COVID Brighton – Update 10 – Assembling

Last week I finished prepping the media for the COVID film. I had allowed the task to drag on so I set a deadline and got it finished. This week I started on the fun part. What I am currently referring to as “Assembling”. After the prepping process I had created 15 separate Davinci Resolve “Timelines”, one for each interview. Each timeline contained numerous marked and cleaned up clips of the interviews. (See last COVID film update 9).

I started to organise these into some kind of narrative, picking clips from each interview and adding them to a new Timeline named Opening. I had already developed an idea for the start of the film and so I picked clips from a shop keeper talking about when he first came to Brighton. I added some “B-Roll” of the street and his shop. I found this process far more enjoyable and rewarding than the previous prepping process probably because it relied more on intuition and feel than organisational skill. The hours sped by.

During the interviews I had in mind various themes and I asked questions around these themes. eg: “When did you first hear about COVID?” And “Did you get furlough payments?” I began adding theme related clips and realised it would be better to have these themes in different Resolve Timelines so that I could modify them without affecting the rest of the film. e.g. I could come back to the section on first hearing of COVID and change it.  When I’m done, I can merge all the timelines into one. So I started to make Timelines for First Heard, First Lockdown, Summer, Second Lockdown and so on.

Initially I had been roaring along in a state of flow and had thoughts that I’d polish this off in days rather than months but the work seemed to grow and become more complex as I pressed on. After a while my organisational skills kicked back in and I realised that, without thinking, I had fallen into a further layer of preparation. Different themes emerged as I worked and I was fairly methodically going through each interview and picking out clips relating to the various themes and copying them to the Theme Timelines.

After a while I started colour coding the clips by interview so that within the Theme Timelines I could quickly identify who was speaking. I went back and coloured the clips in each original interview timeline so that when these were copied to the new Theme Timelines the colouring would already be done.

This work was not as creatively enjoyable but I realised that it would allow more creativity later as well as helping to ensure that I captured the best parts of each interview. It also help me identify potential transition clips. For example one guy started saying that, early on in 2020, his friends in Spain and Italy had been texting him saying: “Look out, COVID is on its way!” and this dovetailed nicely with comments from another couple who were in Italy when COVID kicked off. Another clip had one guy saying how he went into the first lockdown and then smoothly moving on to talk about his financial situation.

One challenge I may have with this documentary is that I have so many interviewees. While a normal documentary may have perhaps five main characters I have more that fifteen and, if I’m not careful, this might confuse the audience. “Who the hell is this guy?” – Hopefully the aforementioned transitions will help the film to flow.

By the end of this second stage of prepping I expect to have a number of Resolve Timelines, one for each theme. I shall then edit these down so that they are coherent, interesting and without repetition. After that I will need to string them all together and ensure transitions between themes are smooth. By this time I hope to be able to create some kind of narrative arc as our tutor used to call it. At the moment I’m feeling fairly confident that the material and my process are sufficient to create a worthwhile documentary.

However!! I’ve started watching an excellent TV series named Discovering Film on Sky Arts. Each episode covers the career of one actor. I learnt about a film named John Carter based on the novels by Ray Bradbury. It had good, reputable director, producers and cast and a budget of over $300 million – and it bombed!

There is magic in the movie business and the difference between a good film and something that, though technically competent, is unwatchable garbage is not obvious even to the best in the business. Whether I create anything an audience considers worthwhile remains to be seen but I am hoping that care in preparation will allow me to maximise my creativity. I can also console myself that my budget is somewhat less than £300 million.

Watch this space.