I'm very involved in the editing process. Brother's Keeper and Paradise Lost, Bruce and I edited. Paradise Lost 2, we hired an editor. Actually, Paradise Lost 1, we hired an editor because there was so much trial footage, we did have an editor roughing out the trial sequences while Bruce and I edited all the verite material. We oversaw the editor's trial editing, then Bruce and I edited the entire film. And then, in Paradise Lost 2, because of the nature of our growing business and our multiple commitments, we experimented with having someone else do the physical editing, but we were extremely involved in the editing room for major periods of time.
The editing process, to me, is everything. That's the equivalent to the script process, where you discover things you may not have noticed before. The key to verite filmmaking is not having any preconceived notions about your subject. As a human being you can't help but have some preconceived ideas, but you have to be open to changing those ideas. The most dramatic example would be going down to make Paradise Lost thinking that we were making a film about guilty teenagers and disaffected youth, and exploring how three teenagers could be so rotten as to slaughter three eight-year-old boys, and to discover the possibility that, in fact, it just wasn't adding up, and ultimately it's a film about the miscarriage of justice. That type of openness to your subject matter on every level is critical to this type of filmmaking, because the films are very much about the process of discovery. For me, anyway, the films are as much about the journey that we take and reporting the emotions of the journey as it is about the story itself.
So you have to be open. That extends into the editing room. You have certain ideas about where the material is going to take its shape, but the reviewing of the material and being very intimately involved in the editorial process is critical because I feel not walking into the editing room with too many ideas is very important. And the story changes many, many, many times. Of course, by the time you've shot your material you have a better idea of what your story is than when you started the film. It's not like you have no ideas about what you want to make the film about, but you're open to certain possibilities and certain structures. I would say when we started Paradise Lost 2, it was clearly a follow-up film to keep the flame of hope alive for Damien to follow the appeals process. It wasn't until we got into the editing room that it became evident that it was a meditation on the nature of documentary making in general, and specifically the film was about the impact of the first film on the case. And that we only discovered as we were watching the footage and it manifested itself as a theme. So we started to chip away like [at] a sculpture. The story is in this big block of granite and we started chipping away in the editing room. It's why I don't like making films about past historical events because it's just not as interesting to me as the whole process of discovering what your story is about and being open to letting that story lead you to some emotional truth. And often, those truths don't come out until the editing room, which is why I would never abdicate the editing responsibility to someone else.
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