"Deconstructing the Documentary" Lecture
Sep 14, 2019
I gave the kick-off presentation in a new lecture series at the Univ. of Arizona called Day for NIght: Conversations on Film & Television. Over 80 people turned out for my talk on "Deconstructing the Documentary: Creating Meaning in Documentary Film."
The Bad Kids now streaming on Netflix
Southern California Editing Workshops
October 15, 2018
In October I traveled to Southern California to give three workshops on film editing. First stop was Film Independent in Los Angeles (producers of the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Independent Spirit Awards), where I gave a talk titled Documentary Editing: Tips from the Pros talk to a capacity crowd.
Next up was San Diego State's School of Theatre, Television, and Film, where I gave a new lecture on narrative editing called Editing for Emotional Impact. And for the third time in two years, I spent a day working with Helen Hood Scheer's terrific documentary students at Cal State Long Beach.
March 21, 2018
Today I became an Active Member of American Cinema Editors, the premiere honorary society of film editors in the United States. This is perhaps the single biggest honor I have received in my career, and am excited to be among such distinguished company. Thank you to Kate Amend, ACE, and Farrel Jane Levy, ACE, who wrote letters on my behalf as part of my application.
Bricca Joins American Cinema Editors
Sons of Ben now streaming on Netflix
The Bad Kids now streaming on Netflix
May 15, 2017
Sons of Ben now streaming on Netflix
Dec 1, 2016
To call these fans "passionate" would be an understatement. Meet the folks who wanted a Major League Soccer club in Philadelphia so badly, they invented a supporter's club for a team that didn't exist...
Fresh from its tour of six international film festivals, Sons of Ben is now streaming on Netflix. I edited the film with Glenn Gapultos and Cheree Dillon.
Nov 17, 2016
I recently accepted invitations to speak about documentary editing at California State University at Long Beach, Chapman University's Dodge College of Film & Media Arts, and the University of North Texas. I've found that students are hungry for insights into the process, and for practical tools that can help them make better films.
One concept I talk about is "micro-beats." These are the fragments of performance given by everyday people when they become documentary subjects. Non-actors don't tend to think of themselves as "performers," but we all speak in identifiable rhythms and communicate to each other with body language. The trick is to become a sharp observer of these rhythms, and to harvest and sculpt them into compelling scenes. Finding the five seconds of memorable action within five minutes (or five hours!) of footage isn't easy, but it's rewarding.
Another important topic is "flow." If you cut frequently back and forth between an interview and the b-roll footage that supports it, you are needlessly complicating your audience's experience. They have to keep enduring changes to their visual environment, so even though the ideas give the film forward momentum, the visual experience disrupts that momentum. Better to group all the b-roll into one section and find other ways of hiding the audio cuts....
By showing concrete examples and demonstrating how specific scenes are crafted, I try to demystify the process. I'm looking forward to more speaking gigs in the new year!
Speaking Tour Reaches LA, Orange Co., South Texas
Bricca Previews New Editing Book at UFVA Conference
Aug 18, 2016
Every year teachers from across the world gather to show their work, share insights, and swap war stores at the University Film & Video Association conference. This year's affair took place at a resort in Las Vegas. It was odd to pass slot machines on the way to your next panel, but the whole thing had a certain sleazy charm.
I gave a 40-minute presentation previewing excerpts from my new book, Documentary Editing: Principles and Practice, due out in late 2017 from Focal Press/Routledge. In researching the book, I've had the privilege of interviewing some of the most accomplished documentary editors in the business, including Kate Amend (Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories From the Kindertransport, The World According to Sesame Street) and Geoff Richman (The Cove, Sicko.) At the talk, I related stories of theirs as well as concepts that I've been refining from the book.
One of the sections I'm most excited about shows how to exploit
opportunities for narrative pleasure. Even when a character is not experiencing challenges and triumphs, one can find ways to lead the audience through arcs of experience that feel like narrative developments by carefully controlling the flow of information. And on the micro level within a scene, one can inspire curiosity by poking the audience with unexplained visual information and then wind around to an explanation moments later via interview material.
The Bad Kids Claims Special Jury Prize at Sundance
Jan 30, 2016
The Bad Kids, the latest documentary feature by Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe (Lost in La Mancha) claimed a Special Jury Award for Verité Filmmaking following its World Premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival I edited the film in Tucson, AZ and Los Angeles, CA between February and October, 2015, and I'm proud to share the credit with Mary Lampson (Harlan County, USA, Trouble The Water), whose work in the final stretch was crucial to its completion.
Directors Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe with editors Jacob Bricca and Mary Lampson at Sundance.
Our trailers at Sundance
Mary Lampson giving a talk on documentary editing
Bad Kids co-director Keith Fulton taking a break
Going To The Sundance Labs As One Of The Bad Kids
Aug 13, 2015
As an editor, I often pour through hours of documentary footage to find tiny nuggets of truly great material. Everyday life on film is occasionally revelatory, but more often than not it’s just plain dull.
Not so with the raw material for The Bad Kids, a documentary feature by Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe that I have had the pleasure of working on since February. When I sat down to watch a long compilation of selects on the first day of work, it wasn’t long before I had tears in my eyes. The stories from the students at Black Rock High School, a continuation school in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park, were poignant, revealing, hilarious, heartbreaking. What’s more, the directors were approaching their subject in a subtle, patient way, letting the film build a picture of lived experience with cinema verité material rather than with formal interviews or voice over. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to get started.
It’s now mid-August and we are deep into it. Storylines have solidified and a strategy for shifting back and forth between our principal characters and the little vignettes that make up the tapestry of everyday life at the school is well in hand. Hugely helpful in finding these things was a week spent at the Sundance Documentary Edit and Story Lab in Provo, Utah.
I will not disguise my enthusiasm here. It was amazing! Imagine a week solely devoted to the workshopping of your project where your advisors are some of the most experienced and talented folks in the field--and you add in the idyllic setting of the Sundance Resort--and you get a picture.
But a vacation it is not. Pretty much every waking hour is spoken for on the schedule, as you move from presentations by advisors (Geoff Richman talking about his editing of The Cove, Murderball, Sicko, and God Grew Tired Of Us, Mary Lampson doing the same with examples from Harlan County, USA and old Emile DeAntonio films) to screenings of the invited films to intense workshop sessions with said advisors.
One thing I greatly appreciated about the ethos of the workshops (even as a chafed against it from time to time) was an emphasis on process over product. The idea here is that your everyday life in the editing room leaves plenty of time for the solving of problems in specific scenes, so why not use the isolation of eight days in the Utah mountains as a way of discussing deeper issues like tone and intention? Sundance Documentary Project Director Tabitha Jackson would helpfully steer discussion back to the big picture whenever we got too far into the weeds, and there was always plenty of time at meals to hash out ideas over a meal.
Perhaps my favorite parts of the 8 day marathon were our individual sessions in our edit trailer with advisors. In one picture here you see Bad Kids co-director Lou Pepe with our Contributing Editor Katie Turinsky, and advisors Ra'Anan Alexandrowicz (The Law In These Parts) and Tom Haneke (Where Soldiers Come From and a zillion other films) as we discussed our film. In another you also find co-director Keith Fulton an the aforementioned Mary Lampson). In these moments, I got to see how the minds of these great directors and editors worked, and took away some terrific insights about how our film was being perceived and digested.
As August is now here, I'm spending my last couple of weeks on the film before handing it over to Mary Lampson, who agreed to take the film into the final stretch as I return to my teaching schedule at the University of Arizona. I can't imagine anyone better for the job. I'll be viewing the major milestone cuts but she'll be working with Keith and Lou to get us into good shape for our October submission to Sundance.
Jacob with The Pearl directors Jessica Dimmock and Chris Lamarca, and editor Fiona Otway
A brainstorming session with Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, Katie Turinsky, Lou Pepe and Tom Haneke, ACE
Marshall Curry, Geoff Richman, and Gabe Rhodes at lunch
March 7, 2015
One of the most satisfying things about teaching is watching young filmmakers grow and make their mark on the world. That’s been happening a lot lately, as films by several of my former students screened at this year’s Berlinale and at South By Southwest.
The New York Times just featured a complementary write-up on Shannon Sun-Higginson’s new film GTFO, a documentary about the harassment faced by female video game enthusiasts that is screening next week at South By Southwest. It’s a solid, timely piece of work by a really smart young artist who I first met in my documentary history class at Wesleyan and who I have continued to advise since then.
SXSW is also featuring the talent of cinematographer Catherine Goldschmidt, another Wesleyan alum who I ran into in Tucson a few months ago when she was shooting for a unique documentary called Disaster Playground. A highly stylized film about the little-known work of scientists who investigate future outer space catastrophes, it is sure to be a great follow-up to the work she did on last year’s 20 Feet From Stardom.
I was thrilled to hear that Joanna Arnow had won the Silver Bear Jury Prize at the 2015 Berlin Intl. Film Festival for her provocative short film Bad At Dancing. Joanna’s documentary I Hate Myself is a must-see film of the cult variety, and she brought that raw sensibility to this short dramatic piece that will soon show at many more festivals around the world. I will never forget the evening when she came to New Haven to get my thoughts on the rough cut of I Hate Myself. I figured it might be cool to invite my 8 year-old son to watch with us, and she calmly suggested that maybe the subject matter was a bit too adult. Little did I know I would squirm in my seat as I watched her navigate a strange sexual relationship on camera.
I started teaching at the University of Arizona in the fall of 2013, and my first class of thesis students is already having an impact. One such filmmaker is Christopher Nataanii Cegielski, whose terrific short film Bloodlines also made a splash at the Berlinale. A subtle, understated film about a simmering conflict between a Native American father and son on a remote ranch, it’s gorgeously shot and elegantly put together. With almost no dialogue, one senses the tension between the two central characters in a film that feels both highly specific and universal at the same time.
Former Students Tearing It Up at SXSW and Berlin
Joanna Arnow at the Berlinale
Christopher Nataanii Cegielski
The Hill Broadcast Premiere!
Feb 28, 2015
The Hill, a documentary I co-produced with Lisa Molomot, has its National Broadcast Premiere next week on Tuesday, February 10, 2015 on World Channel’s America ReFramed series and is now streaming through March 10. This follows the California Premiere of the film at the San Diego Black Film Festival, the Midwest Premiere at the Chicago Social Change Film Festival and its East Coast Premiere at the Greenpoint Film Festival, where it took the top documentary prize.
The feature documentary follows a determined group of neighbors as they struggle to save their homes from destruction when the City of New Haven claims eminent domain on their properties. A fascinating look at the complex issues surrounding urban planning, gentrification and economic renewal, The Hill raises tough questions about 21st century racism. More about the film is available at The Cinema Guild and at www.thehillfilm.com.
April 27, 2014
My 2009 short film Pure was screened yesterday at the first annual AVANT-AZ show at Tucson’s Exploded View Microcinema. Work by local artists Heather Grey, Liz Burke, Yuri Makino and many others lit up the walls of this wonderful new venue for avant-garde film in Tucson. Perhaps my highlight from the evening was Steev Hise & Adam Cooper-Teran’s live video performance Father/Sun/Eternal Return. Check out a little snippet from the show below.
Curators David Sherman and Rebecca Barten, artists themselves, first started Exploded View in San Francisco 20 years ago–it’s where I saw my first John Cassavetes film, on glorious VHS!
Pure Screens at Exploded View Experimental Show
Sons of Ben wins Grand Prix at Tokyo festival, screens in Barcelona
April 18, 2014
For the past year or so, I’ve been working with director Jeff Bell and producer Mike Dieffenback to edit their feature documentary The Sons Of Ben. It’s the funny, inspiring, and nearly unbelievable story of a group of soccer fanatics in Philadelphia who create a supporters group for a team that doesn’t exist. The film has been a big hit on the international circuit of sports film festivals (who knew?), including at the Offside Film Festival in Barcelona and at the Tokyo International Football Film Festival, where it took the Grand Prix award. Next up is a hometown premiere back in Philadelphia on June 10.
Sons Of Ben trailer
Finding Tatanka World Premiere Feb 22
Jan 20, 2014
I’m thrilled to announce that Finding Tatanka will have its World Premiere at the 11th Annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, Montana. After our Preview Screenings in Portland, Santa Cruz and Tucson, we’re finally ready for the big day!
Big Sky is one of the world’s top documentary festivals that draws over 20,000 visitors/year, and we’re honored to be screening alongside such critically lauded films as Citizen Koch, I Am Divine and Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia. Go check out our page on the Big Sky website.
Slate Article Profiles School's Out Film
Dec 3, 2013
Check out this great piece on Slate.com about School’s Out: Lessons From A Forest Kindergarten. Directed by Lisa Molomot, the film is a quietly joyous and thought-provoking film about the purpose of early childhood education and the pleasures of the outdoors. I was Editorial Consultant on the film.
Other Cinema Screens Pure in SF
Dec 3, 2013
Other Cinema, the venerable San Francisco curator of experimental film, will be showing my short Pure as part of a program called Avant To Live: New Experimental Works on Saturday, Dec. 21. They’re also showing a new piece by Bryan Boyce, who has been doing creative and hilarious mash-ups for years, and a dual-projector performance by Zack Iannazzi. The show is the brainchild of Craig Baldwin, one of the pioneers in repurposing images from mainstream works into new forms that “strike a blow against consensus reality” and begins at 8:30pm at ATA Gallery, 992 Valencia St. I’ll be there early for the artists’ reception, free pencils (??) and the Dream Machine (????).
Edward James Olmos Fetes
Precious Knowledge at Spielberg Theatre
April 30, 2012
Word has traveled far and wide about Precious Knowledge, a documentary I edited about the banning of the Mexican-American Studies program in the Tucson public schools, and we received something of a heroes' welcome in Los Angeles at the Speilberg Theatre on Friday. Edward James Olmos introduced the film and did a Q&A two of the film's subjects, its producer Eren McGinnis, and me. We screened the full 75-minute version ahead of its broadcast premiere on Independent Lens next month
Read more about the film here.
Edward James Olmos welcomes Precious Knowledge producer Eren McGinnis, subjects Crystal Terriquez and Pricila Rodriguez, and editor Jacob Bricca
Precious Knowledge featured on The Daily Show
April 3, 2012
Jon Stewart ran a great segment on the banning of Tucson High School’s Raza Studies program last night. Correspondent Al Madrigal conducted new interviews with school board member Michael Hicks and teacher Curtis Acosta, but nearly all the rest of the footage in the segment is straight from Precious Knowledge, a documentary I edited that will premiere on Independent Lens on May 17. The NY Times is also running a discussion about the issue called "In Arizona, Censoring Questions About Race" on their ‘Opinionator’ blog.