A little over two weeks ago I moved from North Carolina to Denver, Colorado. I grew up in Boulder, CO so it is not a completely new change for me. I was, and still am, worried about making a documentary about North Carolina dancers while living 1500 miles away from my subject, but sometimes you have to be able to go with the flow.
So now we are here and I am a month behind my editing schedule. Honestly, I am more than a month behind because in my original schedule I planned on being finished shooting after about three months, which would have been May 2011. In reality I finished up just before I left, literally shooting a promo with Alessandra four days before the moving truck arrived at my house. I have over forty hours worth of footage that I am hoping to carve into a 95-110 minute piece.
It’s easier to begin editing a narrative piece because you have a script in front of you and everything is already in order. Theoretically, you already know the beginning and the end; you may already have storyboards depicting the order of the shots. Of course, I think editing a narrative gets harder as you go along because it can become restrictive there are many more “rules” that you have to follow to maintain the suspension of disbelief required to make the film work. You can break said rules, but you have to have a reason or a motivation to really make it work. Sometimes finding that motivation becomes difficult because the script and the footage can reach an impasse. For instance an actress may choose to be stoic when the script called for her to cry. This could point the character and, thus, the story in a new direction.
A documentary can be harder to begin editing because you have to find the story in all the footage that you’ve shot before you can really sit down in front of the computer. It isn’t as clearly defined because when you are shooting you never know exactly what will occur in front of the camera. There is no script and you have to hope you get what you need to make a story work. It is very easy to make a documentary subject driven, in that you are simply showing what happened instead of building characters with distinct arcs that come together to create a story.
Lately I have to remind myself that I am not as far behind as I feel. No matter where I ago, whether or not my computer is in front of me I am thinking about this film, these characters, and their story. So, hopefully, next week I will sit down in front of my computer and it will all come together.