Ascending India - an update on the documentary

What started as a conversation at Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, then turned into a series of shoots in Kentucky and Michigan, then was spun on its head with VISA travel issues, now sits contained as a series of zeroes and ones on a hard drive that is the size of my hand.

I've been plugging away at the massive undertaking that is editing a feature-length documentary film, and there is still plenty of work to be done. This is what my timeline looks like, with the first 30 minutes on a single sequence.

Click to enlarge.

Just managing and organizing the sheer amount of footage I have is a daunting task. Labeling, conforming, and taking notes on the best parts of interviews and b-roll footage, with an end goal of trying to tell an interesting and informative story in a way that makes sense to the average person. Here's what a single project window looks like (there are about 5,000 assets total):

Click to enlarge.

Three major roadblocks have been in my way for the last year, and only within the last couple of months have I began to really break those barriers down. The first one was dealing with a weeks worth of footage that I didn't shoot.

You can plan all you want (we surely did) but in the end, you are a slave to fate and circumstance. Jakob and Sujay did an amazing job to work together and record quality video and audio of the people and places that were vital to this story. Unfortunately since I wasn't there though, I had to rely on notes from Jakob on what footage is what. It always takes a bit longer to get up to speed when you have to watch everything through... being there in person allows you to always have "the big picture" in the back of your head, and you always know what footage exists and what doesn't.

The second hurdle was dealing with interviews in a foreign language. I believe it is Hindi, but I'm not 100% certain. Normally I'll finely edit interviews; I cut out every "umm," "so," and pause that wastes time. I can't do that here though, so the interviews remain very long in some scenes. I'm working with Sujay (who can understand and translate) to cut out what I can, but this will take some time. THEN, once they have been edited, I'll need to subtitle those parts into English, which isn't as difficult as it is simply tedious.

The third and biggest challenge I've encountered is finding music to use in this documentary. Naturally, quality music is made by artists who get paid for their talents and work. We didn't have much of a budget to work with on this project, so securing licenses for a decent soundtrack has been next to impossible. I've been lucky to find some artists who were willing to share tracks for low/no pay, so thankfully I've got just enough to work with, but it has taken a year to get even that.

I'm really hoping I can get these interviews translated and edited in the next month, and then have a rough cut of the entire film by early spring. There are parts I think aren't very good, but there are other parts that look, sound, and come off amazingly. I'm excited to share it with the world, but also to get it off my plate and move on to the next big project.