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Making a Short Documentary

Lesson 34 of 35

Short Doc Created from Pre Shoot: Resonant


Making a Short Documentary

Lesson 34 of 35

Short Doc Created from Pre Shoot: Resonant


Lesson Info

Short Doc Created from Pre Shoot: Resonant

I think with that we may be ready to watch... Resonant. (laughs) The final cut. The final cut. By the way, so in our studio, we have banished the word final. And the reason being is that we were using final, like you have your rough cut and then you had you know your cut, you know resonant, underscore, final. And then we would realize that um, oh we still need to change a couple things, like I wanna rework, you know, Takumi playing in the studio. So then we'd have final final. And then we'd have final final final. And then we'd have final final final with a date. You know, so we banished it completely from the vocabulary in our studio. So you'll never see that. So here we go, enjoy. (violin music) In general, you hear a violin you say, ah it's a violin. But they all have their own character. Like people, we all sound a little different. If you work with them over time, you start to hear the subtle differences and you can hear if something's not quite right or if that's just the c...

haracter of the instrument. My workshop's in West Seattle. I do violin repair and restoration. I've been in the business about 16 years. To make a violin you can count on about six weeks of work if you're working steadily. Then you have to varnish the instrument, and that can take, eh maybe start to finish, about three months. I have seen some 3D printed ones that use some carbon impregnated plastic. It's an interesting science project, but I still like the wood that are completely done by hand the best. I love the workmanship and the history, the craftsmanship that goes into making 'em. Everything's handmade, so it can all be taken apart and put back together again. Sometimes they'll sound nasal, congested, you know, sound tight or sometimes they'll sound slightly hollow and wolfy on the other side. And so something like that's going on, then there's a problem. (tools clatter) The time you spend learning how to work on the instrument is kind of equivalent to the time you spend learning how to play the instrument. Not a lot of makers are great violinists. More often than not we're good at making or repairing, not so much at playing. (notes resonate) So it sounds, all the sound we want to be coming out of the sound holes, though. It's open then it won't sound quite right and it doesn't feel right either, so I can (strums violin) feel how it's vibrating, listen to the ringing of the instrument, and I hear that it's got a lot of power, you know. (notes ring) and the response is excellent. (footsteps echoing) (mumbling) Would you like to see it before we start? Takumi stops by occasionally and just has me go over the adjustment. I've been looking after his violin for a few years. Alright. (emotional violin music) I think, what I feel is, it's just a tiny bit muffled on the G I think, or on the low register a little bit. Okay. It's important to work with the player and find out how they're feeling, how the instrument's responding in their hand. That's where you really dial in the sound of the instruments. (violin music) I think I like it, actually. Yeah? Mmmhmm. Okay, I hear the difference definitely. It's more chorus sound instead of the... I think I can, it feels that way to me. Okay. Does it sound alright? Yeah, it sounds good to me. So like, uh, does everything feel better? It does, mm-hmm. Okay. (energetic violin music) At first they all sound like a violin. It takes time to train your ear to hear it. (violin music) They have a lot of personality. It's a pleasure to get to work on 'em. (dramatic violin melody) (applause) Not too shabby for one day of shooting and one day of editing. Right? So hopefully it looks like more than that, but it is possible, it's humanly possible. We are here to testify. (laughs) So you got to hear the audio before and you know it was all in there other than the one sound byte we pulled, and then I subbed out the sound byte that David had asked us not to include and I put in instead a little bit more information from him about how long it takes to make a violin, which I thought was also really interesting. The funny thing is, I don't even know that this is the same edit I would do if I did it next week. You know there are a million ways to skin a cat. And as I mentioned when I was looking at some of the footage in the pre-shoot video from our session with Takumi here, I looked at it and I thought, oh I would like to recut that and I kinda wish I had used the more up tempo piece at the end to kind of vary the dynamic of, you know there are ways that I would already improve on what I've done. So it's not even like at the stage I'm at, it's not like I do it and (brushes hands) oh yeah. You know, that was it. This could be improved on. And it also could be mixed up and experimented with, so that I could flip order. I could start with Takumi performing his masterful solo and then transition. I mean there's so many ways that this could've been handled. So this is one version of this story. But you've gotten to see all these building blocks that it took to get there. So then how do you make that decision on when to stop? I find that difficult sometimes, I mean obviously with like a client project it's probably a little easier because there's a deadline, but for a personal project how do you decide like I could keep going forever, I need to call it quits and be happy with where it's at? Right, when it goes live. That's it. When it goes live, you're done. You're done and yeah. And then you can just, it's in your imagination how much better it could've been. I always think of this, Annie Lamott, who is a writer, I once heard her speak and she said, she's a very accomplished writer and sold many many books, and she said I have all I can do to stop myself from going into bookstores and marking up my own books with a red pen. (audience laughs) So I don't know that you're ever satisfied. But yeah, when it goes live you're done. There are a couple of things in here in terms of editorial decisions that were made that just to add, as you think about it as you watch it and I believe we're gonna watch it again because I'd love to talk through what was there. What worked? Why? What were those decisions? How did I get there? I'd love to know what worked or didn't work as a viewer thinking about it. You guys if you can go back in your head to that pre-shoot video where you heard his interview. 'Cause you got a long excerpt of that interview. And think about what you heard in that interview versus how far we came in this finished piece. Because we did have somebody who, he's a bit monotone in his delivery, hard to kind of get the vibrancy out, but clearly passionate about what he does. Right? So the passion was there, but maybe the delivery didn't convey. So, you know, about the sound byte choices, thinking about what made it into this finished video. Maybe you heard something in the pre-shoot video that you thought, oh I'm surprised that didn't make it in. I wonder why? I thought that was really interesting. And I probably missed some great sound bytes, you know in hind sight, which is 20/20. Well I know you also struggled with finding a closer. A closing statement, you know. Yeah. He didn't have anything that was definitive as a closer. Nothing that kind of neatly tidied it up, or wrapped it, or kind of left me gazing up at the clouds contemplating. So I kind of looped back to the beginning, this closing byte is a bit of a repetition from the beginning. But he closes by saying, you know, it takes a while to train your ear, but every violin has it's own character. Which is what he opened with saying. And then his final comment is, it's a pleasure to with them, something like that. Which is a meh as a closer. You probably didn't even remember that he said that. You see? There are a couple things in there, I knew in my head as I was shooting and as I started to edit that I was picturing opening up just looking at the objects themselves. These beautiful objects. And so it's a series of shots up top that are just the violins and the bows. It's a bunch of rack focus, also. I used that in addition to a few, a couple of cross dissolves. You know most editors who've been working a while are not fans of cross dissolves. Again, it's a tool that you use as infrequently as possible. It's a cheat in a way. Everybody when they start editing uses lots of cross dissolves because it makes that beautiful, blending seamless edit happen. The more experienced you are, again, it's a way to kind of, cross dissolves are there to help you really convey a passage of time more than anything, in terms of the way that they function visually. They help you kind of smooth a passage of time. When you find yourself using them a lot, it's to smooth bad edits. (laughs) You know so to be thinking about would this work without a cross dissolve? So in the very opening few shots I have cross dissolves because I felt that the music was very slow and drawn notes and so I was mimicking some of that. I have one hard cut, two cross dissolves. So when we watch again, think about those transitions. I'm not convinced the hard cut works. I'd go back into this edit and try the very first cut is a hard cut. You know it's still between violins, but it's very jarring to me when I watch it. It's missing the smoothness of the music. I wanted to open with music and the instruments because we're celebrating the violin. First and foremost, instead of we're celebrating David. Concern after I saw it the first time was that there was too much visuals of the violin, and that we needed a breather from it, you know? Just for pacing and variety. Right. You know just to give some breathing room. There's one shot in here that needs to go and it's the tight shot where you see all his beard stubble. It makes no sense, but I was running out of shots despite how much we shot. And I could have lengthened other shots, but they felt they were dragging to me. So that's another thing with time, I'd go back in and I'd fix that. That needs to go. I'd like you to think about when you watch it again, when does he finally appear on screen in his interview? 'Cause this is a film you could've done without ever seeing him as a talking head. So I threw it in there, one because I was running out of cover, two because as part of this exercise we showed you the interview set up. You got to see the two shot appear and then the only time I'd really wanna see him on screen is when he's plucking that violin. And it's the moment where it's like really important I think to see him on screen. And it's the only moment that you see him like do something musical himself, so I really liked that moment. And it makes me appreciate what he's trying to hear when he's listening. Also, the shot that's used when the title comes up, to think about when the title comes in, 'cause the title doesn't appear until maybe 20 seconds in, something like that. That kind of dictated itself. I think you can't wait too long to put a title in, but usually I'm not so keen on putting a title before anything's happened. I kind of like pacing in a title. But the title comes after he has said his establishing comments, which are these really lovely lead in, open-ended comments about the personality of a violin. So at this moment you don't know who's talking. I've purposely chosen shots where his face has not been shown yet. You don't see his face until after the title. So I did that intentionally because you haven't met him, per se. But your mind immediately associates, oh this character who is somewhere in this violin shop is speaking. So you went there, you didn't hesitate, it wasn't jarring, but you don't fully meet him until after the title. You see his face, and then you meet him on screen talking much farther in than the opener. The shot that's underneath the title itself. That is from when Takumi was playing here in the studio and it was when Ed was working with the osmo and I got on the 400 lens and I figured Ed has already beautifully covered with the 400 lens the first round of the performance so I started to play thinking like, oh there's beautiful texture out here. I might be able to use that. And so I purposefully started to drift and then I liked the way his bow was coming in and out of my shot, but there was this lovely out of focus texture. The closing also where the credits are, same thing. That great door that is this wall behind Takumi, I kinda thought wow that might be a really handy texture to have. So I did the same thing with that 400 lens. Just textures are always helpful. You know often when you're out shooting you see a great wall or some crack in concrete that's really cool or a pool of water. Grab it. Grab it. And I even, you know at some point I started keeping a folder of clips that were just good textures because I could with more time, I could take that texture and make a really beautiful title. I could blur it out. I would start to play with Takumi's performance, because I think that that's the piece of this video that has a lot of room to make way more visually experimental. Double exposures could be used there. You know I didn't have time to really start to mash it up and at some point, too, I needed sleep so I could teach the next day. (Ed laughs) So it was kind of like, yeah I could have stayed up all night, I failed you guys. Couldda, shouldda, but (laugh) there's still room to make this sing. That extra 10%. So after seeing the pre-shoot, all of that footage, I think I expected it to be more about the violin maker himself, David. But it seemed like just with his mannerisms and his personality that maybe that didn't come through as much in the final product, and then from what you said it was more about maybe the violin itself because Takumi was in there, too. I'm just curious about the process if that's what you expected when you started this project, if you knew it would be about the violin, or if that was something that evolved and maybe how you made that decision? I think I just let the best material float up. And I'm trying to think now that you're asking that how would I have made it more about David? So if it were more about him, I would have added in more about how he because a violin repairman. The sound bytes if you remember, I didn't find them really gripping. You know well yeah, I really I play bass, you know I used to play music and then I started working in a music shop and I realized that was kind of boring, but I really enjoyed like once I got my hands on the instruments and I worked for x number of years in Houston. And then after Houston I went to Chicago. And you know so none of that felt really, that isn't the kind of thing that at a dinner I would've said, Ed I met the most interesting guy today. I met this violin repair guy and he actually started out, he played a little bit of violin, but then he wasn't really good at it and then he played bass for a while and then he went to Houston and he was working there for a certain number of years and then he went to Chicago. You know, that's not what I'd be recounting. No, you would've said there was this amazing young violin player who came in, you know Takumi. Right. And actually in the pre production call when we called from back home and we spoke to David and he mentioned he played bass, I was thinking well we could put you, maybe we could do a shot at like sunset you know where you're playing bass on a hill in Seattle. (laughs) And he said, "I think I just threw up in my mouth." (everyone laughs) Of course I fell in love with him. Do you have any kind of go-to questions that you use to get better closers or to kind of in your mind, be searching for those closers when you're doing the interview? Yeah that's a great question. I'm always listening for the closer. And more often than not there will be something. There isn't, I don't have a go-to, but now that I've been asked that I'm gonna work on coming up with a few because it would be handy. When I do interviews that are more for clients, I often at the end of the interview after we've had, and I do long interviews, he does not exaggerate, I often will then say you know what, we're going do, this was an awesome interview, we got everything we need, but I'm just gonna do the quick one liners, if you would just go through the who, what, where, why, when with me? So who are you? I'm so and so. Where are we? What do you do? Why do you do it? And so I often will do that as a cap because then I often get the one liner that's the succinct version of something that might have taken a long time to explain earlier. Those aren't typically closers, but occasionally when I ask somebody why do you do what you do? And if they give me a long winded like well why because it's my job? And I'm like, no why. Like the why do you do it? Sometimes that'll give a closer. I think also with this particular subject, there wasn't um, you know often when we go into an interview with a subject, there's some issue or point or some salient factor that we know exists and that we're driving in the interview to get them to talk about it, or admit it, or describe it. And in this case, probably the closest thing with someone like David would have been trying to plumb more his passion or the craftsmanship side of it. But there was no like he's the oldest, he's the best, or he just started. There was no, yeah there was no salient feature about him per se, that you could like hang the whole theme of the film on. Which goes back to, you know we talked about this yesterday, what's the question being answered? What's the conflict? And what's the story? And we don't, you know, so we don't really have that. So in some way what we set out to do is a profile. There isn't a beginning, middle, end to this. This is really a vignette, it's not a story, it doesn't have an arc. And so we don't have a question being answered here per se and not all, not all short docs do. What I do feel though is that when you play to the richest material, I'm confident that David is gonna see this and feel really proud of the finished product and he's not gonna say, hey I thought that you were gonna tell my story? Because I think this is his story, right? I think it is. It's celebrating his craftsmanship, his passion. So I think that in some way it's funny because you set out to do something, it's again about being nimble. You set out maybe to tell his story and then when you see what's there and what you're able to capture within the amount of time you have and the people you have, then you recognize what is gonna really help this sing. As opposed to if I went into it saying, I've gotta get all of this information in, back to the drag question, this could have dragged. Based on the interview, this could have really dragged. And we could have talked about the different violin makers that he told me about and we could have kind of gone into the weeds of what it takes. Even if you think of something as simple as this, when I asked him so what do you do? And he said well I, repair and restore violins and I rent, I have a rental business, and I lease out the bows and sometimes I, there was something else. So if you think about that alone, the answer to what do you do? He does a number of things. And if I felt that, oh well that was his sound byte, that would have dragged. All I let him say in this, sorry David, was oh, I repair and restore violins. That in itself is, there's a perfect example of how I eliminate drag when I edit. So yes, it's true if I was gonna be true to his answer, it would have been all of the things he does. But that's just not compelling. So will he use it on his website? That'll be the question. That's the test. Gonna watch again. (violin music) In general you hear a violin you say, ah it's a violin. But they all have their own character. Like people, we all sound a little different. (violin music) As you work with 'em over time you start to hear the subtle differences and you can hear if something's not quite right or if that's just the character of the instrument. (violin music) My Workshop's in West Seattle. I do violin repair and restoration. I've been in the business about 16 years. To make a violin, you can count on about six weeks of work if you're working steadily. Then you have to varnish the instrument and that can take, ah maybe start to finish, about three months. I have seen some 3D printed ones that use some carbon impregnated plastic. It's an interesting science project, but I still like the wood that are completely done by hand the best. I love the workmanship, the history, the craftsmanship that goes into making 'em. Everything's handmade, so it can all be taken apart and put back together again. Sometimes it'll sound nasal, congested, you know sound tight? Or sometimes it'll sound slightly hollow and wolfy on the other side, and so if something like that's going on, then there's a problem. The time you spend learning how to work on the instrument is kind of equivalent to the time you spent learning how to play the instrument. Not a lot of makers are great violinists. More often than not, we're good at making or repairing, not so much at playing. (strums violin) So it sounds, all the sound we want to be coming out of sound hole's. So if its open then it won't sound quite right and it doesn't feel right either. So I can (plucks notes) feel how it's vibrating, listen to the ringing of the instrument, I hear that it's got lot of power, you know. And the response is excellent. (footsteps echoing) (mumbling) Would you like to see it before we start? Okay. Takumi stops by occasionally and just has me go over the adjustment. I've been looking after his violin for a few years. Let's hear it. (violin music) I think what I feel is, it's just a tiny bit muffled on the G, I think, or on the low register a little bit. Okay. Mmm-hmm. It's important to work with the player and find out how they're feelings, how the instrument's responding in their hand. That's where you really dial in the sound of the instrument. (violin music) I think I like it, actually. Yeah? Mmm-hmm. Okay, I hear the difference definitely. It's more chorus sounding instead of... I think I can, it feels that way to me. Does it sound alright? Yeah, it sounds good to me. Like does everything feel better? It does, mm-hmm. Okay. (energetic violin music) At first they all sound like a violin. It takes time to train your hear to hear it. (violin music) They have a lot of personality. It's a pleasure to get to work on 'em. (dramatic violin melody) His last two comments, "they have a lot of personality." "It's a pleasure to get to work on them." I wonder if you had separated those two comments so that, you know, with maybe many seconds not just a second, and then had used the music, the ebb and flow of the violin as a way to accentuate and also maybe boosted the level of it a little bit. Like I'm just thinking that's a way you might have been able to add drama when you say, you know, they have their own character (sings dramatically) and then, you know, they're a pleasure to work on. And then you close. Then the challenge-- We failed, let's go back to the editing room. Come on. Back in the coal mine. And you didn't do enough of my shots, right? (laughing) And the challenge of working with music like this because the music is paramount and you have to be true to the music is that I wasn't about to have him playing and then fade out music, it had to be the end of a bar or a portion of the music, so the commitment to go with the fast tempoed piece, again I would have to fuse, somehow pull from the end of it as opposed to just being able to just, you know often with music you can bring it in and bring it out, but this makes me more anxious because anybody watches it who understands music would be very probably insulted if I started cutting it and editing it and splicing it together in some way. And also with multi-caming the shots, this is a case where you have to stay true to the shot that's married to the audio as opposed to often you don't have to be as paired, you know, you can mask sneaking audio under and splicing audio together. Not when the musician is playing on camera, that bow better match and that finger position better match. From PG, who wanted to know if there are documentary film makers or people that really inspire you at this point, who blow your socks off or who that every aspiring documentary film maker might want to watch as well. Oh that's always the toughest question. And I hate singling people out. There's great documentary work being done right now and I am so bad about this, like calling names, individuals, on the spot 'cause I watch a lot of documentaries and-- Well where do you seek out inspiration? Where do I seek out inspiration? That's a good question. I mean I always have my ear to the ground, what's being shown and we're fortunate where we live there's a film festival that comes to town, so I am able to immerse and have this experience of just watching as much as I humanly can watch at a film festival. I hate to say it, this is just one of my worst, I almost will put my list together and then send it to you because on the spot I'm so bad at that question-- Well actually because I, I don't like those sorts of questions at this point, but only because they're very hard to answer and at least for me, I've entered a period now, you know quite a long period, where I'm in a way, I'm influenced by myself, but I'm influenced by everyone else. Because we have the good fortune to teach and mentor people, so you know that I can be influenced by people I might be teaching or mentoring because I'm like wow, that's really cool what they've done in this particular case. And I think what we might do is also, we glean a lot from like the, not the trends, but you know when you see a lot of stuff, then there's like an aggregate. You sort of get a sense of, like for instance, when I've judged World Press Multimedia in Amsterdam where we watch 150 films. It is really true, 90% of them have time lapse. And when you see it in that way, you go wow this is a trope. You know? You know? All of them have some other thing that everyone's using. So now you might look at that and go, I don't wanna do that. Or you might go, I wanna do that but I'm gonna do it this way. So instead of singling out individuals apart from like, the masters Errol Morris or you know, there's many film makers that, that are working, Alex Gibney, there are two that in particular that are incredibly busy working in this very high end of documentary, almost commercial and I don't mean that in a negative way, I mean you know very high end in like The Fog of War, just brilliant brilliant film makers. But there's so many others whose names I don't even know, and yet I'll have seen their film. For instance, on Netflix doing great work, White Hats, the piece about the Syrian, the rescuers, it was incredible. And a lot of that stuff was done by the rescuers themselves with Go-Pro's on their helmets. So it's sort of like a wild west moment, where it's not like there's Frederick Weisman and the Maysles brothers and then that's it. It's sort of like there are so many people who are doing so may interesting things in so many different ways so that what I tend to, and I find this with photography, as well when I'm asked about photography that at this point it's not like there's any one or two or three people, but in aggregate there are influences or trends that are happening that either turn me on or make me say, no I wanna do this. But at the end of the day what I'm really inspired by is what I'm doing. And that means the mistakes I'm making. Not just that I'm great, but that I'm absorbed. I have my head down in my own work and I feel like I'm constantly learning so much about what I've done that I like, what I've done that I need to do that better. So I hope that's a good, that's an adequate answer. That's great. And there's so many genres as well, so you know it's interesting to watch how people are getting creative with historical documentaries, archivally driven documentaries, I feel like I've seen so many of those in the last year or two, and just very creative approaches to how to treat that material. You know it's like the Black Panther movie was interesting to just see this wealth of, you know it's Stanley Nelson, just looking at how people are bringing alive history in different ways. We just saw Letters from Baghdad is a new film, interesting approach where about Gertrude Bell the explorer, so she's somebody who died in the mid 1900's, so the filmmaker-- She's the founder of modern Iraq, a British-- She helped draw the map of the Middle East, basically, draw the borders of the Middle East. But because she died a long time ago, she was an avid letter writer, so the documentarians opted to have actors read letters, well sorry, her letters were read but then actors were people she had known in her lifetime and they pretended they were being interviewed right after she died. So it was an interesting approach to a documentary to tell her story. So her voice is Tilda Swinton reading the letters, so she is very well documented, Gertrude Bell. But then to have these actors and they shot it on 60 millimeter film in order to look more like it was old footage. So I'm really just fascinated by all these fresh approaches, you know I mentioned Sonita yesterday was a fascinating documentary. I forget, it's an Iranian filmmaker, I forget her name, but very accomplished. Where again you're tackling a topic where you're suddenly immersed in this film and then you become a character in your own documentary because of the way the narrative unfolds. I thought that was in, you know I glean something from many different places, as Ed is saying, so I don't know, I struggle to kind of find one filmmaker I would say yes-- There was also last year the film 13 or 13th, which is also Netflix film which I think everyone in America should see as almost a civic's lesson, but about the clause of the 13th amendment related to slavery and mass incarceration, but what was really interesting, I would urge you all to watch it, for how they did the A-roll interviews. And it's predominantly A-roll interviews. Right, and I'm still trying to, it seems to me they were super choreographed, clearly you know High production. You know massive amount of location scouting and then they must have had one of the cameras was on a circular track, so you know I'd be talking to the cam, the shot would be this way, and then all of a sudden the framing would go like this, where then part of my face, you know so it was very interesting, inventive really way of handling a film where the majorative are scholars and experts and talking heads, but really engaging. So that was very interesting. And used a lot of motion graphics as well, so it had to rely on the archival is almost, I don't know there was a lot of archival, well a fair amount of archival, but it's almost secondary in some way to the motion graphics, and the interviews are what stand out in that film. That's Ava DuVernay? Yeah. Yeah, so there's so many, there's a film that I don't even think was very-- Oh now we're going. Here we go. (laughing) I got you set up already. Well there's one film I loved and it's funny, I don't even know that it did that well as a documentary in the sense that many people have seen it, but it's called Best of Enemies. And it's a film about the debates between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr. In 1960. In the 60's, right? So they had, it was the beginning of this kind of you know the sparring, partisan sparring on television. It was an experiment in live TV, and they had the two of them just having these debates. And my God if that isn't a dry topic to create a documentary around, but the way it was edited, the motion graphics were wonderful. I just, it's one of those films where I watched it and I thought, god I wish I had made that film. You know because it was just so well handled. And anytime somebody can take a compelling subject that is not visual and somehow morph that into a really great tale, that to me is the sort of thing that I elevate in my own desires. Well you... Do we have a question? Okay, yeah, great. Speaking of influences, when you're working on a project, how do you determine in the editing phase what partner influences to follow best? Is it your storytelling? The client? Maybe the person you're featuring in your work? And in terms of who influences the edit the most? Yeah, if you're say sending a draft off or a final final, yeah when you get feedback. So ultimately, again I like to be really proud of what I put out in the world. There's very little I've done that I don't want my name on. Occasionally, something happens. Orphan children, you know. But, so if I'm working for a client, I'm cutting with their voice in my head. So I do know what has to be accomplished through this film, so if this violin film had to sell the violin, then I might have made it this way 'cause I would buy a violin if I saw this, for sure. But if this had to be, like if it was about the revival of the neighborhood where David has his shop, then that's what we would have been shooting, you know like that, I would've tailored everything to the message that needed to be conveyed. Whether it's a client or whether it's the story you have set out to tell, you kind of have to answer that boss, you know? But that said, when I do an edit, I'll submit to a client the best version of how I think that story could be told and so earlier I was chatting with somebody from the audience who had asked about client interactions and how many rounds of editing do you do for a client and all of that. I will always ultimately listen to my own best voice as an editor, story teller. I will submit that to the client or I will share that with friends and trusted colleagues to get feedback. And then I, you know when it comes to client work, I build into my contracts two rounds of revision, and I will bend over backwards to give them what they want, but if there is something that I feel is really going to compromise the quality where I might not want my name on it, then I will push back and just say, I don't think that's gonna serve this well. Now, they typically respect when I say that because I bent over backwards for everything else, you know like I know which battles I wanna fight because I do wanna still, like the fact that I am showing you in a workshop these James Irvine Foundation videos, I wouldn't show them to you if I felt like I am really embarrassed by this, unless that was the message. You know I wouldn't share them. But I feel that they're really well executed for what they are, they tell a lot, the quality is high, and they satisfied the client. Now again I would strip out all of that text on screen, you know but I understand they want that and why. So I ultimately I have to kind of answer I think to my own pride in terms of telling the best story that's there. The hardest thing I think is when you get critiqued, not pushing back. And I'm, you know Ed knows me well enough, I've gotten so much better over time. Because my first reaction was like, No. No. It's like this is why I did it and it's really good. And I have over the years learned to put that aside and be less attached to my edits because other people's opinions can really make what you do better. So I've definitely matured a lot over the years and been able to take criticism. And so when I get critiques from people, I also would suggest everybody follow this rule of thumb where show it to a bunch of people and listen to what are the recurring criticisms. Because you will hear all kinds of outlier criticisms 'cause we all have different styles, different you know if you ask me my favorite film, it's not gonna be the same as yours. Different things sing for different people. But if I hear the same criticism coming from a handful of people, I listen. I'm like despite the fact that I don't think it drags there, it must be dragging there. Or despite the fact that they think that, like I think that's clear, if five people tell me they didn't understand something, it probably wasn't very clear. You know so I do listen for recurring criticism more than reacting to every piece of criticism. Because you can't satisfy everybody.

Class Description


  • Figure out what your story is and create a story arc or narrative.
  • Perform extensive research and gather background information.
  • Prepare for, conduct, and edit an interview.
  • Use B-roll footage to round out your story.
  • Master the post-production process and create a polished finished piece.
  • Find partners and funders through pitching and trailers.


Documentary film is an incredibly powerful way to tell a story, but it can also be a daunting project to undertake. How do you figure out your story, theme, and vision? What’s the best way to interact with your subject? What about all the technical aspects—from lighting to audio to editing? And of course, how will you get the funds to complete your film?

If all these uncertainties are causing you to rethink your idea of making documentaries, then this class is a must for you. Award winning documentarians and photojournalists Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur will give you all the information and inspiration you need to tackle your project and see it through to the finish.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Identify a great subject and define your vision.
  • Research your subject thoroughly and find other work that’s been done on it.
  • Choose and gather the equipment you’ll need.
  • Prepare for your interview, including formulating the right questions.
  • Conduct an interview, including setting up your lights and capturing the audio.
  • Create a post-production workflow.
  • Write a compelling pitch and create a trailer to gain funding and support.
  • Generate a variety of end products, including videos for social media and still photos.

Whether you’re looking to create shareable videos on social platforms or hoping to gather funding to produce a bigger project, this class will help you simplify the process and begin creating documentaries for clients or to fulfill your own artistic vision.


  • Photojournalists and photographers wanting to get into video to expand their capabilities and explore new ways of telling stories.
  • Budding filmmakers who need the knowledge and inspiration to get started on their project.
  • Those who want more technical information and skills on how to develop and produce video and film


  1. Class Introduction

    Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur, a husband and wife filmmaking team, offer an overview of this class on how to make a short documentary.

  2. How Did We Start Making Documentaries?

    Ed and Julie describe their backgrounds, explain what has led up to their careers as documentary filmmakers and talk about how to start making documentaries.

  3. Universal Themes Through First-Person Storytelling

    See some of Julie and Ed’s early work and listen to them discuss the importance of first-person storytelling, the integration of stills and video, and publication across media platforms.

  4. Use Visual Language to Tackle a Theme

    Julie and Ed show a more recent project to talk about how to structure a documentary and the infinite options for tackling a theme.

  5. Issue Driven & Non-English Story Development

    Ed shares his documentary about young Syrian refugees and discusses documentary story development. He talks about what it’s like to create an extremely personal project that is both emotional and newsworthy.

  6. Translate a Theme Into a Film **Warning: This lesson contains scenes of graphic violence**

    Learn about the differences between themes and stories, how to translate your concept into an actual film, and what goes into the documentary storytelling process. **Warning: This lesson contains scenes of graphic violence**

  7. Turn Failures Into Lessons

    Look at an example of an idea that didn’t pan out and learn about the mistakes documentary filmmakers make.

  8. Finding Your Subjects

    Your subjects are your collaborators. They’re with you throughout your journey of making a documentary, so it’s important to learn how to find a documentary subject.

  9. What is Your Motivation?

    Discover what your motivation is for telling a particular story and learn about finding a documentary theme.

  10. Follow Your Passion & Invest in Yourself

    Sometimes you need to invest your own time, money, and energy to do a project. Julie and Ed talk about getting started in documentary filmmaking.

  11. Client Work Vs Legacy Work

    Learn how to bring your documentary filmmaking skills to short videos for clients.

  12. Translate the Idea to Reality

    The first thing to do once you have an idea is to do a lot of research. Learn about researching a documentary so you can understand the issue inside and out.

  13. Create Multiple Products from One Idea

    Sometimes you can create smaller pieces that focus on a particular story from larger projects. Here you’ll learn more about documentary storytelling techniques.

  14. Pre-Production Plan

    Before you start shooting, get on the phone with your subject to talk about logistics, background information, and other essential aspects of the documentary production process.

  15. You Just Have to Dive In

    At a certain point, you need to just dive in and get to the work—there’s really nothing to lose. Here you’ll go over the steps to documentary filmmaking.

  16. Time & Cost for Projects

    The harsh reality of trying to get films made is the difficulty of raising money to get the job done. Ed and Julie help answer the question of how much do documentaries cost—from person hours to equipment to travel.

  17. Writing a Strong Pitch

    Learn how to pitch a documentary idea so you can clarify your vision, get others excited about your project, and propel your idea forward.

  18. Develop a Fundraising Trailer

    Creating a documentary pitch video will help you showcase your idea and raise money for your project.

  19. Identify & Approach Partners

    Learn about finding documentary partners who might be interested in working with you or supporting your idea and how to approach them.

  20. Define Your Desired Impact

    Finding a topic for a documentary means you’ll have to think about what you want to accomplish with your work, whether it be a personal goal or something more far reaching.

  21. Introduction to Working in the Field

    Get an introduction about working in the field and location scouting for film.

  22. Shoot: Interview Set Up

    Learn about documentary interview setup, including doing a pre-interview, coming with the necessary equipment, and knowing where you’ll be placing your cameras.

  23. Shoot: The Interview

    Here are some interviewing tips for documentary filmmaking, including how to prepare your subject, figure out your questions, and allow your subject’s voice to truly come out.

  24. Different Types of Interviews

    There are many different documentary interview styles. Some have a formal set-up with artificial light, some are more casual with natural light, and some are done on the go.

  25. Shoot: Capturing B-Roll

    B-roll is everything you shoot outside of the interview and is used to establish a sense of place, put your character in context, and tell more of your story through visuals. Here are some things to consider with b-roll.

  26. Shoot: Detail Shots

    Detail shots allow you to focus on something small and particular that helps to illuminate your story. Here’s how to create a filmmaking shot list.

  27. Shoot: Capturing a Scene

    A scene is an opportunity to watch your subject interact with someone else, offering further information about their life and character. Learn some key documentary film shooting tips.

  28. Shoot: A Set Up Shot

    Creating a great set-up shot involves thinking about the lighting, the background audio, and the camera angle. Here you’ll learn about some filmmaking shots and angles.

  29. What Video to Keep in The Edit?

    The film post-production process workflow is an intensive process of figuring out what to keep, what to toss, and what to polish for your final product.

  30. Identify Strongest Audio as Starting Point for Edit

    Learn about audio post-production techniques, including starting with your strongest piece of audio so you can begin with something powerful and compelling.

  31. Use Audio to Guide Narrative

    Ed and Julie discuss the importance of sound in documentary. Listen for the narrative spine, the unfolding of information, and the integration of multiple voices.

  32. Transform Raw Content Into Finished Piece

    The quality of your final cut depends on your visuals, music and ambient sound, and the editing rhythm. Here you’ll learn about documentary post-production editing steps.

  33. Building Scenes in Your Edit

    One way of creating a short documentary is to focus on building your scenes and try to create some drama within them. Find out about some key drama film editing techniques.

  34. Short Doc Created from Pre Shoot: Resonant

    Watch the final cut of “Resonant,” the documentary that Julie and Ed created for this course, and learn about finishing a documentary film.

  35. Final Thoughts

    Ed and Julie talk about why they work on documentaries and provide some filmmaker inspiration.


Elisa Correa

wow, wow, wow! what a amazing course! I learned so much, I was inspired so much... congratulations, Julia and Ed, you are excellent teachers and do a really wonderful and powerful work. thank you!

a Creativelive Student

OUSTANDIING COURSE, congratulations creative live for bring Julie and Ed in teach about documentary filmmaking. I have watched and bought a fair few courses on this subject and not one of them comes close to this. You can see the amount of work Julie and Ed have done to make this course amazing. The best bits for me are the real teaching opportunities when Ed and Julie are making their violin documentary. I have never seen this before in any course. Thanks Ed and Julie for an amazing course and letting us see inside there work that you do and sharing all your experience with us. I've never really written any feedback for most courses, so this must be a good one :)

a Creativelive Student

Ed & Julie provide so much insight & knowledge into the documentary making process. This is a high-level class that gives you a wonderful overview of what goes into making a powerful and interesting documentary film. It was so helpful to watch them work on an actual short film from start to finish, and to hear their workflow. You'll need to learn the technical nitty gritty elsewhere, but this course will help you dive into how to tell stories on video. I particularly loved the segment on doing interviews, and Julie is an absolute pro at this! Also really nice to see Ed & Julie working/teaching together and how their different skills complement each other. It was a pleasure to learn from them!