I'm editing a feature documentary right now, which is a long process full of moments of beauty and epiphany coupled with moments of wondering if this "process" and endeavor is completely bonkers.
I've just completed the first phase of editing - watching the footage. All (or almost all) 300 hours of it. It feels necessary to me (at least for projects like this one) to know the footage intimately. I've done it before, but this is the most footage I've watched down in this intensive of a time, and it had me wondering about the "process". I've been taking notes, actively formulating ideas, but at the end of weeks of watching there isn't much to literally show in terms of an edit. I've just watched...and listened.
Watching and listening have such different connotations in English. Obviously they relate to different senses - the two physical sensations communicated with a film. But to say "I watched someone" versus "I listened to someone" feels very different. Why don't I say that I listened to 300 hours of footage instead of watching 300 hours of footage?
I've always been confident that this stage of editing is incredibly valuable, but at the same time have been awkwardly apologetic for it. Then I recently read an article about words in other languages that do not exist in English. I love lists like this. One word in particular jumped out to me: dadirri, Australian Aboriginal, “a deep, spiritual act of reflective and respectful listening”.
Now I'm not trying to claim I understand the cultural subtleties of what this may mean, or appropriate the word, BUT I am grateful for words like this because – like magic – just naming something can create mental space for that concept to exist comfortably in one's mind. Almost immediately I felt more at ease with this "deep reflective listening" process because a whole civilization of people where insightful enough to have a word for it. It's not a bonkers process; it's profoundly respectful. If the footage is going to tell the story, I as editor first need to listen to what that footage is trying to tell.