Friday, September 11, 2009

Notes for Beginners

I was just in another forum where I was asked to give advice for beginning documentarians.

For some of you this will be a review - but hopefully helpful non the less.

As a veteran, award winning editor, I've seen too many independent (read - self financed and beginning) filmmakers shoot and shoot and shoot and not give much thought to their story beyond the initial idea.

In response, I've started a workshop and we really hash out a lot in there that has really been helpful to my students.

We think about WHAT do I really want to say or explore with my film -

We ask HOW do I want to say it -

Because sure, you can interview 25 people about junk food, or you can follow yourself around while you eat only junk food for a month.

The HOW is often the most elegant part of creating a really good doc.

Also we pay attention to the ongoing conflict between what the main character Wants and Needs - and how this evolves into a satisfying transformation.

We also identify the different aspects and wider themes that come up in our story - because really - my favorite documentaries are always Trojan Horses for bigger issues and questions than I realized I was going to get into when I started watching - that is the true gift you give your viewers - so why not start thinking about it before you're done shooting so you can have that material when you start editing?

My students have all gotten a lot out of going through this process - both in how their final films will end up, but also in terms of saving $ by shooting what speaks to what they want to say and how they want to say it.

Stephanie Hubbard

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