My Experience Editing A Feature Length Documentary
The image above is my editing timeline since August of 2018. 50 minutes of a feature length documentary down, and still I am polishing our film “Center Of Hope” to get it ready for our June release. This has been a serious undertaking and honestly one of the HARDEST things I’ve ever had to edit in my entire life. I have had some challenges and some successes during this project and I would like to share my experience with you all.
In a few previous blog posts (check them out here) Heidi talked about how we trained and prepared ourselves for the production of “Center of Hope”. There is still more to making a film than actually filming it, and that part is post-production. When we got home from Uganda, we had a great sense of accomplishment, over 25 interviews filmed and over 40 hours of footage captured. Once that sense of accomplishment fades away you start to see the daunting prospect of taking that 40 hours of footage and trying to create a story that is just a little bit over an hour long.
It sounds intimidating to say the least, but during this process I learned quite a bit when it comes to long form editing.
Organization is KEY
Honestly the thing that helped out the most during this whole process was how detailed our production notes were. At the end of each day, all of our files were put on to 2 different hard drives (3 if you count the laptop we brought with us; you can never be too careful) and organized. Without this system and notes from our log-book I might still be wondering where to even start.
Developing The Story
When I started editing this film, I had a general idea of the story that we wanted to tell about the H.E.L.P. School in Masese, Uganda. That first story idea has long since been changed several times over. When you start to watch the hours of footage captured, the story starts to naturally present itself. This I believe is another important lesson in editing (for pretty much anything). That lesson is to be open to any new idea that presents itself, and see if it works. If it doesn’t fit in the story, try something new! The key to a successful production is to be adaptable and open to anything.
After The First Cut
Martin Scorsese in one of his Masterclass videos said this, “if you don’t feel physically ill after seeing your first cut, then something is horribly wrong”. That might be paraphrasing a little bit but the message is there. Once I saw the first cut after a few weeks of down-time, I was in utter shock. The movie I had been working so hard on, was not what I thought it was a few weeks prior. There was quite a bit missing before this could be shown to anyone. These past few weeks I have been polishing away to make this film feel, well, like a film. The polishing stage of this process seems to be the most tedious, but it really is the most rewarding part of it all. When you start to watch the film come together with all the little pieces falling into place, there is just this feeling of relief.
We are proud of what we are producing, and even though it has taken a long time to edit, we are so happy to see all of the pieces coming together. This has been such an amazing learning opportunity and such a positive experience for me. There may have been times where I was intimidated by the prospect of this film, but when you push past that fear, something fantastic will show itself. We can’t wait to show you our movie!