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The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling
 

The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling

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Documentary making and editing tips

Documentary making and editing tips

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    The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling Presentation Transcript

    • The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling Andy Carvin www.andycarvin.com www.digitaldivide.net [email_address]
    • What We’re Gonna Talk About
      • Story structure
      • Video technique
      • Scripting technique
      • Editing technique
    • Story Structure: 3 Parts
      • The Tease
      • The Body
      • The Conclusion
    • 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
    • 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
    • The Conclusion
      • Wrapping up, giving closure
      • Recaps point of story
      • Whatever you promised or asked in your tease needs to have been delivered
    • 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?
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • Editing Technique: Music
      • Music can be a powerful element
      • It’s often a character in its own right
      • Example: Beach Clip
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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!
      • Thank You!
      • Andy Carvin
      • [email_address]
      • www.digitaldivide.net
      • www.andycarvin.com