Documentary Filmmaking: Finding the Story from Your Footage

Hosted by Eric Daniel Metzgar

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Eric Daniel Metzgar

Webinar hosted by: Eric Daniel Metzgar

Emmy Award Winning Documentary Filmmaker (Hulu's CRIME + PUNISHMENT, REPORTER, LIFE.SUPPORT.MUSIC)

Eric Daniel Metzgar is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and two-time Sundance Documentary Lab Fellow with extensive experience directing, producing, writing, and editing award-winning documentary films. He directed, shot and edited REPORTER, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, aired on HBO, and was nominated for an Emmy Award. He also directed, shot and edited LIFE.SUPPORT.MUSIC., which aired on PBS’s long-running documentary series POV, and THE CHANCES OF THE WORLD CHANGING, which also aired on POV and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Eric also edited and produced the Hulu documentary CRIME + PUNISHMENT, which won both an Emmy Award and Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize, and he edited GIVE UP TOMORROW and ALMOST SUNRISE, which were both nominated for Emmys and also aired on POV. Through his storied and heavily awarded history, Eric has positioned himself as a practiced and highly sought after editor and documentarian. He’s prepared to share what he knows with the Stage 32 community. Full Bio »

Webinar Summary

Documentary filmmaking is a very different game than narrative filmmaking, as any documentarian can tell you. Perhaps the most important difference between the two is that narrative filmmaking follows a script. The story is determined and developed before production begins. This is not the case with documentaries—it can’t be. Documentaries capture real life which is anything but predetermined. As a result the documentary filmmaking process is flipped and the story is crafted after production. Therefore perhaps the most important but least talked about stage of documentary filmmaking is the editing. Not the technical craft of editing, but storytelling, specifically finding and crafting the story from your footage. This doesn’t just make or break your documentary; it is your documentary. Yet this process of finding the story can be incredibly hard since it’s is often vastly different from the story in your head. But mastering this skill is the key to being a great documentary filmmaker and something that’s entirely within your grasp.

Most documentary filmmakers reach a stage in putting together their film where they believe they’re “too close to the footage” and “need fresh eyes.” At this point, they hope an outsider will help solve the problems arising in their edit. On the contrary, this is stage where the filmmaker needs to get closer to the footage and ask themselves some very big questions. More than the interviews, more than shooting footage, more than even the assembly edit, this is the moment that makes a documentary great; it’s not the time to tap out. Knowing what makes a good documentary story, which big questions to ask, and how to get out of tough narrative jams can make all the difference in putting together your project.

Eric Daniel Metzgar is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and the producer and editor of Hulu's documentary CRIME + PUNISHMENT, which won an Emmy and Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize. A two-time Sundance Documentary Lab Fellow, Eric has extensive experience directing, producing, writing, and editing award-winning documentary films. He directed, shot and edited REPORTER, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, aired on HBO, and was nominated for an Emmy Award. He also directed, shot and edited LIFE.SUPPORT.MUSIC., which aired on PBS’s long-running documentary series POV, and THE CHANCES OF THE WORLD CHANGING, which also aired on POV and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Eric also edited GIVE UP TOMORROW and ALMOST SUNRISE, which were both nominated for Emmys and also aired on POV. Through his storied and heavily awarded history, Eric has positioned himself as a practiced and highly sought after editor and documentarian. He’s prepared to share what he knows with the Stage 32 community.

Eric will teach you invaluable strategies to help you move through the inevitable difficult stages of your documentary editing journey and to stay on track when the going gets tough and all seems lost. He will begin by going over what makes a good documentary story in general, including beginnings, middles, and ends, arcs, stakes, and “releasing power”. He’ll then discuss how best to approach your own footage and determining if you have a story. He’ll explain differentiating between the footage and the story in your head, how to craft an outline, and create a reckoning with beats. He will also teach you what selects are and why they can make all the difference. Next Eric will give you tips on how to approach the initial assembly edit, where to start, how to stay motivated, how to avoid “the music trap” and the best way to start linking your scenes together. Then he will delve into the real editing after the assembly is completed. He’ll discuss rearranging, re-cutting, and deleting, how to fix the scenes that aren’t working and how to know when to kill your darlings. He will also give you tips on revisiting raw footage later on in the process and what to do when you hit those inevitable but painful roadblocks. Eric will focus on the two hardest parts of a documentary—beginnings and endings, and strategies to make them successful. Next Eric will go into strategies of how to be objective of your own project in order to figure out why it sucks. He will spend time giving tips and inspiration for what to do when you hit that dreaded brick wall and how to stay on track and hold on to your purpose when things get difficult. He’ll talk about getting others’ opinions and what you need to do to allow your film to be good, how to take it from good to great, shifting from the content to the form, fine tuning, working with the film as a whole, and how best to address lingering doubts. There’s nothing harder than editing a great documentary, but you will leave this webinar with a better understanding of how to be successful and a collection of strategies to help you navigate your way through.

 

"Editing a documentary is hard, period. There's no road map and no formula. But after editing a number of documentaries, I've learned a few things that I wish I'd known at the beginning of my journey, and I hope my experience can help others who are struggling to make their film as great as it can be."

-Eric Metzgar

What You'll Learn

  • What Makes A Good Documentary Story?
    • Beginnings, middles, and ends
    • Arcs
    • Stakes
    • “Releasing power”
  • Approaching Your Footage: Do You Have a Story?
    • Differentiating between the footage and the story in your head
    • Crafting an outline
    • Reckoning with beats
  • What Are ‘Selects’ and Why They Help
  • Jumping into the Assembly Edit
    • Where to start
    • Staying motivated
    • Avoiding “the music trap”
    • The best way to start linking scenes
  • The Real Editing
    • Rearranging, re-cutting, and deleting
    • How to fix the scenes that aren’t working
    • Killing your darlings
    • Revisiting raw footage
    • What to do when you hit roadblocks
  • Beginnings and Endings: The Two Hardest Parts
    • Making your beginning fun
    • Anatomy of a successful ending
  • Being Objective: Figuring Out Why It Sucks
  • Hitting the Brick Wall: How to Stay On Track and Hold on to Your Purpose When Things Get Difficult
    • What happens when you start hating your film?
    • Watching with fresh eyes
  • Getting Others’ Opinions
    • Who you should trust
    • What do you do when you get contradictory feedback?
  • Allowing Your Film to Become a Film
    • Taking it from good to great
    • Shifting from the content to the form
    • Fine tuning
    • Working with the film as a whole
    • Addressing lingering doubts
  • Q&A with Eric

About Your Instructor

Eric Daniel Metzgar is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and two-time Sundance Documentary Lab Fellow with extensive experience directing, producing, writing, and editing award-winning documentary films. He directed, shot and edited REPORTER, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, aired on HBO, and was nominated for an Emmy Award. He also directed, shot and edited LIFE.SUPPORT.MUSIC., which aired on PBS’s long-running documentary series POV, and THE CHANCES OF THE WORLD CHANGING, which also aired on POV and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Eric also edited and produced the Hulu documentary CRIME + PUNISHMENT, which won both an Emmy Award and Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize, and he edited GIVE UP TOMORROW and ALMOST SUNRISE, which were both nominated for Emmys and also aired on POV. Through his storied and heavily awarded history, Eric has positioned himself as a practiced and highly sought after editor and documentarian. He’s prepared to share what he knows with the Stage 32 community.

FAQs

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A: Yes! After the purchase of a live or On-Demand webinar, you will have on-demand access to the audio recording, which you can view as many times as you'd like for a whole year!

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