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    DVX100b Documentary - Thank you DVXUser!
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    Hi Everybody -- I finished my extremely bare bones rite of passage documentary about a year ago owing a huge debt of gratitude to the braintrust of DVXUser message boards. I went from not knowing anything at all about the camera to knowing just barely enough to get by and have it look decent -- but I was constantly looking to the board for help. I didn't post a lot of questions -- preferring instead to just read and read other peoples solutions to similar problems -- but never felt alone in my blind groping toward a finished product because of the passion, skill and humor of the members of this board. So, thank you! I couldn't have finished it without you. I've had a number of great screenings for my movie, including 3 festivals and now I sort of feel like a filmmaker. I hesitate to post the trailer because there are some low light shots that look so bad some of you will want to dig your own eyes out -- or mine -- but I'm going to do it anyway because 1. we're all still learning, 2. I'm actually proud of the way the finished movie came out, warts and all, and 3. you'll have trouble finding where I live to beat me up. Here's the link to the trailer http://www.tendingfires.org/ It's probably as bad as you think it is, but it's not as bad as it could be.


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    Looks like a good story, and that's the most important thing. You deserve a lot of kudos for finishing something many others merely dream of doing.




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    Thank you. There is a story there and the structure for the doc came to me at the very beginning -- it's what gave me the courage to take it on at all. (And even so it took about 4 years start-to-finish. ) I didn't know what would happen or what people would say or do, but I knew the form the movie would take and my beginning, middle and end. I can't imagine shooting a documentary where I'm searching for the ending...


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    Perhaps you could explain what happened during the four years. After watching the trailer, I would have assumed the bulk of the shooting happened over the course of that night, the days before, and perhaps ensuing days.




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    Yes, you're right. The event itself was where there was a lot of shooting. And there were a number of interviews before the weekend, some immediately after, and then still more 6 months later. I had 90 percent of my footage after about 6 months. I started an edit and then floundered. I was worried that I didn't have perspective -- it was a very meaningful event and could so easily become mawkish or sentimental, I didn't trust my ability to tell the right story. This was a totally one man project, I was driven to make it, and also I wasn't under any deadline. It was a huge amount of material and I decided to sit on it for awhile and get some distance. This was dangerous, I know. And it didn't take long for the "I need perspective" feeling to morph into "I should get back to that" and then "Documentary? What documentary?"

    3 things made a huge difference going from raw footage to finished movie.
    1: I had to make the commitment to finish it. And to get there I needed to see where this project fit into my larger life goals. Was I serious about being a filmmaker? Did I want to do a wide range of projects? Yes? Then I needed to get off my ass and do it. It stopped being an "I should get back to that someday" project and became something I put on a schedule. I picked a local festival deadline and starting working toward it.
    2: I created a physical space to work in that was designated for editing. I stopped using the home computer with the internet distractions and home finances and kids games on it, and set up an editing station in a corner of my house where I could work. I put two desks together, I bought a used computer wtih FCP on it, got a second monitor. I made shelves. The more intention I put into supporting the process of making the movie, the realer it became -- even though I was still not working on it, I was working on it.
    3: I wrote a script for my documentary. I made transcripts of all the interviews and organized the material ON PAPER and put it into script form. This made the editing a very efficient process -- or at least got me to a rough cut in a much much shorter time than otherwise. At the risk of being tedious, Il'm going to cut and paste a blog post I wrote about this.


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    TRANSCRIPTIONS: USEFUL
    I made the choice to type out the transcriptions of all my interviews and all my footage. Over 50 hours of it. Me, sitting with the footage. Listening to a line or two and then typing it in. Then listening to a line or two, then typing it in. I am insane in many ways, for many reasons, but this seemingly tedious process was one of the smartest things I did when making this movie. Here's why:

    First, searching through video looking for usable sections is an enormous time suck. More than once I found myself trying to piece together footage around a common theme and getting lost down a rabbit hole looking for something from a specific interview -- only to emerge an hour later blinking and disoriented, reviewed a lot of footage but having made no progress in my time line.
    The hard truth of editing is that after all the perfect obvious golden and usable chunks of footage have been skimmed off the top -- the real work of panning through your material for flakes begins. Transcriptions are essential for this. Scanning through text is easy (and it's searchible!) Marking off blocks of text is easy. Highlighting material to reference it later is easy.

    I wanted to have a section where all the parents talk about their sons wanting to drive. So when I found a line or section about it, I marked it. When I got to the script stage, I was able to very easily go through all the transcripts and look for all the sections pertaining to "driving" and put them on the table and see what I had. (It turned out to be a much smaller thing than I originally thought...) Trying to find the words "He desperately wants to drive" by scrolling through an hour of video would have been stupidly time-consuming.

    But there was a greater benefit to physically transcribing the words myself: I was getting to know the material of my documentary very very well. I was not just logging footage with notes that said "good vid", I was developing a much more intimate working knowledge of my material than I had before -- even though I shot it. Even though I conducted all the interviews. It wasn't until I started typing it all in that I was able to understand deeply the content of the interviews -- what people were really saying (and not what I thought they were saying) and start making connections for the whole project. The larger pieces fell into place quickly.

    I could have sent the audio files to a transcription service but -- being lazy by nature -- I'm not sure I would have sat down and read through hundreds of pages of transcripts with any real thoroughness.

    The physical act of typing out the transcripts was not difficult for me -- I broke it up, only a half an hour at a time. And it was not tedious drudgework -- it was exciting. Going through my interviews, reviewing all my material in depth -- deeply internalizing what I had by copying it down -- this was where the documentary began to coalesce. In a way, it's where the editing began. It's also when I got serious about making the documentary. Shooting footage is easy. Making sense of it is the hard part.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Doc Peter View Post
    [...]

    But there was a greater benefit to physically transcribing the words myself: I was getting to know the material of my documentary very very well. I was not just logging footage with notes that said "good vid", I was developing a much more intimate working knowledge of my material than I had before -- even though I shot it. Even though I conducted all the interviews. It wasn't until I started typing it all in that I was able to understand deeply the content of the interviews -- what people were really saying (and not what I thought they were saying) and start making connections for the whole project. The larger pieces fell into place quickly.
    This is the difference between doing it yourself or allowing software to do it for you.

    The closest I've come to doing anything with remotely as much work was when I edited the raw footage from my parents' wedding in 1964. It was in color, no sound, way too much footage, and suffered from dropped frames, discoloration that came and went and other problems from having sat for 41 years.

    It took me about 6 months to add realistic sounds and band music, clean it up, and whittle it down. It was so satisfying to finish. I was using Pinnacle back then: first and last time.

    You'll have to look for a new project. Don't say you "sort of feel like a filmmaker" because you are a filmmaker. What you've done is very inspiring to me. I live in Israel, where there are many, many different kinds of stories to be told. My excuse has always been that I don't know Hebrew well enough to make a film but that kind of thinking needs to change.

    Are you planning on making it viewable on the web?




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    Thank you, Jordan S. I would like to make the movie available for live streaming or download -- instead of just on DVD -- but haven't done the research yet and have been distracted by other things.. If there's a service or system that someone could recommend, I'm all ears.

    I will say that another aspect of working on the movie that was extremely helpful was showing cuts of it to different people at different times. I'm not an overly showy person and it was hard for me to put it out there in its unfinished stages -- but the feedback I received was extremely valuable. Sometimes it wasn't what they said but how they shifted in their seats or otherwise lost their interest in certain sections that I took notice of and made sure to work on . I gave it to people I trusted, I listened to their comments and made changes. The movie is better because of it. It's very humbling to show a rough draft, and extremely valuable, too.

    Putting it out there on kickstarter also gave it a big boost -- money, yes ($8000) but also general support and acknowledgment and awareness building made it very helpful. I had a built in audience based on the trailer and some very successful screenings came out of it...


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    Senior Member Adam J McKay's Avatar
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    Your page has been hacked.


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    Oh boy. (What a bizarre place to put their hacking energy.) Thanks for letting me know. I'll try to fix this today.


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