Post-Production Wisdom From Dan Riordan from Gnarly Bay

Dan Riordan is a masterful storyteller, working with Rhode Island-based production company, Gnarly Bay, on both passion projects and commercial work.  With all of the beautiful work that filmmakers produce, it's easy to forget about the tedious process that ensues after the shooting is done. We chatted with Dan about the not-so-sexy but ever-important topic of post-production. 


What’s your least favorite part/task/step to the post-production process? Why?

Dan Riordan: Client approval has historically been our biggest challenge because it can be a little tedious to get everybody on the same page -- especially if there are multiple tiers of people that need to approve a video.  We’ve found that this has drastically improved in recent years due to cloud storage apps, like Dropbox, and feedback portals like Wipster. However, the unintended consequence of this streamlined workflow is that everybody thinks that they are just a speedy upload away, and they can sometimes push for way more rounds of changes at a much more rapid pace than in “the old days”…so, we’ve found ways to manage client expectations about post-production schedules, and we try to define how many rounds we will agree to upload before starting a project.

Is there any part of post-production that you think is often overlooked/not focused on enough that probably should be? Do you have any examples?

We think that the first step to an edit that is often overlooked is creating something that we call a ‘skeleton.'  When starting any edit, we try to use (carefully chosen) music and interviews and/or VO to create a cut with no visuals.  We try to have 3 acts that have naturally occurring valleys and peaks to keep the audience’s attention.  If the video works from a storytelling perspective without visuals, we are on our way to an impactful edit.  The idea is that we then have to use visuals to inhabit that skeleton with a benevolent ghost that will make the bones dance for the viewer.

What is your favorite software to edit in?

Premiere Pro CC is the program of choice these days, but we held onto Final Cut 7 for as long as we could.  It’s pretty funny to go back into FCP7 these days…everything seems so old and dusty. The Adobe Creative Cloud has been an amazing gift -- constantly evolving and adding features -- and a bit of a curse. The subscription model costs us a lot more, and has made us retire our eye patches and jolly roger flags, and buy into Adobe’s modern moneymaking simplicity.