ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Yes. —

The problem with filmmaking is that everyone has advice but a lot of advice is specific to that filmmaker. Sometimes people have general ideas that are probably of use to a set of folks, like how to do cheap-ass dolly shots or cheap-ass lightsaber effects. But other times, the big questions like “how do you edit” and “how do you sell it” are all kind of different for different goals.

My documentaries have not (up to this point) been things where I write out the answers and the “script” (a set of planned points) and then go out and film things. I go out and find a nice swath of people on points of a spectrum, and hit them up for questions, and then go carefully through the answers. I don’t go into an interview saying “This is the ‘Text Adventures were a New Kind of Literature’ guy” and then force them through the grinder until they say what I need. Some people really do this. I won’t and I don’t even know if I can.

The downside of this is that I end up with a lot of footage, and right now, I go through things someone says with a fine tooth comb, and this is very time consuming. Time consuming enough that it’s going to take a while. When I come out the other end with my final quotes and collections of clips, I then start to assemble the actual production. This happens relatively fast, but it’s because of this massive backload of quotes and comments I’ve already collected. This is not dissimilar to how a restaurant gives you a nice meal in under 20 minutes, but it’s because of hours and maybe days of preparation that happened before that. Your meal didn’t take 20 minutes to make; it took many hours and the final bit was 20 minutes.

I don’t know what’s important or not. It might be a pause, it might be a gesture, it might be a statement. I collect statements together that are in a general sense the same ideas, but that’s pretty arbitrary. I also massively overshoot; this is a 120 hour collection of footage for what will likely be 3 hours of final product, so there’s a 1 to 40 filming ratio. (This is a lot for a sit-down documentary, but not a lot for a shot-on-the-run documentary). I just don’t know yet what will end up at the end.


A VERY IMPORTANT POINT: Jeremy Douglass, who is the fellow in the video clip above, is spending half the clip listening to me ask a question, and then is beginning to answer the question, when I cut him off. In other words, he’s edited for comedy in the clip, and is in fact portrayed absolutely opposite to how he answers questions in the clips I’ve saved. Editing, my friends, is everything.

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  1. Ryan Russell says:

    Having now had the opportunity to be interviewed by you twice in a short period, about the only thing I would have done different is to have you prompt me if I left something out. Such as “tell that story…” Assuming you had a use for it.

  2. Made me chuckle that clip. Well thought out answer, hehe. 🙂

    I find if it’s an off camera interviewer, getting the people on camera to “answer the question by asking the question” to be difficult. Some don’t get it, makes it hard to edit, without adding audio questions or splicing or some text. I wonder if that is what happened there…hehe.

    Video editing takes a long time if you only have a few hours of footage, I can’t imaging how 120 hours feels like…

    It’s epic, I hope you are able to get some of the stuff you don’t use online too, I am sure you’ll have to otherwise cut a lot of neat stuff (well, neat rather then “great” stuff of course, which will be in the film 🙂 ).

    I’ll keep lavishly praising you at least for your heavy efforts, so keep at it 😀

  3. Flack says:

    I hope this particular clip makes it as an extra on the DVD.

  4. Andre says:

    For me it is amazing how much it concerns you to reflect on documentary techniques and to deconstruct the documentary making process. It demonstrates that you want to get it right. However, everyone needs to deal with narratives. I am involved with the political process in digital media policy and here you have the same problem: you can frame your agenda in a way that works because it hacks into a generally accepted narrative but you know that narrative is plain wrong. So you take the attempt to try to get it right and communicate in an impossible way. It is difficult to get your message through, it is cheap to denounce your effort in 30 seconds, it takes time and a learning curve to spread the impossible message. But finally you succeed by breaking the narrative and the lobby/PR rules.

    Keep up your good work!