Pulling structure from hundreds of hours

Today Josh gave us an insight to some of the strategies he employed to cut the feature documentary ‘Barbecue is a Noun.’

When the co-directors first went out to make their film, they interviewed many people on the subject of Barbecue – the cuisine from American South. Each interview followed on from the previous one: ‘Let me tell you who you should also talk to…’ That meant that they ended up very many hours of footage of people talking about and demonstrating barbecue cooking. They went to Josh to find out if they had enough for a feature documentary.

After viewing the ‘best 35 hours’ in the directors’ opinion, he thought there was. The trick was to find the characters in the footage. The people that are most interesting to be with are a good place to start. The people most suited to be documentary subjects are those people going through the biggest changes in their life.

It is much more gripping to be following the story of a man who plans to give up a 20-year career with the government to risk it all on the dream of starting a new business selling the best Barbecue food in the US than it is to follow a restaurateur who’s having problems with her suppliers.

This also applies if you like the idea of building a documentary around a person who you think is very interesting. They may have had an interesting life. They may be quirky and original. Concentrating on a story that demonstrates the biggest change they can go through best brings out their personality. The way they are tested will bring out the character that you think will interest your audience.

The big danger with talking about this film meant that most of us left class this afternoon with a hankering for some real Barbecue. Fortunately, it looks as if our final day class meal will be the best barbecue you can get in New York City.


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