In New York, Allan Title gave a talk on how they edit ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter.’
He doesn’t call the show reality TV. It’s ‘fast cut verité’ – a non-narrated documentary. It covers the stories arising out of the lives of a family of Bounty Hunters based in Hawaii. The family that hunts bail jumpers together, stays together.
He said that they need to make sure that they don’t re-write reality too much. As they are dealing with police suspects who are about to go to trial, they need to be able to defend their programme to trial judges. If they play with time or change too much, the people in the programme can sue.
The show grew out of a series of individual documentaries on people who have interesting jobs. People audiences don’t usually get to meet. Allan has become a TV producer based on his editing experience. He says that documentaries need to be about people who are relatable but inaccessible.
As A&E have had a lot of success with the show (there have been over 85 episodes), they have a very generous production schedule.
1. Sequencers: Make up sequences that combine all the clips in order. They groupclip the multicamera sections.
2. Editors spend six weeks per show. Allan said that if they had narration to strcuture the show and also if they didn’t have sections that are edited to commercial music (the music video sections), then they would only need to spend three to four weeks a show.
3. By week 3 of the edit, they have a 45 minute cut for a 22 minute show.
4. By week 5 it is down to less than 30 minutes with almost all effects and music complete.
5. They allow a week for the changes required by standards and practices.
Dog is made at Hybrid Films in New York. Allan briefly outlined what he needs from trainees:
You start as a logger. Loggers get promoted if they can recognise what moments ‘pop’ from the rushes. Editing this kind of the documentary can be about taking footage that was not professionally captured and making it work. “You reveal your ability by making the unusable usable.”
Allan also said that you will spend a great deal of time with producers and other ‘higher-ups.’ This means that being an editor is like being a bartender or therapist. You have to be ready to talk about whatever they want to talk about.
Let discretion be your watchword.