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Devil in the Details: Finishing a Documentary Project

Sometimes it seems like the last part of creating an interview-driven documentary should be the easiest. After all, you've already created the budget, secured funding, filmed principal interviews and b-roll, collected archival assets, logged and selected footage and constructed the script. The rest should be paint-by-numbers easy, right?

Not typically. As they say, the devil is in the details, and if you don't pay close attention to them, your project may become hellish.

Chunking the main parts of the film together often goes quickly but then there are a myriad of fine adjustments that need to be made to fulfill the project vision.

  • The order of audio clips may need to be changed to enhance clarity and/or drive a point home.

  • You realize that you are missing the perfect piece of b-roll. You'll have to decide whether it's most cost effective to spend time searching for the right segment of stock or make arrangements to film it.

  • Creating the audio bed by researching and collecting the best music available within the budget and enhancing nat sound when possible.

  • Don't forget to check and balance the audio levels.

  • And then there is color correction.

You may be tempted to rush through these devilish details to call the project done, but taking your time and paying attention to them is your best option for a successful project. Take a breath, take the time and dominate the details.

Susan Reetz, of Clear Focus Media, LLC, is a writer/director/producer for film, video, web and print. Her script writing and producing work has earned numerous local, national, and international awards. She also writes feature articles, brochure copy, news releases, web copy, and other promotional materials. She can be reached at 715-212-6239 or Susan@ClearFocus.Media.


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