COVID Brighton – Update 12 – Narrative Restructuring and B-Roll!

My last update on COVID Brighton was way back in September and a lot has happened since. By November I had a rough edit in place and passed this around for comment. The main feedback was that the narrative was not clear. I thought about this a bit and realised that I had strung together what I considered interesting parts of the interviews in chronological order but without any consideration of pace, mood or narrative arc. Bollocks!

I had one final interview to film which was with a psychotherapist and I was hopeful that this would provide some kind of narrative framework to tie the whole thing together but scheduling this proved difficult. In mid-November I had to spend a month up in London and by the time I returned it was Christmas. Even into 2022 interview scheduling proved difficult so the whole project was put on ice for a good few months and I began to worry that my interest would flag. We eventually filmed the final interview in mid-February and none of my usual crew were available but all the messing around with equipment regenerated my enthusiasm.

The time away from the film had been good, it had given me distance and I was able to view the film more objectively. There is a continual temptation to include something because you like it but the question must always be: Does it fit? I had previously compared film making to assembling a jigsaw puzzle and I had assembled the puzzle as if it were merely a lot of blank pieces and clicked the clips together where they fit. This was a mistake. I should have had a vision and assembled the pieces to fit the vision. I conceived a new analogy: All the media I had filmed was like a block of marble. It was my job to hack through this mass of media, discarding perfectly good material to reveal the story within.

I drew out a narrative arc in Powerpoint (ugh!) as a sort of guide to how the film should be structured. Inciting incident, mid-way point etc. I then took my latest edit and restructured ruthlessly. I was slightly despondent as I had thought the delays meant that I’d missed the deadlines for both the Brighton film festivals but I discovered that submissions for Brighton Rocks closed on 1st April and Cincecity is not due to open until April. I had a deadline and worked frantically toward it.

I edited during the day, then late in the afternoon or evening renderred this to an MP4 (including a timecode). First thing the next morning I would view the latest cut on my TV and make notes usually running to around 4 sides of A4. The rest of the day would be spent going through the notes and making amendments. Another temptation here is to start to make changes while you going and I did some of this but once the edit began to take on some kind of form I resisted this and became more systematic about fixing the problem I had noted and moving straight on to the next note. This was good discipline as it stopped the narrative continually drifting around.

As the edit started to come together I had a bit of a meltdown: I had neglected B-Roll!

B-Roll is the additional filming apart from the interviews. Sure I had some but I hadn’t really thought much about it and I should have got far more during the lockdowns. I realised that my film was mainly a lot of talking heads and this could be very boring. I needed B-Roll!

I started spending mornings wandering around Brighton getting specific shots. I faked the sea front during the second lock down when nobody was around by filming just after sunrise on a cloudy day. This was a real lesson learned. Next time I shall pay far more attention to B-Roll earlier on but for this project I think I managed it OK.

Sound was another issue that needed constant attention and I spent hours eradiating random noises, replacing my own voice with ambient audio and generally frigging around. As I did so I realised the wonderful advantage of B-Roll: it allowed me to “correct” where people hesitate, misspeak or just ramble. I’d been in touch with two talented musician; Isacc Waddington and Nicholas Griffin and they supplied me with music so by 31st March I had a good clean version which I entered into Brighton Rocks Film Festival.

After I’d watched the film through prior to upload I was satisfied. To my mind it seems to have come together. I still have nagging doubts about a few aspects which I might write about later but I am hopeful the film has some merit. On the whole the film has been a learning experience and I feel much better equipped to tackle a documentary in the future.

About three hours after uploading the file I realised I’d forgotten to remove the time code.


Here’s the trailer