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Editing the Observed: Evaluation and Value Creation Processes in the Editing of a Feature Documentary Film

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Alastair Cole


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The chapter reflects on the valuation and value creation processes within the editing of the feature documentary film and practice based research project Colours of the Alphabet (2016), directed and co-edited by the author. The film focuses on the global challenge of the lack of mother-tongue education, and tells the story of three Zambian primary one students and their families over their first year at school, as they enter into an education system where they must learn in a language that is not their own. The chapter uses the editing process of the film as the basis of a proposal for a two-phase perspective as a means to examine the specificities of the practice of editing within creative documentary filmmaking, particularly in films constructed from observational and interview based content. The chapter suggests the wider editing process of the film can be separated into a first evaluation phase, which focuses on the revision, reduction and selection of content, and a second, value creation phase where the film is brought to its final form, calling attention to the negotiation of syntax, form, andnarrative. It suggests that these processes delineate documentary film editing, and can also be better understood through the theoretical examination of valuation processes as suggested by the work of anthropologist David Graeber (2001) and his proposals for an understanding of concepts of value and valuation, and their interconnectedness with the evaluative purview of the individuals at their centre. The chapter also leans on the work of film practice scholars including David MacDougall (1998), Michael Chanan (2008) and Gideon Koppel (2008) to help illustrate this model through a reflective examination of the editing of the film at its centre, suggesting that this two phase perspective can help in not only understanding the specificity of editing processes within documentary filmmaking more broadly, but also provide a framework through which documentary film practice students can develop their own editing approaches, as well as critically engage with their own practice.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cole A

Editor(s): Craig Batty, Marsha Berry, Kath Dooley, Bettina Frankham, Susan Kerrigan

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: The Palgrave Handbook of Screen Production

Year: 2019

Pages: 243-255

Print publication date: 27/11/2019

Online publication date: 16/11/2019

Acceptance date: 18/10/2019

Edition: 1st

Publisher: Palgrave MacMillan

Place Published: Cham


DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-21744-0_19

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9783030217433