I spent this weekend editing the first documentary film I was involved in making with my friend and fellow student, Cindy.
Throughout the editing process, Cindy and I discussed a few times how we feel as though our broadcast journalism class has helped us become aware of and develop the skills we need to make documentaries. This continuous conversation got me thinking about different mediums for journalism.
I took for granted before how accessible, in many ways, print journalism is. And I don’t mean accessible to the audience, I mean accessible to the journalist. If you are able to secure interviews with the appropriate sources, even interviews that do not happen face-to-face but over the phone and, as a last resort, via email, you can write your story. As a broadcast journalist, however, you will need very specific footage to tell the story.
Cindy and I discussed the importance of having footage that is relevant -- what I mean by that is the opposite of “wallpaper footage,” as the instructors of broadcast journalism instructors at school call it. Wallpaper footage is a term I’ve come to understand as footage that simply fills the space as the voice of the broadcast journalist speaks to tell the story. I’ve noticed it so much everywhere I look now and I love that I have the ability to spot it because it truly weakens the story and because I am aware of it, I can avoid the practice of shooting it.
Our instructors say we should write to our footage, but I like to think of it more as shooting to edit. One of the best tricks I’ve found so far is working with the journalist while on the location/interview of the shoot and writing out a rough version of the script as you go based on the things your subject is saying and the environment.
By practicing this you will end up with a story that would make sense even if the sound on the television was turned all the way down, with strong visuals and a sense of direction as to where the story is headed in every shot.