Documentary editor Toby Shimin talks about how to screen for emotion and story, organizing footage, and building impact.
Key Insights
  • As an editor, you are looking for subtext: the deeper meaning behind what’s really happening.
  • Pay attention to your physical responses when watching footage - your intuition will key you into special moments.
  • As you start watching footage, create bins for audio cutaways and keep them organized.
  • These are bins you’ll use to create “emotional highlighting”  
  • Look for themes: emotions, times, events, people
  • Create a bin just for “filler” words to help you clean up sentences (e.g., “and”, “but”, “so”, “the”, etc.)
  • Stay organized and disciplined in your binning - this will only benefit you and your team
  • Silence and space are essential to crafting emotion and pace: don’t cut out pauses only for the sake of trimming time.
  • Film dialogue/audio is like a conversation - you want to let something sink in before providing a response.
  • You can use “scripting” to craft a moment you need, so long as it is something that accurately represents the person or story, and is ethically sound. 
  • Look for the moment in the footage that tells you what the story is really about: the personal struggle that connects to everyone and draws them in.
Editor
Editor Toby Shimin began her film career as a sound editor and switched to picture editing in 1988 when she cut "The Children's Storefront", which was nominated for an Academy Award.

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