How we make a Family Voices Media documentary: the edit

The family documentary biographies we make are real movies. In conversation with a journalist for an article in Barron's Penta, I was reminded that the process is second nature to myself and my crew. But to the family being filmed, it’s an entirely new experience. Last time I detailed the interview that takes place in the family’s home, filmed and lit by my crew and I. Once we’ve finished the interview and packed up our lights and cameras, there’s more work to do.

From interview to production 

Many factors distinguish FVM from other custom filmmakers. My background in broadcast television taught me that a great movie comes from many layers. That’s another thing my clients have told me distinguishes FVM: We don’t just film raw footage and cut it into a loose presentation. We create a real movie.

When I head into the studio to edit is where the real magic happens. I work with a professional film editor to bring out the best moments in the interview. Sometimes we have to cut a good story: the goal is to keep the narrative clear, emotional and moving along a timeline. I’ve gotten to know the family so well, I understand the legacy they want to convey as part of the story. We interweave materials into the film: family photographs and papers (such as passports and visas) the family has provided, possibly old footage, as well as historical archives and music from the period. We always ask for the subject’s favorite music.

The result is a fully produced movie. Centered around the interview we did, it’s filled with all the extra elements that help make the film rich, meaningful, entertaining. Once we’re finished, the family can have its own private premiere (either from a special, private link on the FVM website, or with a DVD in hand). Set up the living room and gather round to watch your own family’s history come to life. (And a word of experience: You may want to have a box of tissues handy.)