Minimalism and Focus
When I’m working on an edit or framing up a shot, I challenge myself to direct the audience’s attention towards what I’d like them to see and hear.
Visually, most times the solution involves removing elements that aren’t the focal point of the shot. Reducing the image to its simplest form.
With respect to editing, it often comes down to throwing out everything but the most meaningful shots and quotes. The elements that don’t end up in the video are sometimes very good, but not the exact right ingredients that make up a compelling final product.
I think that in my own life, my professional and personal focus has sometimes suffered from a lack of minimalism. Call it mental clutter, if you will. I get involved in superfluous activities and accrue a bunch of material junk.
A new friend or hobby or habit can be sometimes so much more interesting than the tried-and-true commitments and core values that I try to build my life around.
But there’s only so much time in the day and only so many days in my life.
So I have to ask myself, would I rather be a jack-of-all-trades or a master of one?
Different Styles of Documentary Editing
Imagine this: you’re walking in a beautiful orchard filled with all kinds of trees, a farm that stretches almost out of sight.
But it’s not a perfect place. Usually orchards are meticulously planted, but this farmer seems to have planted different trees all over the place. A pear tree in a row of apple trees next to a cluster of orange trees. And some of the fruit isn’t ripe yet, while some of it has fallen to the ground where it rots.
You’re getting hungry, in fact you feel like if you don’t eat soon, you’ll die. You’d also love to eat the best apple the whole orchard has to offer, but you’re not sure where it is. Would you cut down the pear and orange trees just to clear the way? Would you reject the imperfect apples, the ones with perfectly good insides but some bruises?
Of course not. You’d starve to death searching for the illusion of perfection.
This story reflects how I feel about editing films, specifically documentaries, which often have to be shot in a run-and-gun style, constructed as haphazardly as the orchard.
Like there are different ways to feed yourself, I think there are various methods of documentary editing. Two contrasting methods I describe as “subtractive” and “instinctual.”
Subtractive editing is where you look at every piece of raw material and throw away the bits you don’t like. This can work when much of what you shot will make it into the final cut, and can be a necessary strategy when working in a team or when specific revisions are expected. But its very slow to start as you have to watch back lots of errors or spend time trying to judge which content is merely acceptable and which is perfect.
Instinctual editing is where you hunt for acceptable content, hopefully finding some of that perfect stuff along the way, and focus on creating a meaningful rough cut as quickly as possible. You trust your gut and believe that even if there was some better content in the raw footage, it’s okay that you don’t use it, because a film is more than the sum of its parts.
In fact, this approach not only saves time but also can lead to a better final product, because it allows other people to share their perspective sooner. When you’re working against a deadline (which should be always), accelerating the initial stages of post-production gives you more time to revise, change directions in the story, or acquire more coverage if need be. And clients like this!
Sometimes it’s scary to turn in an edit, knowing that you haven’t watched back every single bit of footage. But if you focus on making the final product a compelling story, your clients and your audience will thank you. And in the meantime, you can walk away from your computer and get on with your life.
Fashion, Ethical Consumption & Bangladesh
I buy clothes like a crackhead buys rock. I love subtle variations on my favorite styles, and I’ll pick things up as soon as I find them to make sure I don’t miss out on my size. In the past, I had a very strange sense of style and followed a lot of absurd trends for fun. You could say that I’m pretty frivolous when it comes to dressing myself, but I’m maturing a bit.
However, as the death toll from the garment factory collapse in Bangladesh rises to make this one of the greatest industrial tragedies in history, I wonder about the clothes that I buy. I know I’ve seen that country on several tags from different brands, along with Malaysia and Thailand and other countries that I don’t know much about.
When I was in middle school, I had to do a report on a foreign country. I picked Bangladesh off of a globe, simply because I thought the name was funny. I was surprised to find out that it’s not only one of the most populous nations in the world, it is also one of the most impoverished. It is routinely hit by severe weather that kills many. I’m sure many people there are desperate for work to survive.
I wonder if my frivolity and our collective first-world penchant for overconsumption led to these people being put in danger. I wonder if my constant demand for $8 tee shirts and clearance rack dress shirts helped destroy lives. Sounds a bit melodramatic, but I wonder.
As someone who makes things for a living, I love the projects where I feel like a craftsman, putting a lot of quality into the product and giving it my personal touch. I’m still young, hungry and learning, so I’ll churn out some cheaper work for a quick buck, but I look forward to the day when I’ll say no to most of those offers. I’m truly glad that I can connect with a market that wants high-quality, thoughtfully-made products that are built to last.
So why not apply those same principles that benefit me as a creator to the clothing I buy? Maybe instead of having twenty different plaid shirts with buttons falling off, I should find three that will last as long as the ones my grandfather wore, the garments that I found in his closet after he passed away and that I wore through high school. Instead of owning dozens of pairs of shoes, and never quite settling on a perfect pair, I should run my leather boots into the ground and have one extra pair of athletic shoes.
Even disregarding the ethics of the issue — fashion is temporary, while style is timeless.
Lifehacks and The Man
Illegal downloading. Illegal immigration. Illegal drugs.
These are all ways of “hacking” a situation to your individual benefit, ways which have been prohibited by legislators enacting the will of the majority.
But piracy also created the most effective content distribution system imagined. Border-hopping seems like the natural result of geographic inequity and labor surpluses. Getting high can be a homegrown therapeutic treatment.
What are these laws really trying to stop? Change.
The systems that we used throughout the 20th century are irrelevant in the face of globalization and the internet. But those who run the systems are afraid of being replaced, and they will do anything they can to stall progress on the basis of whatever morality suits their purposes.
Get out, get high and get free.
July 22, 2012 at 6:17am
When students are taught they are no different from animals, they act like it.
— Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback megachurch
#rockford under attack by #lightning after the #storm (Taken with Instagram)
just rode to Wisconsin and back (Taken with Instagram)
only in #machesneypark (Taken with Instagram)
Honest advertising. (via reddit)
February 16, 2012 at 3:45pm
With me, I just don’t understand why I should do what people tell me to do. The majority is always wrong. I mean if the majority was right, then we would live in a better world. But the world is not good, which means that the majority is always, always wrong.
— Marjane Satrapi, creator of Persepolis