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Affluent, Boston-based college students embark on a weeklong goodwill trip to the slums of Lima, Peru in this story about the phenomenon of volunteer vacations—also known as "voluntourism" or service trips—which have fast become both a hallmark of global citizenry and a point of controversy for socially conscious millenials. In their attempts to teach English and work with developmentally disabled children, the students must confront the reality of their work and whether or not it’s creating positive change. A fresh take on a classic moral dilemma, H.O.P.E. Was Here deals with the intersection of privilege and poverty by asking what it really means to help people.
I learned quickly that editing a feature-length documentary can be daunting. The thrill of traveling and shooting subsides, and now you're left with a ton of material and you don't know where to start.
By this point you've already written a treatment or proposal, and you have some idea of how the story will come together. Heck, maybe you've been editing while you shoot (smart!). Still, the reality of filming never 100% meets what you planned. Now it's time to review what you've got and whittle it down into a story.
Here are some bits of wisdom I've picked up in preparing to edit H.O.P.E. Was Here. I've borrowed them from docmakers with great talent and experience.
- Don't overshoot. Number of hours shot seems to be a badge that some docmakers wear proudly. If you shoot too much, it's probably because you aren't sure how you're going to treat your material. In 18 months filming HWH, I shot 85 hours of footage. That's not a lot for a feature film.
Back up everything right away. Don't let a failed hard drive let your hard work go to waste. Duplicate your material as soon as you film it so you don't forget.
Get organized. This starts with establishing a file naming structure for your material. A common labeling structure is "Title_Reel_Clip," and that's exactly what I did (note: a "reel" or "tape" means a shooting card in digital speak. Whatever you shot on a single card = 1 reel). For example, my first reel is "HWH_001," and the first clip of the first reel is "HWH_001_01." After labeling my reels in the order I shot them, I reorganized them into folders by location (Peru and Boston). Next, I made a google doc that reflects that folder organization. I included a basic description of the material on each reel so I don't have to spend much time watching any given reel to find the shots I'm looking for. Now you know where all of your material is located, it's clearly labeled and backed up, and you're ready to ingest clips into your editing program.
When ingesting your clips, make sure that the clip name in the editing program matches the file name on your hard drive. This will save you a lot of headaches. "Media Offline," anyone?
Organize your project bins. The four basic bins I have are picture, sound, graphics, and music. In picture, you can organize your ingested clips however you like. Perhaps separate the material by character, location, time, or interview and non-interview. Whatever works best for your brain.
Stay organized. With everything. All the time. Editing is organizing. You can save yourself months (years, even!) by staying organized.
Edit while you shoot, if possible. Seriously, this will save you a ton of time. I wish I had done more of it.
I began my editing process by reading three key sources. The first is Long Form Documentary Workflow, a wonderful blog post about organizing your project, bins, and clips. The second is The Shut Up And Shoot Documentary Guide by Anthony G. Artis. The third is a blog called New Doc Editing by Karen Everett. Read everything by her; she's brilliant.