In-formation vs. Ex-formation / by Glenn Dixon

In a somewhat tongue in cheek but mostly serious manner I once exclaimed to one of my university lecturers that film editors are in essence information florists. Both disciplines require a masterful understanding of triming, designing and arranging content. The ultimate goal; to guide the recipients of our creations through an experience in a coherent and effective manner. It is our job to build a relationship with the viewer and craft the material in an honest, respectful and creative way. I am currently reading Kenya Hara’s Designing Design, a fascinating exploration of the design ethos of one of the most notable and influential contemporary designers. In the introduction I was introduced to the term “Exformation” courtesy of a Danish writer by the name of  Tor Nørretranders. Tor states that “Exformation is everything we do not actually say but have in our heads when, or before, we say anything at all.”

Applying this to my experience in documentary filmmaking, exformation dominates and infuses our minds during the process of capturing the story through the camera lens. It encompasses everything from our perception of the story in the conscious mind to the thoughts, reflections, confusions and fears running rampant through the subconscious. Exformation informs our use of camera, interview technique and interpersonal relationships with the subjects at a primal and instinctive level. The film at this stage is nothing more than potential waiting to be realised and subsequently captured.

Once we have the footage captured into the editing suite the process turns on itself. We are no longer dealing with potential. Concrete information in the form of video clips become part of the dialogue. We have limited the abstract nature of a concept in the "real world" into the confides of sounds and pictures. The armoury equipped to build our story is stocked only with the materials on screen before our very eyes, nothing more or less. Everything that happened or failed to happen on the set is now irrelevant. Now we have only tangibility to utilise in the production of our story.

I find the relationship between exformation during production and information during post-production fascinating. The different habits of mind required to engage in both disciplines compliment and challenge at the same time. I find that distancing myself  from the footage for a week or so after the shoot helps switch the thought processes. I am able to engage with the physical material I have in front of me with some objectivity rather than working with what I think I have.

References: Get a copy of Designing Design here.