March 1, 2007

The Class This Week


Assignment for Next Week

Additional Material

Cheesy, vaguely humorous and approproriate image file.

This morning is going to be a great class. We're going to have our first chance to screen the entire first cut of our version of SHUT UP AND SING. Now, just like in any real film, this isn't really a true first cut. We've all had a chance to get several versions of some scenes, two versions of others, and one pass on yet a third group.

This will be our first and only chance to see our cut for the first time, so (as best as possible) we should sit back and enjoy the film as an audience would. However, in the back of our heads, we are also going to be bringing a critical eye to this viewing. We won't be looking at individual edits, but more how the flow of the story is going. Do we understand what we've said we want the audience to take away? Do our characters come across the way we wanted them to come across? Do we understand what is important to each and what is at risk? Do we feel that the moments that are important to them are as important to us?

The ability to watch a film fresh is one of the trickiest things that an editor needs to learn. Matching action is a snap compared to that. Audience screenings are great to give us a reality test, however the first screening is usually held with just the editing room staff and the director (and his/her staff at times). The film is still too raw to open it up to scrutiny to people who aren't going to be part of the reshaping.

For me, editing is re-editing. I talk about that almost as much as I do the Rule of Threes. We have to learn to embrace this and, as Walter Murch has said, let scenes put guns to each others' heads.

Continuity for v199 (PDF File)
As we discussed last week, this is Version 100 of our versions (we'll go up through v400 series). For each screening it is handy to have a continuity of the film. This lists every scene that exists in the film, in the order that it appears. For our first screening we have the film more or less the way it was scripted (with a few changes). As we go on in the process, any changes will be reflected in subsequent continuities. For my needs, I like to have a separate version of the continuity that lists all scenes shot for the film, even if they don't appear in that particular cut of the film. Those scenes are called lifts and I put them in italics, as you will see in two classes.
Post Production Schedule (for Week 8) (PDF File)
Another important piece of paperwork is the constantly revised post production schedule. You'll notice that we have a release date on this film -- the end of the semester -- so the schedule gets very very tight. Ahhh, welcome to reality. by glancing at the schedule you'll notice several new deadlines, mostly having to do with when your finished cuts are necessary each time we screen. The one right after the Spring Break is a particularly ugly one. The creation of the post schedule is all about balancing the finish date with the other real dates on the calendar. Up until this point, we've had a fairly easy time examining the schedule. Now, it gets much tougher as the harsh realities begin to interfere with our desire to make the best film possible.

Re-edit for a second screening in two classes
Though Spring Break will interrupt our screenings in two weeks, we are aiming to have a second complete cut of the film for the class immediately after the break. Notice in our post production schedule that this second cut (which is comparable to the director's cut on a real feature) is the longest of our post production cuts. This is typically the place where many large problems are confronted. We will have similar issues (the length of the film, the focus of the film, etc.) and so will take two weeks to put everything together. Three weeks, if you can't spring break -- which we can, since Post will remain open, though on a reduced schedule.
Add more music as per my notes
What music worked well for us in tonight's cut? What didn't? When did music work, when did it fail? Let's start to accumulate a consensus on what music worked, but let's still experiment. We will spend next week with a composer, after which we will decide on musical style. This next week is all about trying things out.

Editors and Assistants: A Status Report
This article, from the Editors Guild Magazine, though written in 2002, has some very cogent observations about the changing role of the assistant in the world of digital editing today. What are the skillsets that are necessary to sell yourself in this world? Think about that as you revised your resume for the next time that Janet Conn comes to visit, in mid April.
Interview with Paul Hirsch
Paul, who cut a lot of Brian DePalma's early films, as well as the first STAR WARS film (of the good part -- the first trilogy), talks about editing for DePalma and cutting and recutting. I also interviewed Paul last year about his work on RAY. To read that interview go to the Editors Guild website.
Someone Else's Dreams
Editor Martin Duffy talks about directing his first feature for the Shooting Gallery. Things are often different on the other side of the editing bench.