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Documentary Editing


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Product Details

Table of Contents


Introduction: The Construction of Meaning in Documentaries

Principles of Documentary Editing

Your Documentary Editing Panel

Part I: Setting the Stage for a Successful Edit

Chapter 1: Planning Your Schedule

Documentary Schedules: How Many Weeks?

Chapter 2: Organizing Your Footage

File Organization on Your Hard Drives

Bringing The Files Into Your NLE

A Clean Window on Your Footage: The Feng Shui of File Structure

Documents You Will Need

Chapter 3: Everyday Work Practices

Work in Stages


The Vital Importance of Taking Breaks

Duplicate and Archive: Leaving a Trail of Breadcrumbs Behind You

Scraps Sequences & Alternate Shots

The Director/Editor Relationship: Working Together and Working Alone

Part II: Finding Patterns

Chapter 4: Viewing and Digesting

Chapter 5: Making Select Reels

Creating Source-Based Select Reels

Creating Topic-Based Select Reels

Chapter 6: Refining Select Reels

Drawing Initial Conclusions About Your Narrative From Your Select Reels

A Fork in the Road

Part IIIa: Constructing and Refining Scenes

Chapter 7: Evidentiary Editing: Building Interview-Based Scenes

Constructing the Framework: Anchor with Audio

Finding "Hinge Clips"

Stitch Together the Seams with Cutaways

Smoothing Edits

Chapter 8: Verite Editing: Building Observational Scenes

Build Up or Trim Down: Two Options for Finding "The Good Bits"

Invisible or Self-Referential?

Microbeats: Sculpting Human Behavior Onscreen

Body Language

Verite Cutaways

Workarounds for Insufficient Cutaway Material

Making Amalgam Scenes

Integrating Audio from Unrelated Scenes

Mixing Evidentiary and Verite Editing with the "Pop-in" Moment

Chapter 9: Building Montages

Media Montages

Part IIIb: Building the Rough Cut

Chapter 10: Choosing and Framing Footage

A Hierarchy of Experience

A Hierarchy of Intervention

The Limits of Verite

Chapter 11: The Fundamentals of Narrative

Text and Subtext


Chapter 12: Working with Narrative

The First Scene

The Beginning

The Middle



Creating Meaning Through Association and Juxtaposition

Alternative Approaches to Narrative

Chapter 13: Working with Details


Archival Material and Stock Shots


Graphics and Animations

Lower Thirds

Location Cards


Chapter 14: Working with Time

Marking Time






Part IV: The Refining Process

Chapter 15: Feedback

Evaluating the Work and Taking Direction

Why Hold a Rough Cut Screening?

Tips for a Successful Rough Cut Screening

Interpreting Notes

Chapter 16: Fine Cut to Final Cut and Beyond

Clarity Is King

Trimming Scenes Down

Cutting Scenes To Remove Redundancy

Cutting Scenes To Improve Narrative or Emotional Logic

Removing Unnecessary Pauses & Utterances

Inspecting and Improving Cutaways

Moving Backwards: Overcutting and How to Avoid It

Picture Lock and Beyond

Part V: Seeing It All Come Together: Analyses of Four Films

Chapter 17:Analyses of Two Feature Documentaries

My Kid Could Paint That

An Inconvenient Truth

Chapter 18: Analyses of Two Short Documentaries


Hotel 22


Appendix A: List of Films Cited

Appendix B: Case Studies of Schedules for Feature Documentaries

Appendix C: Documents You Will Need

About the Author

Jacob Bricca, ACE is an Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona's School of Theatre, Film and Television, where he teaches classes on editing and documentary filmmaking. A member of the American Cinema Editors, he has edited over a dozen feature films, including the international theatrical hit Lost In La Mancha, the New Yorker Films theatrical release Con Artist, the Independent Lens Audience Award Winner Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew, and the Sundance Special Jury Prize winner The Bad Kids. His directing credits include Pure, which screened at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival, and Finding Tatanka, which premiered at the 2014 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.


"Anyone involved in the intellectually-challenging and labor-intensive work of documentary editing will find this book an essential companion. Whether you are a novice editor or an experienced hand, Bricca's unwavering faith in the process of editing will guide you securely down the bumpy road to the finished film."

-Julie Sloane, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University

"Jacob Bricca's Documentary Editing is a critical addition to the documentary filmmaker, editor, or professor's collection. In fifteen years of filmmaking and teaching I have not come across such a straight-forward, cohesive, and useful manual for how to tackle that most daunting of challenges: editing the documentary film."

-Sally Rubin, Documentary Filmmaker, Editor; Professor, Chapman University

"The book finishes up with an analysis of four films, two feature length and two short. Along the way a multitude of other narrative documentaries are discussed and analyzed. Bricca's writing is clear and focused."

-Conrad J. Obregon

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