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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, Summer 2017

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

Over the past several months, we at IDA have presented a series of master classes by individuals who are at the top of their respective games in the docmaking process. The wisdom they proffered in those sessions proved valuable to filmmakers of every stripe, from novices to veterans. Wherever you are on the professional continuum, it pays to stay curious, refresh the toolkit and fine-tune the craft.

We approached two of these mavens to share their secrets with our readers. Adam Irving has learned through shooting and directing—and above all, from watching—what makes for a good cinematic interview. Here, he hones in on the minutiae of the art and craft of interviewing—from lighting to lenses, from fashion preferences for interviewees to best options for furniture, from the best sound strategy to the optimal room.

Speaking of sound, the dynamic Bay Area doc community would be bereft without mixer maestro Jim LeBrecht on hand. Here, LeBrecht offers guidance on finding the ideal sound house and going through the journey—from spotting through the final mix— to arrive at an optimal aural design.

IDA also produced a master class in animation and documentaries this past spring, taught by Syd Garon and Chris Kirk from Mindbomb Films. Tom Gianakopoulos talks to Garon and Kirk—as well as to such filmmakers as Keith Maitland (Tower) and Jessica Yu (In the Realms of the Unreal)—about their process of deploying their arsenal of animation and motion graphics techniques to lend a deeper dimensionality to documentary storytelling.

Although animation and documentary go back to the dawn of cinema, the tools and techniques have obviously evolved and expanded. Imagine making a trilogy of films over a 35-year period, in which you start out shooting on 16mm film and lugging around a reel-to-reel Nagra to record sound—and you’re doing this in the middle of a civil war in the Guatemalan highlands. In your next film, some 25 years later, and a decade-and-a-half into the digital era, you’re now shooting on a Panasonic HVX-200 on data cards, and recording sound on a digital sound recorder. And by the final film in the trilogy, you’re working with filmmakers a thousand miles away, communicating and uploading footage—some shot with GoPro cameras and iPhones—via WhatsApp. Here, Pamela Yates relates how tech booms have both enhanced and enriched the way that she’s crafted not only a story but a cohesive trilogy.

Finally, when filmmakers like Yates venture out in the field, they take a vast litany of essentials with them. In this issue, we introduce a new feature, “Inside Out,” in which filmmakers share the content of their kit bags, both in production and in the edit room. Legendary filmmaker/cinematographer Joan Churchill kicks things off here, with a little help from partner/soundperson Alan Barker, with a comprehensive documentation of everything she needs for capturing the greatest stories yet to be told.


Yours in actuality

Tom White