Working with others' film footage

13. 7. 2016


My work with organisations I often work with footage that has been shot by someone else, but is edited by me. How do you go about constructing a story out of film material you had no prior influence on? - Here are my insights!

Start by enjoying it

I sometimes meet editors or filmmakers cursing the terrible quality of the material they have to work with. I go about it rather the other way, I enjoy it. It is not my footage. These are not my mistakes. I find that rather relaxing. I thus give my full attention to what I see. And I always see more than just the obvious. Thus I enter a world of new images and possible stories. 

Immerse into the new world

I take the time to view the entire footage. While watching I log it: clip name; what I see with corresponding time code; and comments, where I note whatever crosses my mind. Viewing the material is also the moment to embrace it. Bad audio, shaky images, not enough close-ups, no establishing shot … I take it all in, and accept it. Actually the footage with all its mistakes will help me to determine the style I will tell story.

Let the images tell you how to use them

For example in the video here below. I noticed that the project consultant, Violette Ruppanner, who was filming at the same time, was actually asking her question while pointing her photo camera at her subject. Together with the shaky footage and difficult audio, the footage leads me to a holiday style snapshot video which for all its imperfections has something human. You really feel that nothing has been prearranged. And that is actually their power!

Mandate Strategos | Concept Babette Pfander, dubbed perceptions | Edit Alexandre Favarger (final cut), Babette Pfander, Hynek Bures (rough cut) | Language French | Year 2016

Respect the footage

In extremis, there are no limits what you can tell with any kind of footage. With the right voice-over and titles, you can lead the viewer anywhere. - But that is not what I aim for. Of course I need to tell a story that follows the specification of the mandate. But I try to keep it simple. My greatest worry is not to loose the audience. For this I do use titles and text inserts. I prefer text over voice-over. Especially when documenting other cultures, or lives. To me, text is less intrusive than voice-over. Actually I find it deafening listening to a voice-over non-stop throughout a story.

I would love to hear your ideas on editing others' footage? Write me on face book!