I recently finished a project I had been working on for a couple of months. I’d been making a film on legislation surrounding the koala, as a way to discuss urban sprawl. You can’t just tell a TV news bulletin’s editor or SP that your film’s about Australia’s inability to plan properly, I thought: you need koalas, too. Well, maybe the senior journos can. But not me. So, the decision on whether to list the koala as vulnerable under the threatened species list was the hook.

The first cut is the longer one which I wanted to make. It goes into some detail. The second one, below, is the cut which actually went to air on SBS World News Australia, where I work as an online journalist. Note the subtle, and not so subtle, differences. I provided a cut  for TV which was at least a minute and a half shorter, and they trimmed another 10 seconds out of the middle. Crudely, I might add ;).   Colleagues in online news helped me get there by suggesting putting some koalas at the top, which I did. How to edit for TV news, I guess.

Other suggestions, easy to spot, include shortening the film and thereby tightening the message – and so the whole middle section concerning some of the issues with koala numbers, nationwide, as well as at a small proposed housing estate near Campbelltown on the edge of Sydney, had to go. As a film essentially about the legislation, in a way it could live without it. I would have liked it to stay though, of course, but it wouldn’t have gotten aired. There is clearly a big difference between current affairs film making and cutting films for TV news.

Some of the shots in the above worked less well, including the introductory shot to Sally Whitelaw, the councillor. As it was suggested that I improve the visual storytelling, as well, I put in some shots of a house being built, and hit two birds with one stone. In the end, I stuck this into the longer version as well. Coming from a print/online background I am still getting better at this element of film making – taking the viewer along using imagery, seeing as they’re not listening half the time anyway! I also learnt not to use ‘flappy’ footage of talking people; I thought the sequence of Geoff the koala rescuer pointing out a potential development besides a shopping centre’s car park was decent (well, considering a journalist edited it). But it was pointed out it contained a big no-no; flapping lips with no audio, and me talking over the top.

It was also suggested I do another voiceover before submitting. But after planning, copious research, shooting, driving hundreds of kms, writing and refining all on my lonesome, I wanted it done – and with the legislation potentially being dropped at any moment, I could not risk another few days. At the time of writing, though, it is still pending. Anyway, thought the post would be an interesting look at learning the ropes of TV journalism from a print, or student viewpoint.

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