Academy Seminar Series

Perspectives on Editing: Editing for Documentary Films 10/6/09

1st use of the word “documentary” = “document of reality” in the New York Sun in 1926 about Robert Flaherty’s film Moana
more truth than recreated reality
Lumière brothers 1st documentaries pre-1900 edited ‘in camera’
1907 1st documentary recreation of real incident = Stanford white murder
1900-1920 “scenics”/travelogues; Berlin, Symphony of a City in Europe
escaping the “bourgeois excess” of dramatic fiction (Vertov)
types: newsreels; propaganda; cinéma vérité (editor makes the narrative)

Kate Amend
Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000)
-secretive so there was no actual footage
-convey traumatic experience
-create shots of train; researchers found (abstract) train footage then slowed down to give dreamlike memory quality
-subjects brought photos — then effects to add movement to photos
-bigger budget than Beah
-watch dailies, select moments from interviews; director had a good idea of how to unfold stories
-super 16–>35mm
Beah: A Black Woman Speaks (2003)
– ~30 40-min interviews while she is sick (she died shortly after)
-they didn’t want a biography but a history of her life as political figure, teacher, actress, and how she is facing death
-“so in the ‘I am’ thing” (Beah)
-LisaGay Hamilton: 1st time filmmaker; didn’t start out to make a film just wanted to talk with Beah (they had met working on Beloved); she was also the narrator
-structure is not linear
-use of Beah’s poetry throughout

William Cartwright
-started out working on Paul Coates television documentaries
-the point of editing is to build energy of a piece
Four Days in November (1964)
-JFK assassination; began work on this while still finished up The Making of the President 1960
-newsreel footage and voice-overs; additional voice-over; photo of death scene not footage
-shots of clocks around Dallas to keep time-frame; shot along w/ book depository footage and driving scenes by crews who flew down to Dallas
-16mm–>35mm (doesn’t blow up well, but adds a certain feel)
-detail of Presidents steak being one chosen at random of 2500
-shots of protesters (“Hail Ceasar” [sic])
-“we lost something great…he was not an ordinary man” (Cartwright)
Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision (1994)
-Vietnam Memorial
-how film arrives at design (first time we see it is the watercolor)
-then hear the veteran’s dislike of it
-but the immediacy of a person’s name on a wall — being able to touch it
-Cezanne’s theory of cones, spheres, cubes
-her other designs (e.g. in Montgomery, at Yale) include water — living quality

Joe Bini
Grizzly Man (2005)
-Timothy was protecting bears in a national park (already protected); 100 hrs of his footage
-they edited in 6 wks
-when they first watched his footage they didn’t like him, but grew to respect him as filmmaker
-first half is building up the circumstances; second is looking at the psychology of the man
-central thing to be dealt w/ in the film is the tape; one theme of Herzog’s is exploitation
-inventive directorial choice — his listening to the tape then disposing of it
-juxtaposed next w/ scene of bear fight then Timothy
Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (2008)
-80 interviews in about 5 years + archived footage + his films and their soundtracks
-film focuses on his trial
-titles instead of narration
-his version vs her version and how they overlap — 2 opinions that amount to nearly the same thing (Rashomon)
-life imitating art (The Fat and the Lean) judge staged the trial

Brian Johnson
Buena Vista Social Club (1999)
-150 hrs of footage
-24-track applied over camera sound; Ry Cooder remixed for the film
-Ibrahim in his apartment–>live session juxtaposed with street scenes in Cuba
-the vivid colors of the rusty automobile
Fighting for Life (2008)
-trained doctors and nurses of the armed forces
-shots at the school, then the graduates in Germany, the the wounded in Iraq, then back to Germany, then to Walter Reed Naval Hospital
-need to have lighter scenes intermixed to give the audience a break so it’s not so oppressive and depressing

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One Response to Academy Seminar Series

  1. Adam says:

    My great aunt was on the Kindertransport. She was the only person in her family to survive the war.

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