Editing Techniques in Story Telling: A look into the presentation at the 2021 Eastern Video Expo

   by Joshua Vorensky, Associate Producer with ESPN

Editing to me brings any story to life; the music, the pacing, the selection of shots…everything helps the viewer connect to the subject on a visceral level.

When I was asked by Rich Desimone to present at the conference this year, I was both excited and honored. Since the last time I presented a few years ago, I had the opportunity to expand my knowledge of the craft in producing longer form features for ESPN (my employer) that truly challenged me. The topic I would be discussing in the panel would be ‘Editing Techniques in Story Telling’. I could not think of a more important and appropriate topic for the two main features included in the panel – El Paso Strong and 17 Hours: The Chris Nikic Story.

El Paso soccer team

El Paso Strong told the story of a youth soccer team that lived through one of the worst mass shootings in American history. The feature documented the team for an entire year and showed how their sense of family and togetherness helped to guide them.

Chris Nikic running in Ironman Triathlon

17 Hours: The Chris Nikic Story told the power of human spirit. Chris Nikic from Florida attempted to become the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman Triathlon. Both of these features under the ESPN’s SC Featured series utilize music, pacing, natural sound and shot selection to effectively tell these stories.

To effectively give a full perspective of the editing techniques utilized, I reached out to two people who worked on the features in different roles – Diego Martini, ESPN Lead Post Production Editor who crafted El Paso Strong, and Paul Moessl who composed the music for 17 Hours: The Chris Nikic Story. Diego would speak on pacing, shot selection and the use of natural sound while Paul would talk about the process of creating original music. For the latter, I felt this was a process that some may be unfamiliar with (myself included until recently) and could be beneficial as well.

The week leading into the Expo, I discussed with Geoffrey Belinfante (who helped to moderate the panel) on the overall structure of the presentation. Geoffrey correctly pointed out that it was also important to give a viewer a sense of how you helped to find/pitch the idea and start with the production. The panel was scheduled to be an hour and I created a Power Point presentation to ensure that we covered everything while leaving room for questions.

Chris Nikic swimming

We started by discussing how the pieces came to production, and then transitioned to the importance of music and the process of its composition for the Chris Nikic Feature. To illustrate this, I took a 1-minute segment and showed the audience the feature with/without music. This was important for two reasons. First, it showcased the importance of music. Second, it gave Paul time to talk about his process of crafting music. 

After all, when Paul starts his process we give him the raw piece without instrumentals so he’s able to work from there. Paul was able to explain the full process including our initial discussions, well before I even send him the raw element. It’s important to give a composer sources of inspiration, providing examples and sample instrumentation.

Next, we transitioned to the importance of natural sound and pacing. Never was this more important than in El Paso Strong. In the segment I showed, the team was honored during a professional soccer game in El Paso. The fireworks set off during the national anthem caused severe distress in the group. The natural sound of the fireworks and team in distress helped to illustrate that these tragedies can have long lasting impacts.

Memorial at El Passo shooting

Once we finished the main presentation portion of the panel, it was time for questions. I think one of the many benefits of the expo is the experience that every attendee brings. As we went through the presentation, there were important follow up questions including detailing the timeline of production, the pitching process and how the features were received. I thought the answers provided much needed discussions on the production process. As we wrapped up right at the hour mark, I was very taken with the reception from everyone.

I would like to thank Rich Desimone, Geoffrey Belinfante and JAG for their efforts to organize such a successful conference and giving me the opportunity to share my experience.

About the Author: Joshua Vorensky is an Emmy-Award Winning Associate Producer with ESPN. He has worked on features from the NFL to Golf to the Special Olympics. His feature – El Paso Strong is nominated for a Sports Emmy this year. Josh got his start at MEtv in Metuchen, New Jersey when he was in high school and graduated from Ithaca College in 2011.***His opinions for this article are his own***Photos courtesy of ESPN

The video of this session is now available on the JAG website in the Members Only section.