Udate 2: electric boogaloo

This narrative editing lark is hardcore.
I’ve said it before but I’m so used to cutting to an ad or music promo that cutting a ‘story’ is still something I’m learning more about every day.
The ruthlessness is the tricky bit, for me.

Ads are dictated by a strict running time and a glut of information to get across, all of which tends to have predetermined on screen timings (logo must be up for 5 seconds, online offer info for 4 seconds etc), whereas music promos have a natural – also predetermined – rhythm and pace dictated by the track. What I’ve found hardest at times, though less so each day, is to see the overall picture. Having written the screenplay it’s hard to break from it, and initially I was loyal; cutting scenes separately, and to the beats of both the script and the natural beats within the footage (he gets up… Now, so that’s where I cut to this shot… She looks up – here, so then I cut to te next scene etc).
This is all well and good, but the next stage – and one that’d no doubt be bypassed, or not required by an editor with more experience, is to see the overall story and re-cut to that.
I’ve scenes that in themselves were very pretty, nicely paced, and beautifully shot – BUT – more and more I’ve been learning to be ruthless and ditch them, sometimes entirely, for the sake of the overall film. Often the information in them in regards to plot is just reiteration, or repetition, or simply irrelevant. It’s common practice but hard when you’re having to 1. Overcome such a strong prior vision of the sequence of events and 2. You paid for each and every shot (both money wise and in regards to the sweat of producing the entire thing).
Time has lent me a new nonchalonce for some of my initially favorite sequences … watching them over so repetitively I’ve lost a little of the regard and pride I took in them – sometimes purely aesthetically – and can now hack ’em out to give it a new pace that, while it’s far from punchy (to say the least!), doesn’t drift quite so aimlessly.
Davie McKay is probably the actor to suffer the most, a good deal of his best work is on the (metaphorical) cutting room floor (actually the living room), but his work was too strong and dominating and the films not about him, so he’s been trimmed and trimmed to become a far lesser presence. While it’s a shame, as I say, my familiarity with the footage has lent me a new attitude that’s taken an age to come about – largely because I’ve been ducking in and out of this to do proper paid work throughout the process – but where I now feel like I’m remixing an old track that never quite worked before but I couldn’t see why until now.
To some extent this has given me more sympathy for the concept of a ‘directors cut’. Something I always saw as a pretty wanky self serving exercise, and in some cases is (or purely for more money), but distance from the material is certainly something only time (or someone elses eyes) can give you.
When a jobs done I tend to look back on it years later and am generally blind to faults that at the time of delivery, bugged the hell out of me and now seem petty, but the fact I’m still pecking away at this and finding new ways to trim it back suggests it’s been a bonus to not have had funding on this, and so nobody to answer to, and no delivery schedule weighing on my shoulders. There’ll always be something that gripes, and niggles, and things I’d want to reshoot, but it does feel at least that I’m learning what not to do next time – and how to do it all a whole lot quicker.

Today I sat and recut the opening act, folding together two seperate scenes, and then again cutting that up into very brief inserts to sit in amongst an already shortened title sequence, so that what was an intentionally slow introduction to the characters running to around 6 or 7 minutes, is now all over within 2 minutes 20 seconds. It’s meant I’ve sacrificed some gorgeous shots – to my mind the best looking in the film – and have also lost some of the gentle pacing at the beginning that I thought I wanted, but in hinesight it’s ludicrous to be slow in a short film format. Half of me wanted to keep them in to ‘show off’, but if I’m honest while they subtley added to the atmosphere they also detracted hugely from the story, and the pace, and the all important ‘attention’ needed from an audience. For me the older longer version will always be a far nicer, more unusual piece, and fits more with what I intended in making the film … but only on repeated viewings. It’s cut like a feature, and it simply isn’t one, nor does the plot warrant the running time.

It’s like designing six foot long sleeves on a jumper cos you like the cloth, and bearing in mind that most people will only watch a short film once – if that – I can’t afford to hang about and indulge myself … so they’re gone.

Fuck em.

I can always release the four hour Director’s cut further down the line eh?

Posted: May 9th, 2011
at 10:45am by Griff

Categories: Stork Nest

Comments: No comments


Leave a Reply