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Mary Lampson is a documentary editor and filmmaker who edited Barbara Kopple’s classic Harlan County, USA, (with co-editors Nancy Baker, Mirra Bank and Lora Hays) and edited three films for Emile de Antonio (Millhouse, Painters Painting and Underground). Other films include Trouble the Water by Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, Queen of Versailles and Generational Wealth by Lauren Greenfield, This Changes Everything by Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein, and The Islands and the Whales by Mike Day. Lampson produced and directed Until She Talks and twenty-five short live-action films for Sesame Street.
“Any great documentary doesn’t do B-roll. I almost refuse to use that term because it’s so against what actually making a film is. It’s such a TV journalism approach, in which you lay down the voice-over and cover it with “wallpaper”—that is, images. There’s no tension between the images themselves and the ideas expressed by the words. To me that tension is what makes a movie. It’s taking two things that don’t necessarily belong together and making something that does to elicit a response from the viewer.”
— “Revolutions in Storytelling, from Underground to Citizenfour,” Interview by Marisa Mazria Katz. The full text can be found in the Appendix.
“In some ways I think the films we make are like the Foreign Service life I lived [growing up]. Each time you move, or start a new film, you enter a different world. Everything is strange. The smells are different, the sky is different. Everything is new and you don’t understand the way things work because all the rules are different, too. Then little by little, because you have no other choice, you start to make sense of the chaos. You understand something and you’re exhilarated; and then you realize you understand nothing and you’re depressed. This cycle of despair and exhilaration happens time and again as you begin bringing things together until finally you find connections and uncover the logic of the place. And then you move on. You pack up your stuff, get on a boat, and you’re off again to a new place which will be home for the next four years. Then four years later you move again.”
“My favorite post-it is the one I wrote that says ‘FUCK exposition’—the place I think you should never start. I’m suspicious of perfection when it comes too fast and I’m also suspicious of happy endings.”—Two excerpts from “The Art of Editing,” a Sundance Institute lecture by Mary Lampson. The full text can be found in the Appendix.