Inspiration Takes Many Forms (Tales from the Cutting Room Floor)

Posted: January 10, 2016 in Documentary
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Last spring, I experienced a major breakthrough nailing down the story structure for the first act of my documentary, something that had plagued me for the better part of two years.

While the epiphany may have come suddenly, the inspiration for it, lie in a weeks long battle of sorts, on a completely different project.

Neighborhood Slice

I’d been working on a fantastic documentary series called Neighborhood Slice at the time (which can be found here). My first episode of the series went well, but I hit a bit of a roadblock putting together the second episode.

A story that (I had set in my mind) was pivotal to a character’s story arc, just wasn’t working within the structure of the episode. I really liked this particular story, and refused to let it go, almost to a fault. I spent weeks editing other aspects of the episode, and it was coming together quite nicely, except for this one particular storyline.

It was driving me insane.

After screening with the producers/directors of the series, the consensus was, no matter how much we all liked it, the story had to go. I felt defeated. But the hard truth was, it was the right decision. The moment the story was cut, the rest of the episode fell into place.


Later that week, I awoke from a deep sleep with a sinking feeling in my gut. Had I been making the same mistake with my own documentary?

I’d had several scenes kicking around on a timeline for close to two years, but they never quite fit together right. I’d fallen in love with one scene in particular though – it opened with a snow covered garage, the door lifting slowly from the inside, revealing the Z in pieces… juxtaposed with narration discussing the inner turmoil I’d faced over the years stemming from insecurities about my “disability.” Insecurities I was unwilling to face, until now.

To me, it was beautifully shot, very cinematic, and the metaphor of a broken car, I desperately wanted to fix, represented everything I was trying to say about myself. Every time I watched it, it gave me goosebumps.


The problem was, as the focus of the film evolved over time, and the story grew in size and scope, this scene began to feel more and more out of place.

I’d spent months editing around this scene, trying to find a way to make it work. At the top? Revealed too much too quickly. Bring it later, lost its impact… no mater where I put it, it sent ripples throughout the timeline, screwing with every scene before or after it. I was really struggling, and in frustration just walked away from the edit (for close to a year).

Only after my late night epiphany did I finally realize I had to let it go.

I sprang out of bed, opened up the project, and began cutting with a clarity I hadn’t had in a long time. As the dust settled and the sun rose, everything made sense now, the structure was there, the story was there. It was a complete game changer.

When all was said and done, I ended up with close to a 30 minute first act rough cut I was incredibly proud of. I decided to send it to some close friends and industry associates for feedback, and the response was overwhelmingly positive! It felt incredible after so much time, and so many setbacks, to finally be making progress again.

This newfound motivation gave way to even more progress – I decided to contact two new people I had been following for close to a year online, a husband and wife (both amputees, and also from the Z community), with hopes they would be interested in participating in the film.


What followed was a two week road trip & film shoot spanning several states and close to 2500 miles – the grand finale taking place at ZCON 2015!

I plan to do a full write up chronicling the road trip, ZCON, and introducing not two, but THREE new characters for the film in the upcoming weeks.

I could have never imagined when I started this project where it would take me. The friendships I’ve forged along the journey, the experiences shared, and stories I’ve been privileged to hear, would forever change the way I look at myself and the word “disability.” For that alone, this film will always be a success in my eyes.

Stay Tuned!


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