ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Cutting Out Friends —

It all starts out pleasant enough – we were together at the beginning, long before outsiders would even get a glimpse of what we’re up to.

Our friendship was forged when it was just the interviewee speaking, having a conversation that would stretch out to an hour or two. 60-120 minutes of footage of someone being asked to play in a pop quiz of their own life and experiences, where the best prize would be to have their story told to hundreds or maybe even hundreds of thousands. Later.

Eventually, this one hour conversation ends up as clips on a drive, long and possibly rambling statements made during that 60-120 minutes of footage. These new clips are anywhere from 2-5 minutes. The footage and I are still buddies, since the gist of everything is said, and who can blame anyone for making break points during the parts where questions are asked, or when the conversation pauses, or when someone walks into frame?

At some point, though, we enter the editing process in full force, and then the friendship becomes a little strained.


It’s hard to keep anyone’s attention these days, and especially so if the presentation is a monologue of self-directed answers to questions no longer in the footage.  While the clips all have personality and verve of some fashion, endlessly showing them, repeating phrases all over, would be very hard to watch. Unwatchable, really. So cuts are made, and the footage is cut down.

If two people say the same thing with a minor difference, you want the thing said with maybe the minor difference presented to back it up.  In this way, you can take two 30-second clips and turn them into one 35 second clip, and make it have all the same information.

But in doing so, you’re making quite a sacrifice – you’re choosing one person to have more screen time, to be the authority, and the second person to have to play second fiddle. It’s quite a choice.

So then, what happens when it’s 5 people – or 10? Then you start to pull words, phrases and looks together. And then your little footage friends are very angry at you.


Everything is one crazy sandwich of thoughts and gestures, of people completing each other’s sentences.  It’s a fabric, really – a tapestry of the footage, woven into interlocking patterns that emerge only when all these clips and cut-down moments are placed side by side. It’s a new event, a new happening.

And at the end of it, the audience is pleased indeed. They get a woven piece of art that educates and entertains. What they do not realize is over 50 times as much information and thought is gone with each passing minute they watch. Nor do most feel they have to. But that time is out there, or, I should say, back there, twice spent (the time itself and then review of that time later).

Sometimes you have to recall what you’re choosing when you make the choices you do. I can live with them, but I am reminded, deep in this process, what that entails.

Categorised as: documentary

Comments are disabled on this post


  1. Jason Scott says:

    It occurred to me after posting this that people might think I was talking of the interviewees themselves; in fact I am speaking of the footage itself. Yes, I’m feeling a tad poetic today.

  2. Ali Gündüz says:

    You’re finally glueing GET LAMP together? So, that was why you weren’t posting any blog entries these days.

    good news for me 🙂