Thoughts on Errol Morris' Tabloid

The most striking thing about Errol Morris’ new documentary Tabloid, besides the literally unbelievable story, is the director’s decision to leave whole sections of interview footage uncovered.

Minutes go by without b-roll.

Instead, we see the exposed footage, jump cuts and all.

To complicate the matter, like many of his recent documentaries, Morris continuously tracks the camera when shooting interviews. So what might be a subtle right-to-left movement when seen in its entirety, in Tabloid becomes not only a jump cut but a startling shift with head shots jumping across the screen.

For transitions, the director simply fades to black before fading up again, sometimes to the same speaker.

Altogether, it’s a pretty dramatic technique.

At first glance, I’d say the decision to do this was made, in part, to combat a lack of archival material. Many of the scenes were simply never filmed. But Morris is no stranger to reenactment. He’s recreated scenes in many of his films. So why not here too?

It’s a good question; one that I’d like to hear him address.

The more pertinent question though is, does it work? I have to say, given the film’s reliance on point-of-view as a narrative device, I think it does.

Oddly, that just might be Tabloid’s most startling revelation.

Editing Stutter

When you edit a stutter–for instance, someone who says, "I'm going to the, the, the car"–as a general rule try to keep the tail end of the stutter, the final "the." Cutting there will usually offer the best cadence with the following word. But not always. So trust your ear, too.

Words to Cut On

Linear storytelling is about progression. It's about the ordering of events to create a beginning, middle and end and thereby a compelling narrative. As an editor, I constantly ask myself, how do I get from here to there?

One road post to look for are transitional words like but, however, and therefore. These words connote change. They pivot the narrative making them great words to cut on.

"I was was walking to the store, but" - walking-to-the-store image.

"I decided to go home. " - relaxing-at-home image.

As a general rule, I cut after the transition.

The grammar of language and the grammar of editing flow together. Don't overlook their connection.

Two New Projects on MediaStorm

In my haste to announce my new film Three Women, I neglected to post two other projects recently released on MediaStorm.

The first is Lisa Robinson's Snowbound, which I produced and edited. The project was a bit of a departure as it's the first non-narrative piece I've produced at MediaStorm.

From the description:

Snowbound explores the mystery of a winter landscape. This journey may lead one to discover a sense of peace in an often uncharted world.

View Snowbound here.

The second project is Airsick by Lucas Oleniuk. This piece was originally produced by the Toronto Star. At MediaStorm, I re-edited a handful of scenes and helped oversee the creation of new titles by the abundantly talented James Gundersen.

See Airsick here.

Driftless Wins Webby for Best Editing

I am thrilled to announce that the 14th Annual Webby Awards named MediaStorm’s Driftless by Danny Wilcox Frazier, which I produced and edited, as the winner in this year's Best Editing for Online Film and Video Category.

From the Webby press release:

Hailed as the “Internet’s highest honor” by The New York Times, The Webby Awards is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet, including websites, interactive advertising, online film and video, and mobile websites. The Webby Awards is presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a 650-person judging academy whose members include Martha Stewart, R/GA’s Chief Bob Greenberg, David Bowie, Arianna Huffington and Twitter’s Biz Stone.

“The Webby Awards honors the very best of the Internet,” said David-Michel Davies, executive director of The Webby Awards. “MediaStorm’s achievement is a testament to the skill, ingenuity, and vision of its creators.”

The 14th Annual Webby Awards received nearly 10,000 entries from over 60 countries and all 50 states.

Watch Driftless: Stories from Iowa here.