Film Editors Are Magicians

Really.  I went to my first editing session on Monday (previously, my director and I had been e-mailing our editor our comments, then she would put them into effect and upload the most recent version to a website) and watched while the manipulations occurred.  I am convinced it is MAGIC.  I mean, I saw it happening, and I still think it is MAGIC, and if you are a film editor, you are a MAGICIAN and should be treated accordingly. 

I also finally met with my composer on Tuesday, who watched the latest cut and really liked it (which will always score points with me:-).  It looks like the film is going to be finished a bit later than I would’ve liked, but I’d rather give people the time they need to do things to their (and my) satisfaction than rush them.  My director is ready to sign off on the cut, which is cool – I’m just waiting for a bit of feedback from a couple of others.  We’re also figuring out typefaces for title sequences.  And I need to find a colorist.

Who would’ve thunk a 12-minute film would take so much work…;-)

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I’m finally meeting my composer next week.  In this wonderfully wired world we live in, I haven’t even spoken to him on the phone – just e-mailed, and pretty briefly at that.  He’s going to be watching the latest version of the film to get some ideas for scoring, which I’ll be very curious to hear.

I went to a lecture on film scoring…last week?  The week before? (It’s a little scary, how the weeks seem to blend together).  It was very interesting.  Two different composers each gave a talk on a “classic” film score and then showed clips of their own work.  The first composer, Peter Calandra, gave a short lecture on “Vertigo” which was scored by the late, great Bernard Herrmann (who was supposedly a crankypants supreme as well as a brilliant composer).   It was a lecture (and a score)  that contrasted nicely with the second talk, by Andrew Markus, who spoke about the score to “American Beauty” by Thomas Newman (cousin to Randy and from a dynasty of movie composers – I believe he referred to them as “the Kennedys of film score composition” or something to that effect).   With “Vertigo,” it’s such a beautiful score – there’s *no* way, in my opinion, that you can’t notice it – it’s a part of the picture.

With “American Beauty,” the score was also lovely, but it seemed to me to function more like a beautiful frame to a beautiful piece of art – it enhanced the picture, but you didn’t notice it *first* (I once worked as a custom-framer, hence the analogy.  You never framed a picture so that someone looking at it would go “Wow, look at that frame!”  The purpose of the frame (and the mat) was always to serve the art best). 

In fact, with the ”American Beauty” score,  you sometimes didn’t notice it at all, which sounds like a negative thing, but it wasn’t, it just *worked*.

The composers also showed clips of their own work and narrated some of their process, which was fascinating.  It was an evening well-spent, and yet another glimpse into my brave new world of filmmaking.

“O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in’t.”

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Another difference between film and theatre…

So…I showed what I’ve got of the film so far to a labmate who has mondo film experience and he had lots of positive things to say about it, as well as helpful comments to make it better – hurray!

It’s amazing how relieved I felt, after hearing that.  Lots of tension just drained out of me. 

Here is yet another big difference between theatre and film:  the audience, and the opportunity for rewrites based on audience feedback.  When I write a play, I usually get at least one opportunity for a reading in front of a live (hopefully decent-sized) audience.  And while I might be sort of watching the action on stage, I’m probably paying more attention to the audience:  Where do they laugh, where do they cough, stretch, shuffle, where do they look confused? 

Then I go back and rewrite.  And I can continue to rewrite, up till and even, if the producers and actors are willing, through a production.

There is no such luxury with film.  At least not with my low-budget film.  Big-budget films can go back and reshoot, writers can rewrite (or write new) material .  Someone at one of my jobs asked me the other day if I had to go back and reshoot anything and I had to laugh.  There’s no reshooting on my budget or in terms of the location in which I shot, not to mention re-coordinating everyone’s schedules (which was a minor miracle in itself). It’s make do with whatever we’ve got, which luckily, according to my recent feedback, is good (hence my massive relief).

I know – it’s a pretty obvious difference.  But I think the magnitude of it didn’t hit me until I was thinking to myself – “Hmm…I wonder what will happen once this gets out of the editing room and in front of an audience.  And what am I gonna to do if NOBODY LAUGHS?!”  ‘Cause there’s nothing sadder than something purporting to be a comedy that doesn’t get even one chuckle.

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