The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
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The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling

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Documentary making and editing tips

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The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling Presentation Transcript

  • 1. The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling Andy Carvin www.andycarvin.com www.digitaldivide.net [email_address]
  • 2. What We’re Gonna Talk About
    • Story structure
    • Video technique
    • Scripting technique
    • Editing technique
  • 3. Story Structure: 3 Parts
    • The Tease
    • The Body
    • The Conclusion
  • 4. The Tease
    • Allows viewer to focus on what the film is about
    • Introduces one or more principal characters
    • Establishes setting/location critical to the story
    • Presents a conflict/set up a problem/asks a question
    • Sets the tone for the film
    • Sucks in the audience - hopefully
  • 5. The Body
    • The main plot; the meat of the story
    • Get to know the characters, what they're doing and why they’re doing it
    • See the action unfold
    • The body usually makes up 80% of a documentary
  • 6. The Conclusion
    • Wrapping up, giving closure
    • Recaps point of story
    • Whatever you promised or asked in your tease needs to have been delivered
  • 7. Example 1: The Soccer Match
    • Tease: Meet Sarah, the team captain;
    • Former county champs, going through a rough patch
    • About to compete against current champions
    • Body: Get to know the team; what are their strengths?
    • What challenges do they face?
    • Experience leadership of coach, individual members
    • Climax: Match vs the champs. What happens? Who wins?
    • Conclusion : Reactions of the captain and team mates
    • How did the experience change them?
  • 8. Example 2: The Boardwalk
    • Tease: Establishing shot of boardwalk, montage of activity;
    • ask what the boardwalk means to Atlantic City
    • Body: History of the boardwalk; archival footage from
    • library, old postcards; interviews with community members,
    • parents, grandparents; today’s boardwalk
    • Conclusion: Summarize its history; next generation of kids
    • growing up here; continuity of boardwalk in the life of the
    • city; end with grandfather and grandkid strolling into sunset
  • 9. Video Technique
    • Footage must always serve the story
    • Establishing shot: wide view providing context
    • (think sitcoms: Outdoor shot of Cheers, Seinfeld restaurant, Friends apartment in NYC)
    • Interviews: typically head and shoulder shot - close, but not too close.
    • Zooming in for intimacy, intensity
    • Zoom forces viewer to focus on something
  • 10. Video Technique, Continued
    • Wider shots to see interview subject in context of a particular situation
    • Odd angles add intensity ("God shot," MTV shot)
    • Action style, keeping things moving: either characters move or the camera moves
    • Lots of “talking heads” feels like TV journalism
    • Shooting same thing from as many angles as possible - creates more editing options
  • 11. Scripting Technique
    • Script follows your story structure:
    • Beginning, middle, end
    • (Sounds obvious but not always easy)
    • Uses at least one of two elements:
    • Narrator voice and character voice
    • Most documentaries use both
  • 12. Script Narration and POV
    • Narration always has a point of view
    • Third-Person Narrator
    • (narrator never seen, just heard; disinterested)
    • Self-injected narrator (seen, but not in plot - 60 Minutes, TV journalism, Michael Moore)
    • Character narrator (”I’m Priscilla Presley, and this is our family’s story...")
    • No narration: characters speak for themselves
    • Example: Riding the Rails
  • 13. Scripts are heard, not read
    • Narration isn't literature - it's oral, conversational
    • "If a three-syllable word can be said in a one-syllable word, change it!"
    • - Nat Geo scriptwriter John Goodman
    • Tone of narration shouldn't vary during the documentary
    • Multiple narrators don’t always work
    • Use lots of action verbs - avoid overuse of descriptive adjectives and adverbs.
    • Let the visuals be your adjectives
  • 14. Editing Technique: Music
    • Music can be a powerful element
    • It’s often a character in its own right
    • Example: Beach Clip
  • 15. Editing Technique: Pacing
    • Pacing of edits affects the tone
    • Faster edits picks up the pace, but requires more footage!
    • Slower edits means slower pace, but you get to milk your footage
    • Example: Parade Clip
  • 16. Editing Technique: A-Roll vs. B-Roll
    • A-Roll: your primary footage (interview subjects in particular)
    • B-Roll: secondary footage used to support interview or narration, also used to cover errors like “jump cuts”
    • A-Roll is melody, B-Roll harmony
    • When editing, you generally go back and forth
    • A-Roll of soccer match - B-Roll of fans - A-Roll of soccer match
    • Interview subject - B-Roll of what they're talking about - Interview subject
    • Example: The Guitarist
  • 17. Editing Technique: The Four Transitions
    • Cut: simplest transition from one shot to the next, usually in same location and time frame
    • Dissolve: graduate transition where shots overlap; often used to show change in location/time
    • Wipe: special effect transition where one scene seems to "wipe away" the other scene
    • Fade to Black: Scene literally goes black;
    • end of chapter or story
    • Example of transitions: India footage
  • 18. Remember: Always Serve the Story!
    • All of your tools should be used to contribute
    • to telling your story:
      • Video footage
      • Characters
      • Narration
      • Music
      • Edits
      • It’s like composing a symphony:
      • Each instrument contributes to the whole package!
  • 19.
    • Thank You!
    • Andy Carvin
    • [email_address]
    • www.digitaldivide.net
    • www.andycarvin.com