Interview with Will Cordukes, Producer & Director, Laundry Lane Productions
What is story editing?
It’s creating a story arc out of an interview. So, you might have 20 to 30 minutes worth of interview content, and the challenge is how do you actually arrange that in a way that is going to be engaging for the viewer from start to finish. There’s so much content out there, so unless you actually arrange that content in a way that is going to get people listening and keep people engaged, they’re going to switch off completely.
What is the process you go through to sort through all the content to find your key moments for the story arc?
It’s kind of like sculpting. You start with a big block of wood, and then you chuck bits out that you don’t need. Ideally you take the time to watch the whole interview through, and you just start by cutting out bits like your own questions, and then slowly you start to get a feel for the highpoints. The highpoints are the comments where people come alive. When you interview people, they are often speaking from rote and speaking in a way that they are very used to, and that can often be boring for the viewer. So, you have to listen for those moments where they get animated, they become excited about an idea and they talk in language that isn’t always perfect language but it’s much more engaging listening to as their voice and tone changes. It’s all about making sure that you get those kinds of moments. And once you’ve understood the content that you’ve got, it’s about having a really engaging beginning, because we know the first 5 seconds of the video are really important in terms of whether people are going to stay engaged or not. It’s about finding that stand out comment to begin with that really gets people, and then after that it’s the story arc where you are trying to understand the information and the content that people are actually interested in, that’s going to fill in the gaps for them, and that’s going to give them knowledge on the information that they need to have.
How important is the balance between being engaging and informative?
Often, if you try to put too much in, it almost underestimates the intelligence of the audience. By giving them too much, you kind of disrespect their time and their knowledge as well. In the same way, sometimes you have to take a step back and make sure you don’t become emotionally attached to the footage. You need to be able to cull footage decisively. You may think, ‘Oh that’s an amazing comment, people need to hear that’, but actually do they? Is it additive? The middle is really trying to cut it down into a strong story arc, giving people knowledge of value that will help them, but not overwhelm them by giving them too much. It needs to be just enough.
And how do you make sure an ending is powerful?
The ending is really often a call to action. So you’re thinking what’s going to get the viewer excited, motivated, inspired about the subject? Also, what’s going to get them, as a result of watching video, to do something that you want them to do. You’re aiming to create a behavior that you want them to follow, whether you want them to go find out more about the subject or you want them to click on something as a result.
The key processes are understanding and seeing when people are moving out of rote and becoming animated, engaged and excited about the language they use. It’s making sure they’re using language that is interesting and unexpected, opposed to jargon. Those kinds of unexpected comments are really the key thing. And then it’s just about arranging. I’ll often get the beginning and the end as sort of book ends, and then sort of work out what are the bits that slot in between them.