 Jan 2008Link

OK, many thanks Doug!


Le Sheng Liu
Sun 27 Jan 2008Link

Hey I have a lot of respect for Cannes EXCEPT for the fact that they practically disregard the entire genre of documentaries. I take it Michael Moore has some direct connections.


Doug Block
Sun 27 Jan 2008Link

harvey whine-stein?


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