Series Blog

The Making of an AMERICAN EXPERIENCE Film


Just as the weather starts heating up, many offices start slowing down, but not here at AMERICAN EXPERIENCE! With five hours of new programming, including our epic two-part documentary on JFK premiering in the fall, our staff has been hard at work. In June alone we have already had five screenings for various films in different levels of production. While this has become old hat to everyone here on staff, we realize that our viewers may not always be aware of the process our films go through before they air.

For most of our films we work with independent producers (JFK notwithstanding – more on that later). The filmmakers, along with their amazingly talented teams, are charged with the production, from writing the script to filming and editing to post. Our core staff works with our filmmakers as needed, helping with collecting materials, finalizing budgets and ultimately getting the programs ready to air on PBS.

Because we usually work with outside production companies, the filmmakers make trips to our office in Boston to show their progress to our Executive and Senior Producers. Eventually our VP of National Programming will sit in as well. They do this so everyone can see where the film is going and provide comments and feedback.

The process begins with the Assembly Screening, which is the first attempt to piece together the narrative. At this point the filmmaker may not have all of their footage shot or interviews conducted, just the bare bones. The next step is the Rough Cut. At this stage the film starts to take its final shape. The notes from the Rough Cut are used to guide the Fine Cut. And then, any final changes are made before the Picture Lock. This means exactly what it sounds like, the images in the film are locked and the film is ready for animation, final narration and music.

This year we have had the exciting opportunity to produce a film in house – JFK is being produced by our Series Producer with support coming from members of our staff. With Picture Lock coming up next month, the team has been working diligently to get everything just right. The office is abuzz with activity. And it is great for us here on staff to get a taste of what our outside filmmakers deal with on the day to day.

Keep checking back to learn more about what goes on inside AMERICAN EXPERIENCE!

Julianna is the Production Secretary for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE.

 


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