An individual filmmaker can edit their own footage and upload it online on their own, but within the scope of this toolkit, we will focus on how decisions about editing (i.e. what ends up in a final video) and decisions about narrative can be participatory.
Impacts of Participatory Editing
Engagement and Learning
Editing demands in-depth consideration of the filmed material. Often it is necessary to watch and re-watch, listen carefully to what people are saying on camera, identify and prioritise the most significant sections, and refine a message that relates to the aims of the initiative. This can take many hours of discussion and reflection.
Participating in editing is therefore a powerful way of engaging with and learning about the issues addressed. It can also establish a strong connection with the film, the story it tells and the team, as well as creating a sense of responsibility towards those who shared their stories for the film.
Additionally, screening draft rough cuts of the video to groups of people to ask for their responses and feedback can help to improve the quality of the film, and also offers opportunities for provoking discussions and engagement with issues presented in the film. If the video is going to be used as part of a campaign, then these draft screenings can help build support for actions being planned.
Risk, Accountability and Ethics
If footage that has been collected through a careful participatory or collaborative process is handed over to an editor who was not part of that process, there is a risk that the final video will not reflect the group’s choices, will misrepresent the issue, or will leave someone feeling disrespected by not having their opinions included.
You may also face a situation in which an editor manipulates the footage to tell a compelling story and includes only dramatic, visually compelling or sensational shots, doing harm to the message or voices of community members who contributed.
If you are engaging in a collaborative process, ensure it continues into the editing, either by making sure those editing the footage were part of the filmmaking process, or by having a consultation and review process.
Media literacy is a process by which people can build their capacity for critical analysis and evaluation of visual media by taking part in a process that helps create and refine a video’s narrative and messaging.
Revisiting your impact statement
Return to your aims and objectives to guide your edit. Bear the audiences in mind, including how they will access the film. This will help to determine the length, style, tone and creative choices of the film.
Consent after editing
Editing can have significant impact on how a person or situation is perceived, and the way a person or situation is represented may change throughout the editing process. Provide contributors with an opportunity to view an edited version of their footage — final consent can be sought once a rough cut of a finished video has been produced. Letting them decide whether they are still comfortable and willing to be included is a vital stage in the process..
You and other participants should seriously consider the decisions of those being asked to consent. This may at times mean removing powerful and persuasive sections from the video if a contributor gives valid reasons for objecting or withdrawing consent.
Decisions to withdraw consent should be respected regardless of the impact on any video produced, when those decisions conform to the ethical guidelines you have established with the initiative and with the affected community.
Strategies to keep in mind when you edit
- Organise, label and back-up — Technical processes and jargon can be confusing and alienating for those new to them, especially members of affected communities who may have had limited access to technology. It can therefore help to create smooth and organised editing and storage processes, to get to know your footage, find files when you need them, troubleshoot problems, and store your footage safely for the future.
- Log and paper edit — Watch all your footage prior to editing. Record notes on what you plan to include and exclude. Investing time at this stage will make editing quicker and more effective. It also offers a way to keep editing participatory by encouraging all involved to connect with the content and give more effective input into the editing process.
- Assembly of footage into rough drafts and final cut — Iterations of different drafts help refine the message of the film, gradually getting the best out of the footage. Before the final version of the video has been signed off, consider how best to get helpful critical feedback to ensure you get the video right — in terms of messaging, content, tone, safety and consent — before sharing widely.
- Create multiple versions — One final video need not be the only ending point of a Video for Change initiative. A video does not need to be a linear process. It can be revisited and re-invented endlessly, either by turning it into several short films, using the footage for social media clips, adding portions to a multimedia, interactive or immersive (i.e. virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality) experience. Depending on your time and resources, you may want to consider creating multiple versions or forms for various audiences over varied distribution channels, or to return to the edit to make a new, updated version.
Dedicate time and effort to wrapping up the filmmaking process for those involved and the wider community. This should include:
- Access to the film — Ensure all those who have worked on or contributed interviews to the film(s) have access to watch and share. Depending on the context and the restrictions for sharing, provide copies of the video for those involved. [Outreach, Distribution, and Engagement]
- Archive, storage and back up — Plan and prepare for how and where the video footage and final video files will be stored, including any permissions or agreements for future usage. (Permissions should be part of early discussions as much as possible.) Plan to archive the content as well. ‘Archiving’ means securely storing and protecting the footage from being used in ways that the contributors did not give permission for. For activists, archiving is also protecting evidence for the future.
- Copyright and Copyleft — Apply a Creative Commons license to your content. Creative Commons licensing — a public copyright license that allows for free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work — offers different options for being able to share a video online, while offering protection in terms of how it can be used (e.g. non-derivative, non-commercial usage).
- Action planning — As a result of the filmmaking process and screening events, there will be ideas of what should happen next. Create space for recording ideas, and for planning and implementing action. This could include further screenings, or action that is inspired by the film. See the Outreach, Distribution and Engagement section.
- Future connections —Those who have been part of the filmmaking team or screenings may want to make plans to keep in contact and to continue working together or sharing their experiences. While it may not necessarily be your responsibility to steward these relationships over time, put some thought in how people might remain connected. Leaving behind a group who can continue once you are gone could be your biggest legacy.
- Celebration! — People want to celebrate together, to acknowledge the hard work they have put in, to appreciate the successes, to express gratitude, and to bring things to a close. Throw a wrap party and invite all involved.
Evaluate Your Filming and Production
Visit the Evaluation page to evaluate your filming and production.
An example of a participatory video facilitator in the Sonora region of Mexico
An example of engagement and participation from a video advocacy initiative working with Papuan activists to more effectively tell their stories to the world.
WITNESS Archive Guide includes comprehensive information on archiving
WITNESS’ resources on supporting citizens to protect and defend human rights through video and technology.
How to make a Participatory Video: 10 key steps shot during the making of a participatory video in Telecho village, Ethiopia.
Taking the time to archive a video can be an act of resistance by Witness.