Lecture #12: Documentary & Discontinuity Editing


In our discussion of documentary filmmaking, we’ll look at the various different ways of making documentaries and the problems it poses in the editing room. We will also talk about how organising bins and story writing in the editing room works with documentary.

Some concepts and terms for the documentary editing room include:

  • Observational footage
  • B-Roll or Beauty shots
  • Talking Heads
  • Archival footage
  • Reenactments
  • Narration or Voice Over
  • Title cards
  • The role of the director on or off screen


The documentary trailer is a critically important part of pitching a documentary and raising funding, often edited way before the film is finished and even before much of the shooting has been done. Documentary demos are a very specific and useful genre of edited works that are more important now than ever before. We will talk about  some tips from the professional field about how to cut a strong documentary demo and what funders and producers are looking for.



This week we also look at the flip side of making editing invisible: Discontinuity.  Discontinuity has many interesting effects that can heighten the feeling of a scene. Typical approaches like jump-cuts, which once seemed very aggressive and shocking, are now very much part of film language.

Disrupting film grammar with discontinuity has an interesting history we will look at this week.

Breathless  — Jump Cuts


Chapter 2 “The Early Sound Film” The Technique of Film and Video Editing: History, Theory, and Practice.


Senna (2011)

Capturing the Friedmans (2003)