With hours of footage, music, interviews and graphics, putting together a documentary can be a complex challenge. Editor, Kelli Burkinshaw was more than up for the task.
“What I love to do the most is the editing,” Burkinshaw says.
Beginning last May, and a few shots before then, Skip and Scott had been out in the field gathering a lot of material, a lot of interviews. Then we’ve had a variety of really talented people working on writing the script and getting it ready to bring into the edit suite. Once we have a script, then I take all of those pieces then I take them and put them on the edit line and see how it works.
I guess as an editor, one of the things that I always keep in mind is ‘does this piece move the story along in a meaningful way or does it develop a character.’ In this piece one of the main characters is the Alaska Marine Highway.
I had over 1,000 pieces of media on the timeline by the time we got done–be that a still, a piece of video a piece of audio. 1,000 individual pieces that needed to be put in, placed and arranged so it wasn’t overpowering or under powering.
Putting Together the Story
If you’re looking to tell the story of the history–that history has happened. So you know what has happened and then you find the people that can talk to it. They may not always say what you think they’re going to say, in which case then you change your script and you pick the good parts they have and go with it because that’s like gold to get the new pieces.
Once you have a script you’re ready to start putting it on the timeline. You start to bring in your graphics people, right around the very beginning. Ideally you would have had sound people all along. We didn’t have them ‘til later in the project and they took separate trips. Luckily, they were able to pull together some nice sound to really build on what it’s like to hear being on the highway. Mike and Lucy did a phenomenal job there.
Then you put those layers down and move them around and remove pieces and add little pieces and figure out ‘oh, the intonation there—it looked good on paper, when they said it but when you play it they ended it like a question rather than a statement so it really isn’t going to work quite like we thought it was going to do.’ So you find a different place to put that or move it around so it does work.
Thinking of the Audience
I have a lot of shots that I really liked as sort of my favorites. For a lot of friends, the Aleutians trip is definitely a neat one, because none of us have been able to get out there and see it. So it’s nice to be able to see it through the ferry’s eyes. And now I and all my friends are saving up to do the Aleutians trip. And then there are a few individual short shots that I really enjoy.
It’s funny because when you start editing something, you hear the humor, you see the humor and you work with that. And after you’ve been through it time and time again and you’re on your 80th time through it and I’ve probably been through it many more times than that I start to forget about it. What I’m listening for is ‘is it getting overpowered, or can you still hear it, is the music too loud’ or anything like that. So I’m looking at levels and I’m listening. So it’s so refreshing to get it back in the room with fresh eyes, fresh ears and have people laugh. And you go ‘yeah, yeah, that’s right. That is funny. That is funny. I like that.’ That was kind of nice.
When he said ‘if the weather cooperates, it’s a nice trip,’ that’s a funny thing to anyone in Southeast but we’ll see if that is of any consequence to anyone outside of Alaska.
One Down, Three to Go
It some ways I think it will be easier, because we do have somewhat of a library available to us. All of the graphics, bringing all of those pieces together. Chase [Shumway] has done a phenomenal job of putting that together. We have all the stills that we can pull from and the libraries there. So I think that process will go a little easier. But it’s never just boom, boom, boom. You kind of always have to go through and play around and stuff. But I do think it will go faster.
Editing is my favorite. It’s where it all comes together or it doesn’t. I really enjoy that challenge of pulling it together in a way that is meaningful for a person and finding rhythms, ways of moving the story or letting the story move people along. Hopefully, we create some sort of feeling or change in somebody.