Imagine you have one or more interviews and you want to craft a story out of it. More specificly in the form of a video sequence, if you are making a documentary.
Stop for a second, and think what would you do next? What would you process be to get there?
If you had experience with eidting of video interviews think about how you might have go about doing so in the past?
Some people would ingest the footage in a video editing software of choice, play the video, or scrub through the timeline to find interesting bits. Copy those onto the timeline. Cluster them by topics, perhaps adding a title above a certain section to group them togethere and find it easier to move between sections. Then they would rework the timeline decidign on a order and gradually, slowly, painfully get to a video sequence. By that point they are generally exausted and iteration or big variations from the current version are not a welcome sudgestion, because of the overheads they involve. Sounds familiar?
What is a paper-edit?
Will explore this in more details in the next section. But at a high level paper-editing is the making of a story script from the transcriptions of video or audio interviews. The timecodes associated with the transcript can then be used to create a corresponding video sequence.
But for the purpose of learning the story crafting process and familiarising with key story concepts, the analogue workflow is far more effective.
But why bother?
Shortnening the feedebkack loop
In my experience one major advantage of this process is that if you share the outline of your paper edit, or the paper-edit itself with other stake holders in the projects, eg if you are working with or for an exec or a producer, or a client etc.. and they ask you to do changes, you can use it as mean to discuss the overarching structure of the narrative. And generally if you get to a point where you agree on it. You will have fewer suggestions for changes once you show an assembled sequence. As you are shortening the feedback loop.
McKee Writing Methodology
But In terms of where paper-editing fits within story crafting an screen writing. Let's consider Robert McKee "Story" book where he makes a distinction between two different ways of writing. He focuses on screenwriting for fiction but you can see the parallel .
This follows screenwriting teacher Robert McKee’s idea of writing "from the inside out" as opposed to "the outside in".
Writing from "the outside in" looks like this, according to McKee:
The struggling writer tends to have a way of working that goes something like this: He dreams up an idea, noodles on it for a while, then rushes straight to the keyboard.
So in this mode, you have an idea, and then you just start writing, sort of with the flow, but then you find it very difficult to figure out what's the story, the structure, and how stuff fits together. And it becomes very difficult to re-organise it.
Whil writing from "the inside out" looks like this:
Successful writers tend to use the reverse process…. writing on stacks of three-by-five cards: a stack for each act—three, four, perhaps more…. Using one- or two-sentence statements, the writer simply and clearly describes what happens in each scene, how it builds and turns….
In the inside out mode, you might have research notes, and other things you write along the way but you keep your story to an outline, until the outline works. with just description of how the story move forwards from each point. This means you are working a very succinct, five to ten steps outline of your story. and moving those points a round helps you being more lean and craft a better story.
With its ability to export selections in a particular order, and move them around, paper-editing helps achieve an "inside out" level of storytelling.