Editing Interviews for Corporate Films

After a filming a corporate film there can sometimes be a lot...and I mean alot...of interviews to sort. I, like most, have developed a strategy that seems to work pretty well to funnel down the number of clips to "best of" responses from the interviewee(s) as well as line them up in the timeline in a coherent way that's not just random positive sound bites about the company (those always sound fake - truth is no company is perfect). So, here it is if you're interested.

What interests me is hearing about where a company comes from and where they're going - not how great they are. The key to a corporate film is to explain how the company enables others - through products or services, not how great they are over and against their competitors. That's boring. When we, as the viewer, hear stories of enablement, we tend to get excited and picture ourselves as part of the story - as the enabled. Companies like Microsoft and Apple are successful because their services are marketed to enable their customers - not outright dominate them. 

Anyway, I digress...

My method is to first go through and mark best responses given by the speaker. It can take a lot of time, as you must watch every...single...take...from the day, but it will speed up the creative editing later - not to mention, if you do it right, you'll know where everything is. If you're working with a client or director, you won't be fumbling over the footage looking for "that one shot when...". Instead, you'll know right where it is, because it's marked. 

Once the footage is marked, I take the best clips and put them directly into the timeline - this may mean the timeline stretches to 25 minutes in length, and that's okay. Note: I do not add Broll yet - the first priority here is simply to set the story foundation - a foundation build upon the interviews. After all the favorite clips are added to the timeline, I organize them based on what the speaker is talking about into three major parts:

  1. The beginning: How the company was started, why they were started, etc. This section will house clips talking about the problem the company faced that demanded change. "We had to change", "this was the moment to move", "things were falling apart". Like all stories this is the challenge - the moment things are looking bad - the moment we as the viewer relate to the protagonist in hopes they'll overcome the adversary. You also introduce the company. here "We are", "the company was started.."
    1. The point: Bottom line, by the end of this section the viewer should know who the company is and what the problem was they had to overcome.
  2. The second section is the journey - the path the company takes from their lowest moment or moment of realization (how section 1 ends essentially) that leads to transformation. "We began building...", "We picked ourselves up", "We decided to pivot and do what we were afraid to do". This is where the meat of the discussion also resides - "as a company we're focused on", "Our product/service is", etc.
    1. The point: By the end of this section, we should know the journey they took to overcome the problem and how they've developed since their start to where they are today.
  3. We then come to the resolution and climax. We learn result of the journey in section 2. We discover if the company was successful. Whether or not there were, this is where we learn their fate. The ending of this section is wrapped up in what comes next. "We look forward to the future", "the future is bright", "we're excited", etc. 
    1. The point: We should know if they succeeded in overcoming their problem and what the future looks like.

Once all the clips are roughly grouped into these three sections inside the timeline (this can be done by simple placing clips in the timeline or coloring them - whatever works so you can identify the three sections), I begin listening. I will run through the massive long timeline over and over - removing clips, moving clips to and fro, to find a consistent narrative. The goal, then, is to slowly cut down the timeline to under three minutes-removing irrelevant clips or moments within clips, having speakers finish each others thoughts, and so on. When done right, one story will be spoken by all those who appear in the video. 

This is where the fun comes in. At this point the interview footage is pretty much set. I then add music, effects, and broll to complete the film. I do not color or perform any serious audio tuning until the client sees the draft - only basic corrections to balance everything out. Last thing you want to do is make a killer edit, publish it, and have the client say it's going in the wrong direction. I wait until the FINAL DRAFT to make these changes - when picture, sound, effects, and everything else if locked - no take backs.

Make drafts clean, but not pretty. Also make it clear it's a DRAFT - add an intro panel with DRAFT number, date, total run time of the piece (TRT for short) on it. Also if it's color graded, audio tuned etc. 

Generally speaking this is my method of editing corporate interviews. I know it's very (very) general - shoot me a message if anything is unclear or you want to chat it over.