THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE (OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE SHOTS)

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It took me a while.

After years spent on a particular project, one that’s jam packed with “information”, it took me a while to recalibrate my view after stepping back from the informational grid, and remember that doc is visual. Goddamn right.

I’ve had my guilty moments, when the scale of what seems important to be said hijacks the feeling I want folks to walk away from a film with, explaining as much as possible instead of letting a certain reality fall into place all on its own via the context I can create in the editing suite.

Jesus, even that’s getting too technical. How about sometimes just letting images speak for themselves…

Great scene. A perfect example of why I loved the Wire. It didn’t just slam you with slices of life from some of the nasty parts of life, it knew how to take its time and tell the story with more than just words. You can hear the wheels grinding in the characters’ heads while they figure stuff out.

Another scene (redundant here maybe but even so) could be an instructional video on doing po-lice work…

Awesome.

I had a whole wall of cue cards up a while back. Some had themes, some had scenes, some listed what needs to be said. I took ‘em all down then tried to put them back up on another wall. They wouldn’t stick (message from the heavens perhaps?), until Annika wrote on a card then jammed it up right over my monitor. It said…

CINEMA

Goddamn right.

So now I do my cue cards on Scrivener (great script management app for anyone interested), and when I lose a thread I can go back in there to find it. Or I can look up at the word CINEMA and rekindle a little inspiration.

I did a stint on the show How It’s Made, where I’d do the visual cut of how an object or product gets made. A new object every damn day (you really don’t want to know how airplane food gets made, as if you ever did). I learned a few useful skills about showing process, but walked away from the gig feeling a bit traumatized by the sheer mechanization of purely descriptive storytelling.

But then I came across a real inspiration, something that plays the silence, and the sound, beautifully. And of course, where the stars are the sheep.

I’d never been hypnotized by sheep until I saw Sweetgrass. If you want to be hypnotized by a sheep, you should watch it too.

But again, there’s a time and a place for everything, so now I’m reigning in some of the visual treatment I’ve been working on, and looking for the balance between it and information.

Is this all common sense? Maybe. But sometimes I really do need to get out of the edit bubble and play around a bit, and recapture what it was that drew me into that story in the first place.

Cinema. Goddamn right.

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