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How I Make My Films

by Taylor

14th October, 2020

I’ve been into filmmaking, especially editing, ever since I was in elementary school.

Here’s a clip from my early editing days when my brothers, our friends and I made advertisements for spoof products we just made up:

In college, I had a film company that produced engineering highlight reels, my cousin’s “how we met” wedding highlights, and a few sorority rush videos:

Since I moved to Madison I’ve made a video that’s usually a couple minutes long that picks out highlights from the year and consolidates it down ostensibly to a highlight reel:

These videos are actually very important to me.

I go back and watch them every now and then and they serve as reminders of what life was like when I was crushing on a fellow summer intern at GE, or graduating from college and moving to Madison.

I thought I’d share how it is that I make them.

My Filmmaking Process

Many of you (my friends) have been in these videos. One thing that you may or may not have noticed, is that I’m usually not in many of these shots, you are. And these videos really represent life through my eyes.

You guys are usually good sports as you endure me filming.

Some of you are a bit shy and need some encouragement to say hi :).

Others…need no encouragement at all and continue whatever antics we were up to before I whipped out my camera:

But most of you make weird faces and to let me know how weird I am when I pull my phone out and start filming you:

Pick an editing idea

The first thing I do is to pick out an editing idea. It’s important to think of this as early as possible in the year.

The earlier you think of an idea, the more opportunities to get the appropriate kind of shots you have.

In 2017, I did what I call a “peek-a-boo” montage:

In 2018, my friend Kristen gave me the idea to film location’s I was walking through, similar to her (secret) foot Instagram.

Here are a few of her shots followed by my 2018 opening:

The secret to creativity is hiding your sources

Albert Einstein

Review Clips, Design a “Story”

Note: Stories, have a beginning, middle, and an end.

Designing the story, for me, happens at the end of the year, when I actually begin editing. I do this around December 25th (Christmas time) when I’m basically done participating in any new events for the year.

You can design your story at the beginning of your film, but since I’m doing a year in the review, and the year determines the film (and not visa versa), I do it at the end.

In 2017, I had a lot of “repetitive” events that I happened to have gathered data for–running, hours worked, counts of weddings and concerts.

As a result, I called my story “By the numbers” and showed clips from each of those formative and common events.

In 2018, I happened to have traveled to a fair number of countries, and decided to tell the “story” of my year by grouping clips from the countries (including the United States) I spent time in.

For the love of music: Pick out & edit your songs

At this point in the editing process, I don’t really have anything on iMovie besides a few of my favorite clips and pictures, none of them have been trimmed or edited.

The next thing to do that’s really important is the music

There are a couple of things I look for when I’m editing music—

  • Tempo—generally I’m looking for fast paced songs. If I find a song and it’s great in every regard but the speed isn’t at the pace I want it to be, I may actually speed it up or slow it down as necessary.

    You can hear this in my 2019 video where I use Shotgun by George Ezra, but it’s actually sped up by 25% of its original tempo.
  • Sound—is it uplifting?

    Generally I want to portray a positive year (assuming that’s also an honest portrayal), so finding an upbeat song is important.
  • Vocals—I find these distracting.

    I’ll try to find an acoustic version, a karaoke version, or manually edit out the voices of the singers if need be. 

If I’m doing any manual editing of song tempo, pitch or voice, I’ll use Audacity as the tool.

Edit in the clips!

Once I’ve found the music I like, I’ll start to edit in the clips. Just to show how important the music is to me, I want to frame the editing process around that George Ezra song I selected last year.

Here is the George Ezra song added as a clip in iMovie, notice the “beats” in the sound clip:

I cut a new piece of the montage into each slot. If the clip hasn’t run its course, it gets replaced with a different one, or I’ll speed up or slow down the raw footage as necessary.

Take a look at what this composition looks like:

Here’s that same composition in the image above, but rendered.

by Taylor