Forums › Creative Community Conversations › Doc editors – Help! I have TONS of audio interviews with no video??
Doc editors – Help! I have TONS of audio interviews with no video??Mads Nybo jørgensenupdated 10 months ago 5 Members · 7 Posts
Hannah BowmanMay 13, 2022 at 10:48 pm
The subject of my documentary lived from 1894 – 1981. He left behind 32 hour-long audio tapes talking about his life for a potential autobiography he never actually wrote so luckily I have TONS of soundbites to choose from. The issue I’m running into is ideas for keeping the visual side of the story interesting. There’s only so long you can watch a slow-mo vintage tape recorder with moody lighting while he’s telling these stories. Have you all seen any docs I can look to for inspiration on how to handle this?
For context, this person was a white playwright from the American South who wrote plays with radical (for the time) social justice themes that featured all-Black casts. His plays gave African-American actors some of their first chances on Broadway to portray characters with real substance rather than offensive stereotypical roles.
The bulk of the doc is interviews with his family and with experts in his field. There are also interviews with the subject that DO contain video. But there is a lot of good content in the tapes that I need to intersperse in order to tell his full story.
Any ideas? I’m stumped.
Eric SantiagoMay 18, 2022 at 3:38 am
I’m not sure if my idea would work with 32 hours of audio but what about approaching animation and sketch artists?
Throw in some historical footage and artwork here and there.
You will need to storyboard it.
Have you broken it down into episodes?
Andrew KimeryMay 18, 2022 at 3:38 pm
Have you seen “Diana: In Her Own Words”? It’s based on a series of audio recording from an interview with Princess Diana. There is obviously a lot of broll and pictures of her to help cover this, but it might give you some general ideas.
One thing my friend and fellow editor Shane Ross talks about a lot is telling a visual story that is separate, but thematically/emotionally related to the story the subject(s) is telling (what the audience is hearing). For example, if someone is talking about childhood memories of being poor, and how one time they had to walk three miles barefoot in a snow storm to the local store to spend their last cent on a can of soup, you don’t literally need to show images of a young person walking barefoot in a snowstorm, going into the local store, taking a can of soup off the shelf and paying for it.
You could tell a visual story of hardship and struggle, or resiliency and determination.
Joseph BanksMay 20, 2022 at 11:27 pm
I’ve edited a couple of documentaries that lack usable interview video and b-roll, and I would encourage you to investigate archival and stock footage libraries for video and photos that illuminate the sound bites you have. It helps to have at least a rough script in place, then you can set about finding footage that matches your content. If you are writing as you edit, consider how you will visually match the content as you go to help you make choices that will work.
If you have the means and budget to do so, you can also shoot new footage to accompany your script. You can see this technique in countless documentaries and it can be either evocative (as Andrew suggested) or specific, re-creating events using actors and/or locations whose identifying characteristics remain hidden. You can use filters and looks to age footage to match different eras. I recently noticed this technique used effectively in The Andy Warhol Diaries on Netflix, in which even the audio soundbites are created using AI-assisted voice simulation.
Many if not most stock libraries include 4K clips which allow you to add zooms and pans if you are finishing in HD.
Make sure you check the terms of the licenses whether you are paying or not. Different licenses cover different uses and intended distribution.
Sources of footage I can recommend include:
archive.org – a rich and free source of historical archival footage stretching back to the dawn of filmmaking.
wpafilmlibrary.com – a relatively expensive source of footage of significant historical events.
criticalpast.com – similar to WPA
storyblocks.com – a large library of mediocre to spectacular footage that gives unlimited downloads for a flat fee depending on your use. You will find some of the same clips that more expensive libraries have here. You will learn how to search more effectively for what you want as you go through thousands of search results.
shutterstock.com – a low-to-medium-priced library with fewer mediocre clips and a better search engine than Storyblocks. Terms and prices for the same clips found in other libraries may differ.
pond5.com – similar to Shutterstock with many of the same clips. Terms and prices for the same clips found in other libraries may differ.
envato.elements.com – similar to Storyblocks and even less expensive but with a more limited selection. Clips must be registered to individual projects.
stock.adobe.com – I haven’t used them yet. Pay per clip, medium-priced for clip-based services.
There are many more libraries but I can vouch for the above.
Good luck with your project!
Mads Nybo jørgensenMay 21, 2022 at 10:49 am
You’ve already had some excellent advice.
As he was a playwright, are there film/video recordings from the time?
Like local TV stations that might have covered the theatre productions/opening nights?
Maybe go docu-drama on it, and bring in an actor to play the playwright?
(even if you just show “him” from the back on a type-writer, or what-ever he used)
Or, put some of the plays up on stage and film the prep + play (or parts of)?
Sounds like an exciting project.
Don’t know about your funding, but it sounds like something that could raise extra funding/pro bono help form a heavy-weight actor/actress.
Hannah BowmanMay 25, 2022 at 8:33 pm
Bless every one of you that took the time to give me these great ideas. I’m living and working in Kentucky, and sometimes I feel like there’s just no one in this area to bounce ideas off of when it comes to film. I will take a look at all of the documentaries you all mentioned as examples for inspiration. Really – thanks so much.
Mads Nybo jørgensenMay 25, 2022 at 9:18 pm
You are very welcome.
A few years back, Nick Snow a friend & client, co-wrote and co-produced a docu-drama, based on documents that he had researched his way to.
The project was financed out of Ireland.
It is free in UK on Amazon Prime, you may have it in the US too:
It combines the use of archive, interviews and dramatic reconstruction.
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