Out of everything we do, the most important part is telling compelling stories. In order to do that we have to work as a team. Here is one example of how I like to do that with our producers.
For our IBEW Hour Power channel, we produce a series called Band of Brotherhood, where we highlight veterans who have transitioned into the electrical industry. Before shooting a single frame for Episode 03 – Crystal Rourke, the producer (in this instance Mark) has several discovery phone conversations with everyone involved in the piece. They gather all the information from the person we’re highlighting, their coworkers, their family, and friends start the process of finding the key parts of the story. This is when the producer, our Director of Photography (Adam) and I all sit down to try and brainstorm the most effective way to tell and show the story. We kick around ideas and focus on what their struggles and successes were. We talk about what visuals we can film to emphasize those points and what tone we’re trying to create. All of this helps the post-production team know what to create in the edit on the back end. I end up taking a lot of notes, some of which end up being driving factors in the story and some are honestly just nonsense but that’s just part of the creative process. Getting all the clutter out of the way to focus on the most inspirational and influential parts is also a contributing factor. Another part of being a creative type is my absolutely terrible handwriting. Boom!
I know, right!?! It looks like a toddler wrote it and there are random capital letters and misspellings and fragments… is that jelly on it? My English professor would not be proud… but hey, we move on. Once we iron out all of the details they go and film it completely according to plan and I’m a happy editor, right? No, that’s not exactly how production works. They go out there and find out that one of the key parts of the story won’t work because of one reason or another, and there are schedule changes and conflicts. Then some person said some AMAZING sound bite on a new key part to the story so they have to film that now. Then it all comes back to the office and we meet again to discuss the changes in story and re-evaluate things. The producer cuts the narration down to the “essentials.”
Then we sit in post and cut those essentials to the more essential parts.
This is where I begin to find my inspiration. We collaborate on what we want to see and hear and feel and when the music transitions and when the story finds its peak. Then the editor just runs with it.
When editing, I’m cutting sections out here, giving breath there, and adding music breaks. The editor feels out every bit of the story. They make sure the narration isn’t overpowered by the music and the visuals match the theme. There are creative disagreements as an editor might think one shot is perfect but the producer thinks it’s lame. There are many long nights involved in the post process.
As an editor, you would create version after version, getting hyped on a music track that hits at just the right word. You end up getting so into the story that it moves you. You HAVE to care and put all of that care into the film. That’s the ONLY way that someone on the other end is going to feel anything. It’s up to YOU to keep them feeling the film. You make them cry, you make them laugh and cringe and root for the characters. It’s about timing, thoughtfulness, and delivery. It’s about making the subject proud to have their story told and their journey conveyed in a way that makes others feel what it was like to be in it. Then, you finish it.
You and the producer watch it, make a few tweaks and pray that the client doesn’t destroy it. Of course, they won’t… it’s art… it’s perfect… it’s the best story ever told.
After you make the clients changes and polish things up, you hit export and celebrate your victory…with a meeting for the next project to start the process over. This time, no jelly on your notes Mike.