Producing : My documentary is stuck and I'm frustrated by Reid Kimball

Reid Kimball

My documentary is stuck and I'm frustrated

I've been working on my self-described life-changing documentary, WANTED: Crohn's End for over 3 years. I am thoroughly stuck in the editing process right now and getting really discouraged. I have a Trello board full of sequence ideas and lots of interview content already filmed. I just can't seem to focus, or know how to do certain ideas, or where to start. I look at it all and I think I can do it all, but I just haven't done shit for a long time. This is my first film. What do I do?

Christopher G. Contreras

Make a list of all of the things you need to do, then focus on one task at a time. I understand how difficult and tedious the editing process can be. If you don't know how to do specific editing techniques, do some research. There are a ton of things online that will show you how to do whatever you want.

Reid Kimball

Thanks Chris.

Rachael Saltzman

Do you have a full script written with the arc and story you want to tell?

Reid Kimball

Not a full script, no. But I have an outline.

Daniel Adam Willis

No script, no path, no wonder your feeling lost. Pull back from your story board and put pen to paper then put pictures to the pen.

Randy Hall

Well, it's a documentary. It doesn't need a script. It sounds like you need a fresh set of eyeballs to look over what you have and see what you're not able to see. If you have any film editors in your network, I'd start there and have them screen what you currently have. Having a treatment (the documentary equivalent of a screenplay) would be helpful if only to outline what you envision the film should be. But since you've filmed and have footage, it's best to focus on what interviews you want to show without concern for picture (just the words) and then go back and lay down b-roll (or figure out what b-roll you need and go find it) to get the look you want. I'm happy to help however I can, message me if you need more motivation or to discuss.

Rachael Saltzman

Documentaries absolutely have scripts. They do not resemble narrative scripts in the way you're thinking, they resemble industrial scripts.

Randy Hall

I know what you mean, in that you would put down voiceover narration into a script. But if he's shot his material and is in the editing room, the utility of a script in the sense of organizing his work is diminished. This is my workflow, I've never found myself quite as stuck as Reid seems to describe it, so perhaps stepping back to paper is the answer for him. However, I still think a fresh set of eyeballs from an experienced film editor will do more to clear whatever creative block he's suffering than writing it out.

Rachael Saltzman

That's also very helpful. A friend of mine was editing a doc - none of the editors were happy with it, so they all respectively had coffee with a friend in the industry and asked what was wrong. We all had pretty much the same answers.

Rachael Saltzman

Those scripts are more than v.o. and stingers, they create the arc for the project.

Randy Hall

I think of the treatment being the primary vehicle for "creating the arc". We might actually be talking about the same thing, just using different terms to describe it.

Rachael Saltzman

Sounds that way :)

Brian Heath

you started with a specific idea of what story you wanted to tell and maybe things shifted. You should look at your treatment if there is one, your log line if there is one and see if you can find out if you shot the story you wanted. If your footage/interviews/visuals are not lining up with your outline try creating an edit list of the clips that tell the story you need convey. post out a 2-3 minute clip of that story and get your head back into it. you may have way too much footage of things that are not important to the story to keep your head in it. Tell the story first, short and sweet and see if you still love it. a good doc will leave you learning something specific or wondering about the unknown. which one is yours. keep it simple.

Mike Blum

Reid, if you have money or can raise money you should hire an editor. Filmmaking isn't a solo art. Work with people who specialize. You could also consider hiring a story consultant who specializes in docs. Seeing your arc thru 10s or 100s of hours of footage is difficult.

Felipe Grossi Togni

Recently I finished my first documentary, and one thing I learned is that you need a plan. A few questions you may ask your self is: Who else do I need to interview? What action sequences will I need to fit along with the interviews? After I went to the editing room I came back a few times to shoot more scenes... But I had in mind who I wanted to talk to...

Cliff Zed

When was the last time you had a vacation from everything? Maybe you're suffering from burnout. Need a chance to recharge.

Simon © Simon

Go to your Script or Story. Pick the best scene to paint the picture. And so on. I shoot out of sequence all the time. I sometimes have 3 different versions of the same story part. I sometimes use a culmination of all 3 or conversely I use only one. Editing is like cooking. Sometimes a few ingredients will get you there. Other times it requires a multitude of ingredients for the perfect medley. IF all else fails. Do this sparingly. Figure out the Documentary in your case you want to emulate. Watch it and take notes for inspiration on how you can apply it's direction and or edit to your scenario. Finally, what you think is perfect today will be in need of tuning up in a year. I have read this from a mentor over on Adobe Forum. Rick Gerrard (MVP) "Sometimes editing boils down to knowing when to stop editing."

Reid Kimball

Hi everyone, thanks for the awesome suggestions. I have taken this to my workflow and for the few mornings I have spent my first hour of work making progress.

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