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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, Fall 2015

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

Over the years, we haven’t committed as much editorial content to technical issues and information as we would like. So, in a step towards more consistency, we devote this issue, in part, to the nuts and bolts of the process of making a documentary, from cinematography to editing. And as we develop issues of the magazine in concert with the rest of the services that IDA is providing to you, the Fall edition jibes with IDA's first Tech Day event, on the evening of October 27 at the AFI Mark Goodson Screening Room in Los Angeles, during which editors Matt Radecki and Doug Blush will lead a presentation on the fine points of workflow and the pros and cons of the leading editing systems out there. For more information:

As a prelude to the evening, Radecki and Blush share their insights with Matthew Carey on workflow, an essential and often overlooked means to organize your process and, most crucially, your data, from pre-production to post. In a related article, Jane Dubzinski talks with such leading editors as Lewis Erskine, Matt Hamachek, Pedro Kos and Mary Manhardt, who weigh in on their experiences with Final Cut Pro 7, Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere—as well as the much maligned Final Cut Pro 10.

Before the editing is the shooting, and many intrepid filmmakers venture to places where actual shooting is a daily fact of life, and staying alive while staying true to your art and craft is part of the job. Andrew Berends, Matthew Heineman and Rachel Beth Anderson share with author Valentina Valentini their thoughts about how they work in war-torn areas, as well as regions with harsh climates, and what gear has served them well in maintaining their focus—both personal and cinematographic—in these dire situations.

One crucial skill in the cinematography discipline is the art of interviewing. Context, lighting, equipment, angles: These are all serious considerations when a cinematographer and a director prepare for an interview, and serve as a strong foundation for both the story you’re trying to tell and how the interview will serve that story. How do you anticipate an emotional moment in the interview, and how do you handle it? What’s more effective—a sit-down interview or one on-the-fly? Do you maintain one angle, or do you deploy multiple angles? Or do you adopt an Erroll Morris-type Interrotron style, in which the subject looks directly into the camera? Tracie Lewis talks to Buddy Squires, Joan Churchill and Kirsten Johnson about working with their directors, adapting to ever-evolving technology and serving and telling the story.

Finally, one of the newest and more cost-efficient means to capture aerial shots and sweeping vistas is through drone cameras. Drone cameras are certainly cheaper than helicopter rides, but there are attendant dangers and legal concerns that filmmakers need to consider. Suz Curtis speaks to filmmakers, company owners and attorneys about what you need to know and do before venturing into this rapidly growing form of cinematography.

IDA is planning a second Tech Day for sometime in the future. In the meantime, we hope to see some of you on October 27.

Yours in actuality,

Thomas White