Tutorial: Editing: Paper cut & scripting

A paper cut in (almost) ten steps:

This is a paper cut for a story i made for UNICEF (video link once finalised). It’s about how a social welfare program is helping orphans and there families in rural China. A child is at the centre of the story but he’s very young and interviewing him would have been stressful for him. We made sure to get a few words from him though, to introduce him to the audience and also to add some emotional impact. Instead we told his story through his grandparents and social worker. My main mission was to tell a story of change, to show the impacts that UNICEF delivers.

1.Read through everything to get a sense of the information and most powerful sound bytes. Use markers to highlight.

2. Think about your main character, and the outline of the narrative arc. Why should the audience to care about character and story?

3. Identify key narrative arc and plot points (I start with the climax, then rising tension, exposition, resolution, hook and kicker). The points and order are not of course set in stone but they give you an idea of what to look for in your second reading. Sometimes you suddenly realise there’s a better climax point or more powerful way to tell the story.

4. Highlight transcribes with more purpose.

5. Cut up the highlighted text keeping single thoughts and phrases in flow. You can cut more tightly in the timeline. Glass of wine optional.

6. Shift and shuffle things around until you’re happy — while it’s important to get a beginning, middle and end, and points such as expiation, hook, climax and resolution structured — you can leave the quotes a little loose. Some times two quotes might be very similar and you’ll want to listen on the timeline to choose the best one. Now you have your basic story structure script. You will probably end up shuffling things around on the time line but the narrative arc shouldn’t change too much.

It’s really important not just to plop on broll — like wallpaper to your script. It’s video and you need to drive your narrative with visuals. There are many different ways to edit, this is just one option — it’s the way I work.

7. I favourite my favourite clips in FCPX (if you are using premiere you could skip this step and go to the next stage).

8. Next I dump all my favourite clips onto the timeline and watch everything again making mental notes of nice moments. From there I start to make sequences of different scenes, building mini stories if you like and driving the story and action forward visually.

9. From here I start laying my sequences over my script. For the best sequences, I might not lay them over script and just let the visuals take the story forward.

10. If I have the luxury of time, once i’m quite happy with things I like to leave it a day or two, then return and do a final edit. After some time away or perhaps getting feedback from a friend or editor, I’ve gained a little more objectivity and it’s easier for me to slash things down, see where things are confusing or don’t flow or where there is redundancy or reputation of information.

11. Finally i’ll do a little colour correction and sound mix.