As documentary filmmakers, we put our whole selves into our films and naturally become entwined with them. There comes a point in the filmmaking process where we could use an experienced objective eye to tell us what is working, what is not, and provide fresh ideas to help hone
the perfect story.
Throughout my career, I have used my intuitive storytelling skills, communication knowledge, and neuro-divergent pattern recognition abilities to craft powerful documentaries. Then recently I was asked by some filmmaker friends to provide feedback on their works-in-progress. To my own surprise, I quickly fell in love with story consulting. Helping filmmakers refine their stories and amplify the voices of their participants - watching their films come to life - there is nothing like it! Creative collaboration is one of life's greatest gifts and the more we work together, the more powerful our creations become.
Pre-Production and Production
Consider this scenario: You are a first time documentary director having just wrapped shooting your film. You sit down in the edit room and start assembling your film only to find things are not coming together as planned. Footage is missing. You shot a live event, but no exteriors, no cutaways, no close ups, or reaction shots. Your interviewee spoke beautifully, but you're missing the sound bites needed for context and clarity. You have plenty of interviews, but not enough vérité footage to build a scene. You have plenty of informative footage, but can't seem to find your story. Or the story you were planning on telling, is not coming across in the edit. At this point it may be too late to reshoot any missing footage and you are limited by what you have.
Now take a deep breath because this worst case scenario can easily be avoided!!
As an editor, I have faced many of these issues and more. Using this experience, I can help you anticipate your film's needs before they become problems in post. Whether you're in pre-production or production, it is always a good practice to consult a documentary editor throughout your documentary filmmaking process whether or not she will be your editor in post.
If you just came up with your idea, let's talk about the best possible approach to your story that will ensure clarity and a powerful emotional connection with your audience. Who is your audience? Is your topic specific enough to capture their attention? Is your topic too specific and in need of a universal approach to generate relatability? Could your general topic benefit from a personal perspective? Does your idea lend itself better to a feature film, short film, or a series? Together we will devise a plan that will give your story the greatest chance of success.
If you are midway in your production schedule, we review what you have shot so far and how you are feeling about the film. Then I help you to create extensive shot lists complete with interview questions, vérité ideas, B-roll, additional sounds, additional subjects, etc. Perhaps you could benefit by following one of your characters traveling, attending an event, going to an appointment, running errands, doing chores, having a phone conversation, resting at home, going for a walk, revisiting a significant location. Including an interview with multiple experts on your topic or with someone who disagrees with your main character can help create a well rounded film and distinguish the appearance of bias. Shooting close up details of your main character's home can provide you with B-roll to establish the setting or tone. It can even get you out of a bind if you've edited yourself into a corner. These things may not seem like much, but any one of them can be the difference between a bare disjointed final edit and a profound flowing film.
As your story consultant, I delve into your current cut with both the eye of an editor and objective audience member. With your goal in mind, I watch for clarity and effectiveness. I look to see that all scenes, shots, music, dialogue, etc. are all in support of the overall theme. I check for rhythm and flow and provide suggestions on how to best smooth out any rocky areas. Depending upon how far along your cut is, I also pay close attention to the length of shots, the order of sound bites, dialogue/shots/scenes, the pairing of shots and dialogue, the juxtaposition of all the elements and the implications this creates, the pairing of scenes and music, transitions, use of sound, rhythm and timing, etc. My goal is to make sure that your message is coming across in the most powerful and effective way.
Once I have finished making meticulous notes on what is working and what could possibly use some tweaking, I compile everything into the form of an easy-to-follow list that coincides with the order of your film. The level of detail will depend on how far along your film is in the editing process. The further along an edit is, the more I focus on the minutiae of the edit. I am happy to provide multiple feedback sessions throughout your post production process.