Editor Jonathan Oppenheim has crafted critically-acclaimed documentaries, including "Paris is Burning" and "The Oath". In this video he explains how he thinks about the elements of a good scene, approaching structure, and looking for aliveness in the footage.
Key Insights

  • When reviewing footage, find the material where your "blood is flowing", when you feel a chemistry that connects you to the "aliveness" of the footage.
  • The best interviews have a "juiciness" to them and go beyond presenting information, giving you the feeling that your subjects are fully expressing themselves on camera.
  • When screening dailies, you will come across footage which absolutely must be included as a "nodal" scene in your film. This footage will help you create structure for your film, giving you key information that builds toward this scene and away from it. Nodal scenes are key organizations pieces that will help you tell the story of your film.
  • An editor’s job is to create context so that the necessary scenes not only exist, but are felt emotionally and build in the right way. A scene must have context so it can be fully felt by your audience.

Jonathan Oppenheim’s editing credits include PARIS IS BURNING, SISTER HELEN, and Oscar nominee, CHILDREN UNDERGROUND. He edited and co-produced the second film in Laura Poitras’ post 9/11 trilogy, THE OATH, a psychological portrait of Osama bin Laden’s former bodyguard.

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