Directing your Documentary
I am sitting in my edit room, waiting for the producer to bring a hard drive. The FCP "Writing Audio and Video" dialogue box is telling me two minutes more before the Quicktime of my first roughcut the first feature doc I myself have DIRECTED will be finished.
As I've been doing this project, I have been struck again and again at how much value ME doing this project brings my workshop artists and blog readers and fellow documentarians. But what exactly have I learned?
1) I've learned that when you are deep inside your film it's very hard to see it as a whole and see it just as your typical viewer will see it. I often wished I could send a cut to myself, and magically be taking my own workshop with no prior exposure to the film. Instead, when ever one of my collaborators, the composer in this case, sat and watched the film with me to know what he needed that was SUPER helpful. Both just for me to watch with another person watching, but also because my terrific composer, Ray Argyle, gave me great notes.
SO NOW that I have a rough cut (well really more than a rough cut - more like a fine rough cut) it makes sense that I would show it to a lot of people. (please see my earlier post of an interview with Kirby Dick, who suggests you show it to a number of people through the editing process) but I've learned another thing,
2) I have a hard time showing something I think "isn't done" to people. Especially the sort of folks who can really give me great feedback - who are also the sorts of folks I would want to impress. I realize this may be just me - but somehow, I THINK NOT, I suspect this is a challenging issue for many of us - and easy to let us just kind of wrap up by showing our boyfriends and girlfriends (if we still have them after working this long on our docs) and okay, the graphics person and the composer, the sound guy - then start sending it to festivals and distributors -- but I want to not let this moment pass. I am making a public commitment to send this rough cut to the top level folks I know in this biz to get their notes. phew, there I said it. I would also very much like to watch it with a group of people - so I commit to that screening.
3) I am so grateful that I have been able to shoot, edit, then shoot more. What I have learned, is that any time you can do this DO IT! I have edited many films where the shooting was "ALL DONE" when I started, and in every case the film could have been much better even with a budget remaining for one more day of shooting. Give yourself that gift. Set up your work flow so that you WILL be able to shoot more AFTER you have edited and edited and edited. Just do it as a matter of course.
4) Shorten shorten shorten. This takes time but it will happen. At different times of this edit, I felt that there was NO WAY I could ever cut down my 3 hour rough cut , my 2 and a half hour rough cut - my 2 hour rough cut - but guess what? I just added a bunch of stuff from my last shoot, and I'm down to an hour and a half - Now let's hear what folks have to say when they watch it.
Okay Documentary Insiders - who would like to come over and watch this movie with me?
Just email me.