I love a video essay on editing, and this one is fantastic in the way that it explores not only the power of editing to create thoughts, but how the language of editing can create whole modes of thinking. A cut is a break; a cut is a join; a cut is a blink; a cut is a new thought.
After a decade of editing on Final Cut Pro, I'm right now downloading Premiere for my own system. It feels momentous – even though I've edited on Premiere plenty and will continue to use FCP on some projects for a time. And in many ways they are both the same animal of a timeline-based, non-linear editing platform. But it has me wondering: how much is one's craft affected by the details of these programs? How much would changing to a different line of paintbrush affect a painter? Does knowing more editing systems help an editor better see the craft beyond the tool?
I love hearing from other documentary filmmakers about their process and the way they see and experience story, and Marshall Curry's latest piece – where he dissects a dichotomy of sorts that he sets up as the difference between fair and balanced – particularly spoke to me. As much as this relates to the whole process of filmmaking, much of it really comes down to what happens in the editing. The themes of how much to include from disenting voices, what's fair to the audience, and what the duties of a filmmaker are to present "all sides" of an issue, are questions that come up a lot for many of us, myself included, and I found Marshall's well articulated thoughts on the subject to be clarifying and empowering.
I recently dusted off a hard drive to finally finish up an old side project. It's a fiction short, and after a few years of really focusing on documentary and non-fiction, it's been interesting to revisit it. What I've been struck by most looking over the rough cut, is how much I'm now planning to cut out – extraneous lines of dialogue, shots that I find too revealing (when imagination would be more powerful), and maybe even a whole scene or two. I always knew this is a normal part of editing fiction, but learning from the "writing" process that is so commonly done in the editing room for a doc is coming in very handy in identifying where to deviate from the original script.
I find it inspiring to get out pencil and paper sometimes. Maybe it's just the benefit of looking away from the screen, or maybe the tactile world stimulates something different in the mind, but it can really help with brainstorming.
After lots of permutations and rearrangements, this is the final storyboard for A Will for the Woods. The process really took off once we moved from digital to analog, so while it might look chaotic at first glance, to me it still feels like an elegant solution to a puzzle.
I've been embracing the idea lately of resisting the use of the term b-roll. When working on an edit, I want each image to be perceived by the viewer in a way that moves their experience forward, and at the same time, I want to construct context and a unique experience for them. To do all that, I feel that I first must honor any footage I'm considering using by treating it as its own valid, unique, raw material, and abandon the concept of typical b-roll. Also, the term just makes me think about We Got That B-roll.
“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos.” – Mary Shelley
Ever since I first saw this quote, it has rung very true to me, at least in my own experience with the art of editing – manipulating chaos into order and, in doing so, breathing life into something new.