The Doc Fix

Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to some of the questions you might have about the methodology, how it works and whether it's a good fit for you. Please ask if you'd like to know more.

In conversation about how to apply these techniques, with examples from series such as F1: Drive to Survive, Natural History and many other styles and genres of TV programmes..

What about instinct & the edit 'process'?

When viewing an edit that isn’t working, and the production is worried (which is when I’m often called in) then it would be dangerous to rely solely on my innate talent as a writer and director to find the solutions to what is on the screens. That can be very elusive, and can be harder to find when the pressure is on.

Instead, what gives me the confidence to walk into an edit and calmly tell everyone that it’s all going to work out fine is the knowledge that I have the tools and methodology to tackle any story problem.

This is compared to the usual edit process, which is to try something and see whether it works. If not, you try something else until you get to where you need to be. But this adjust and respond method is symptomatic of a problem in understanding how to structure a story. Being the author and the audience of a story are two very different things. The audience responds emotionally to a story, and the author designs a story to create an emotional response. Watching a cut as an audience, if you rely on it too heavily, doesn’t give you any clues about what exactly to do next. It often simply tells you whether what you have done has worked, or not. All you learn is that you have to try something else.

As an author, you are designing a story to be responded to in a particular way. With these techniques, you come to the film and make choices because you know, within reason, what the effect of these changes is going to be. You can ask yourself what you want the audience to feel, and design a story to archive that aim. There will be tweaking, but it’s a far more powerful position to be in.

I once worked on a very complicated natural history film with multiple storylines. We only had a couple of weeks to get a cut to work, and before I came on board, it had been in the edit for three months. Because of my approach, I was able to dictate exactly what was needed, and I asked the editor to cut to my story structure directly. After two weeks, we had a cut act that was accepted by the channel, which was very different than any other approach they had imagined. I knew what I suggested was going to work because I had designed it to work.

It just took a week or two of cleaning up and voicing by David Attenborough. I had one of the most interesting conversations with the commissioning editor, who asked why it had worked so well when we had ignored all his notes….. Sometimes you have to do the right thing and hope it’s appreciated.