January 25, 2007


The Class This Week


Assignment for Next Week

Additional Material

Tonight we are going to spend most of our time looking at the edits from the past week but before we do I'd like to show the opening sequences for three films in the interest in beginning talking about beginnings.

It is often said that, as filmmakers, we have between 10 and 15 minutes at the beginning of a film to do what we want with the audience. They will forgive us almost anything because they don't yet know where the film is going. We've got that length of time to let them know three main things about the film:

The GriftersThe opening of Stephen Frears' THE GRIFTERS, Krzysztof Kislowski's RED, and Mike Figgis' TIMECODE, all do that in form or another.

THE GRIFTERS is a story about three people who become connected in a series of scams that befits the title of the film. At the start of the film we don't know anything about them or their professions, but with a simple voiceover, Frears tells us that the Angelica Huston character is up to no good. Then, using a split screen, we are introduced to both John Cusack and Annette Bening's characters. When all three turn to the camera simultaneously in aobut the same screen size, it is clear that these are characters who have something in common. It doesn't take this movie long to establish all three of the points listed above, even though the details are sketchy. Between the opening titles' noirish feel/music and the clues in this short opening sequence, we immediately know if this is a movie that we are going to like and to stick with.

RedRED takes an entirely different visual tactic in its opening sequence. The film, which is about people who miss each other through happenstance and about peoples' privacy and openness, spends its opening five minutes deliberately NOT being clear about the relationships among all of its characters (we don't even meet one of the movie's crucial characters -- an elderly judge who eavesdrops on people's phone conversations -- in this section). Yet, by the time it is done, we know that one of the major characters is Valentine, a woman who is in love with a man who is not there. We also spend some time with her neighbor. The opening goes through a phone line to a missed connection. We also soar over a Parisian intersection to associate two people who don't know each other, and who go about their daily lives without the knowledge that they will be linked in some way. Within this film's first minutes we have a sense of who the film is going to focus on and in what style it will be told. The next several scenes will elucidate on that.

TimecodeMike Figgis' TIMECODE was a bold 2000 experiment in digital split screen technology. It tells the story of a number of Los Angelenos who all intersect during 90 minutes of one day. The film is about interactive lives and uses a four-screen ("quad") split in which all cameras run simultaneously in real time following the different characters.

The challenge of the opening of this film is to ease the audience into its style without seeming forced or pretentious. It needs to let them know that story willl be told in all quadrants and that sound will help them focus in one place or another. To that end, it eases each quadrant in, during the credit sequence though it doesn't present continuing compelling content in each quadrant all of the time. At one point we see the Jeanne Tripplehorn let the air out of her companion's car tire, which piques our interest, though it is not explained yet. In another place, the Julian Sands character enters the building and exits its lobby in one quadrant, only to enter an office in another. In fact, for a while, we see him in both quadrants.

This approach lets the audience know just what to expect in terms of the film -- pacing, style, characters (there will be a lot, it says; just stay tuned).

At last week's class we spent some time beginning to figure out what SHUT UP AND SING is about, at its core. In 535 we called this a logline, and its main purpose is to give us a guidepost that we can check back to as we cut each scene. This is a process that will be an ongoing, continuing evolving one. It will be handy to look back on this as we explore the film in its greater depths.

Here are the thoughts that we discussed last week. In order to bring order to the chaos of twelve editors, I am going to be enforcing many of these thoughts. Please check back to this every week as you begin cutting and recutting. To make this easier, I've posted the logline at another place in the site (hit the link called Logline over in the Navigation Bar on the left, or click right here) where I will be updating it as we refine our thoughts.

The evolution of this film will be one of discovering how to bring these points to the forefront, so the audience experiences them viscerally.

101 Reasons to Insist on an Assistant (PDF File)
This handout describes what assistants do in great detail, but in an entertaining way. Pay particular attention to the three examples that Pam gives of how assistants help her out.
Post Schedule
Remember to keep checking out the post schedule. We will discuss it EVERY WEEK.

Put together my notes from this evening's class
In order to figure out how to recut it is important to take good notes. On my films I usually have my assistant take notes at the same time that I do. Then, when before I start to re-edit a scene, the two of us sit together and compare our notes. This helps to make sure that we don't miss anything, as well as helping to clear up any confusion that one or the other of us might have, after the craziness of the notes giving.
Recut the scene from your cut from last week
Look through the notes and make the changes that make sense to you. I will insist that you work with my notes, especially as it concerns character and style (since we are trying to maintain consistency. However, within those parameters you will have a lot of different possibilities.
Cut another scene or two.
Take a look at the schedule for the class. Look at the number of scenes that you have to edit by then. Come up with a reasonable plan for doing those scenes and doing the recuts and then choose another scene from your section of the film to edit. There is no obligation to choose the next scene after the one that you've already edited. In fact, most of the time the dailies will come in out of order, so you might learn more by jumping to a later scene
Add music to your first scene
There should be a folder for Music, however I'd like to encourage you to bring your own music into the project to try out. What type of music will help propel the story and the characters? What music will give the tone of the film? Where should the music be placed? Begin to listen to music and try out a few cues. It's good to experiment so the film can tell you what type of music it likes, needs and wants.

Digital Film Design
DFD is another way of saying Pre-Viz, which is another way of saying pre-visualization, the act of using of computer to set up camera angles, lens sizes, and the whole gamut of planning shots. The Wachowski Brothers used DFD extensively on the MATRIX movies (in particular - the last two). This article, from Millimeter Magazine, discusses what DFD is and how it is affecting filmmaking today.
This web site, designed for those interested in studying the affects and importance of "New Media" (mostly meaning digital cinema) often has interviews with filmmakers and theoreticians. Some of it is really fascinating and definitely worth a trip.