A peek inside the documentary editing process
What goes on behind the scenes when you need to take 40 hours of footage and condense it into a coherent one hour documentary? The first step: organizing!
Editor Catherine Legault makes cards of all the potential scenes and colour codes them – one colour for China, another for Canada and different colours depending on which ‘character’ is the main one in that scene. Our main goal is to keep the film on Vivian’s story of her return to China, the country where she was adopted from, while still highlighting the story of Shumin, a girl who was adopted locally within the same province in China around the same time. Their meeting and how it affects each of them is the story we’re working to create as a film.
The cards go up on the wall in the order Catherine thinks will work to tell the film’s story. These story aids will be moved and restuck many times throughout the edit! During the first scene assembly and the next stage rough cut, some scenes will eventually be dropped if they feel repetitive or out of place, or if the film is just too long.
Co-director Maureen Marovitch and Catherine then discuss the order and watch some of Catherine’s early edit attempts to see if the flow of the film is working as planned. Some parts do, others don’t so it’s back to shuffling scenes, adding narration, and trying new ways to put the elements together.
The edit book seen here is a book of everything that’s been shot, carefully transcripted. Yes, that took many hours and several people! With so much material, it can be easy to lose track of great clips or moments. It also helps the director find just the right interview line easily when not at the edit suite. It also will help us keep an archive of the material for the future, if we ever revisit the story in a future film.
By the end of this weekend, Catherine will have put in many late hours and we’ll have Rough Cut #1. Then there will be Rough Cut #2, the Fine Cut and finally, Picture Lock. The date for Picture Lock is slated for that is end of January. Then it’s all the sound editing and design. But that’s a future blog entry. Now, it’s back into the picture edit suite!