Well Told Films

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Hey, it’s not all documentaries about death and/or destruction for me!  I got a great palate cleanser by cutting several episodes of the fun and stylish “A Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking,” which airs on PBS, and has many episodes available online.

Like an athlete who benefits from developing both the fast twitch and slow twitch muscles, it’s beneficial for an editor to work on a variety of content, pushing yourself to master working at different paces and in a variety of aesthetic styles.  You need to take a totally different approach to every aspect of your work, from the organization of footage to your workflow and editing pace.  I find that this keeps me challenged and fresh and each style adds to my toolkit for subsequent projects.

Moveable Feast combines learning novel cooking techniques and recipes with the experience of traveling to a wide variety of culinary destinations where you are taken through the personal process of some interesting local chefs.

I take great pride in the fact that I limited myself to only one food metaphor in this entire post.  Cheers!  (OK, two now.)

It was a long-awaited pleasure to cut my first film for the PBS series American Experience.  Even better that it was this dark and thrilling tale of the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in progressive North Carolina in the 1960s.  I’m glad I got to cut this film for (fellow Tennesseean) producer/director Callie Wiser and feel that she crafted an intriguing and nuanced portrait of ‘the banality of evil’ in action, told mainly through the Carolina Klan’s charismatic leader, Bob Jones.  It is easy to ascribe terrible deeds and attitudes to a morally “bad” other but in KlansvilleUSA, we see how hatred can take root in a disenfranchised population, left behind by social and economic changes.

And with that I’ll stop trying to sound smart and give you the description from the website where, at this time, the film can be viewed in its entirety:

Having been dormant for decades, the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) reemerged in the U.S. after the 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education decision, gaining momentum in the U.S. as the civil rights movement grew. That the Klan would rise once again wasn’t surprising, but where the reincarnation took place was. North Carolina was long considered the most progressive southern state; its image was being burnished weekly on CBS by the enormously popular “The Andy Griffith Show.” In 1963, North Carolina salesman Bob Jones chartered what would become the largest Klan group in the country, which, under his leadership, grew to some ten thousand members. In the process, the group helped give the Tarheel State a new nickname: “Klansville, U.S.A.”

Last fall I worked on a three part mini-series for PBS called Coming Back with Wes Moore.  The entire team was very passionate and really invested in the show, which sought to show the trials and triumphs of veterans returning to civilian life.

Our hope was that the series manage to show a wide swath of experiences and hew a nice line between the unsettling / upsetting hardships of reacclimatizing to life with physical and/or mental scars while also showing the amazing triumphs of will and perseverance that lead many vets to not only merely fit in, but thrive in this new chapter in their lives.  Here is a review from the Baltimore Sun.

My part was story editing about half the ‘characters,’ and doing fine cutting and finishing on all three episodes.  It was a really eye-opening experience personally and a great joy to work with this talented team, our guiding light always being the intelligent and compassionate vision of Wes Moore, the show’s EP & host.

All episodes of the show are available (for free!) to stream online and on the PBS app on your various devices, so check it out!

FRONTLINE dispatches teams to Cairo, going inside the youth movement that helped light the fire on the streets. We follow the “April 6th” group, which two years ago began making a bold use of the Internet for their underground resistance-tactics that led to jail and torture for many of their leaders. Now, starting with the “Day of Rage,” we witness those same leaders plot strategy and head into “Liberation Square” to try to bring down President Mubarak. Also in this hour, veteran Middle East correspondent Charles Sennott of GlobalPost lands in Cairo for FRONTLINE to take a hard look at Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-the most well-organized and powerful of the country’s opposition groups-as a new fight for power in Egypt begins to takes shape.

 

Our recently finished project was a very challenging one to complete.  It is featured in a blog on the Avid Community:

Here is an article on Avid’s website describing the edit.

 

Describing the editing challenges in a discussion on the Avid Community forum I say:

Hi everyone, thank you for the praise for this project.  It was a very challenging undertaking and required a team effort, frequently around the clock.  Our Post Supervisor, Chris Fournelle is working on a detailed account of the workflow to be shared with Avid & the community.  Also, I believe they’re going to have Chris do a presentation at NAB and have some of our sequences and media on-hand to demonstrate.

I’ll try to address some of the questions that I’ve seen thus far in the discussion.  Media type: We cut the whole thing in DNX-145 and its PAL equivalent.  PAL media was imported / captured into a PAL project then moved over to the offline project.  All four of the offline editors worked in the same Avid project, splitting our bins into folders.

I didn’t do the pictures in After Effects this time.  In the first segment we had the larger aesthetic issue of contending with the shaky, rough footage acquired in Cairo.  We usually aspire for a very smooth, classy feel to our pictures, interviews, etc.  Things made in that style looked very strange when placed in the verite-style footage though.  So I made a ‘handheld’ effect using the ‘Shake’ effect from Sapphire.  I put this effect on all our interviews and most still images.  On interviews I also added a push using the resize effect.  I felt that this gave the interviews a similar feeling to the rest of the footage.  For the stills I just imported them at DNX-145 and animated them with understated moves using the 3D Warp.

Because of the fast timetable, with each choice I wanted to weigh the potential issues I might cause down the line so I tried to keep everything as ‘within the box’ as much as possible.  In other words I didn’t want to have to answer questions about missing pan & zoom pictures in the middle of the night.

Other assorted details: the Canon f footage required us to buy the camera to capture.  Most footage was file-based so the greatest technical challenge of the whole project was to was to copy over the footage (which was hastily put onto a drive in the middle of the chaos over there), keeping it in a coherent system so we could tell what it was and when it was filmed.

But the most challenging issue for me was that, once all of this happened and it was in the project on the unity… it was still in arabic…  So for any sound-ups between interviews, people chanting, etc. I would have to call a translator into the room and make sure that they were actually saying something relevant, finishing thoughts, etc.

Anyway, hopefully this answers some of the questions and provides a little more insight into the process/workflow.  When Fournelle has the more thorough explanation I will forward along.  Otherwise, I will keep an eye on this board and answer anything else to the best of my ability.

 

Here is the full program.

A few members of the Kirk Documentary Group team gave a presentation about our process making documentaries to attendees of the PBS Quality Group.  The audience response was great and we had a lot of fun sharing our system.  Presenting was Producer/Writer/Director Michael Kirk, DP Ben McCoy, and myself, the editor.  It was an honor to share the stage with these guys and communicate the passion and the craft of how we do our jobs.

Here is a written account of the presentation from an attendee.