10 Thoughts on Documentary Editing
The two videos below are a presentation that TV Documentary Editor Steve Audette gave in 2009 to the PBS science program NOVA. Audette is a passionate and seasoned editor who worked on several political/historical TV documentaries so he definitely has his word to say when it comes to dealing with time constrains, showing rough cuts to executive producers and finding the tone of a story.
Now, editing a TV documentary is different than a feature documentary, and some points Audette mentions won’t apply if you are not working for a Network but there are still a lot of interesting information to gather, digest and adapt for projects you will edit. Here are 10 quotes I took out from it; I privileged short stance for reading purposes, so watch the presentation as well if you can, it is definitely worth your time:
- 1 – Never underestimate your viewer. Assume that they are ready to handle more.
- 2 – You never have enough time, you’re always in compromising situations.
- 3 – You can’t expect any executive producers to look at a film with black boles in it and understand what is it that you want to do.
- 4 – If you rough cut stuff in or if you do assemblies and try to show it to somebody other than someone who is intimately on the team, you’re going to hurt yourself.
- 5- It’s not jut about cutting. You need to bring something else to the table to compete in the marketplace.
- 6- What is the image system and sound design you’re going to use? How do you arrange sound design, colors, fonts etc to help the audience grasp who says what ?
- 7- Your audience will disengage if they feel you are leaving things out, unless you make it about a character.
- 8- If you make it about a character traveling through a larger story, then anything that character doesn’t know, your audience will forgive you for.
- 9 – The first part of your story is always going to be about engaging an audience. How long before you start showing hard facts?
- 10 – The first 15 minutes have to be as compelling as possible.
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