Unreal Nature

July 23, 2015

Embrace that Fact and Use It to My Advantage

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:39 am

… If you don’t do that, you lose your audience …

This is from the interview with Victor Livingston in First Cut 2: More Conversations with Film Editors by Gabriella Oldham (2012):

[ … ]

… there is something to be said for changing the location of a scene or beat in a story in unexpected places. It stimulates an audience — if it’s not confusing — and gives them more to digest in the course of the scene. Of course, those opportunities don’t offer themselves very often.

Do you think such creative liberties call into question whether you are being true to the situation or time in which things happen in a documentary? Wouldn’t they jar an audience?

I hope they do jar an audience! There’s nothing more documentary than a technique that helps you illustrate your subject and shed light on it in a nonconventional and intriguing way. As I recall, at the time I felt it was also a nice surprise that would keep the audience entertained and engaged. I am far more concerned about keeping a film entertaining than I am about showing things strictly as they happened. In any case, as soon as you put two shots together in the editing room, you are manipulating the “reality” of what happened. There’s simply no way to avoid it, so I’d rather embrace that fact and use it to my advantage. I use this technique to make the subject and its presentation more interesting to the audience and to myself. That’s the bottom line, keep things interesting and keep the story moving. If you don’t do that, you lose your audience and you might as well not make a film.

[ … ]

… the most important thing in both a documentary and a fiction film is story, and to tell a story that is coherent and flows, you have to take liberties. You can’t get bogged down in every detail of how something happened and everything that led up to it. It’s too tedious. Good documentaries and good narrative films both propel an audience from heightened moment to heightened moment. We don’t go to movies to see ordinary everyday things, real “reality.” That’s boring.

[ … ]

… To me, film is so much more about emotion and atmosphere than meaning — it’s more than real meaning — because it’s hard to get very deep with a film and keep the audience engaged. Changing the atmospherics and surprising an audience help to keep their attention and hopefully reinforce the mood you want to create.

[ … ]

I want to revisit a phrase you used earlier that’s been nagging at me. You said that it’s hard to get “deep” with a film. I’m not sure I understand what you mean as your documentaries seem to be very deep and profound in both content and execution.

I mean that because the nature of the film medium is immediate and visceral, it’s hard to get “deep” ideas or concepts. In the course of film history, we have trained audiences to want to be entertained. Roger Corman maybe understood better than anyone in the history of film that that is why lots of people go to see films and that’s how you get the money to pay for the films you’ve made in order to make another film. You have to give audiences what they want.

[ … ]

… Filmmakers feel enormous pressures to come up with bigger and better sensations and surprises to satisfy the audience, and I don’t think documentaries are immune to this at all. Only a certain segment of audiences will sit still for any documentary, but those who do still have the same hunger for a lively and entertaining text, regardless of how delicious the subtext may be. I have to agree with Corman that this is a reality every filmmaker must come to terms with.

My most recent previous post from Oldham’s book is here.

-Julie

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