Monday, July 25, 2016

How I Made A Movie: Part 5 of ?: Editing - the Hidden Monster

Previously, on part 4

After a long break in shooting due to weather, we finished!
In the interim, I had edited together one scene.
But now it was time to put it all together...

The shooting was done. I had all the footage on my computer. I subscribed to Adobe Creative Cloud to have access to some of the best film editing software out there. I knew it wasn't going to be easy and I would have to learn while I was going along. I read some tutorials, re-read some tutorials, and re-re-read the same tutorials when issues popped up the tutorials told me would pop up. But I was enjoying myself to an extent. Editing has its own system of mini rewards. Once you finish a scene, or finalize a transition, seeing it again in its final version as a standalone piece of work is rewarding.

Unfortunately, that reward only takes you so far. The farther I got into the film, the more times I had to see it from the beginning, and the more I grew tired of seeing the exact same thing. Another problem was that I just wasn't really sure if what I was doing was the right thing. Unlike a painting, I didn't really have a final idea in my mind. I mean, I kind of did, but I couldn't see the way to get there. There was one good sign - I was still laughing.

After a long slog of editing and laughing by myself in an empty room. I had a first cut of the movie finished. I was very proud of that first cut. A little too proud. It got me through a lot whenever I would mention the movie in conversation or one of our cast or crew members asked me how the editing was going.

"I just finished the first cut."

"Well, the first cut is done."

"I have a first cut!"

And so on.

But I was stuck with my first cut, not knowing what the next step was. I quickly realized, as much as I thought I had to do it alone, and as much as I pride myself in doing things alone, I couldn't do this alone. So I asked for help.

I reached out to one of the original directors who didn't have time to direct the film to see the first draft and offer notes. The notes I received were a big learning point from me. I was expecting a big pat on the back "this was your first time? good job!", "there were a few little things here..." and I thought the process from first draft to final would be easy.

That wasn't what happened. My first draft wasn't ripped to shreds but the notes and comments were much more extensive and critical than I expected. And it was the best thing to happen to me.

It felt like I was trying to look at a painting by zooming in close and identifying colors and brush strokes. The notes I received was akin to a hand pulling me back and letting me see the painting at its entirety. And I had the same kind of epiphany. The notes and comments pointed to the storytelling aspect of filmmaking, something I wouldn't have even thought of.

A film is a story. And I kind of forgot that. I thought just the script was the story. But that's not the case. The actors, the cinematography, and the editing, are all part of the storytelling, and those tools are just as essential to the script. The notes and comments were pointing to the fact that my editing was weakening the story in certain points, which brought down the film as a whole.

So that meant I had a lot of work to do between the first draft and the subsequent draft. But it was refreshing to know that I had a lot more freedom and there was a lot I could do to make sure certain story points were hit as high as they needed to. Unfortunately, just knowing that wasn't enough and I still needed help. I hit a wall pretty far into the editing phase and the actual work that editing was made up of was starting to really hit me hard. So I solicited help from my two co-stars.

This was a HUGE help because they brought an entirely new perspective and were also looking at the film from a film perspective, not a script perspective, which is a distinct difference. What I was doing with this editing was 'how can I make the best kind of movie given our script?' when I should have been thinking 'how can I make the best kind of movie given our footage?' What I shot was following the script but the end product doesn't have to match the script word for word. And that was a freedom I wasn't aware I had. With that in mind, we cut a lot of different scenes and trimmed down some of the dialogue, making for a cleaner and more streamlined video. I would be lying if I feel a little weird knowing my script was cut heavily but overall, it was the right move.

So even though it took a long time, I kept at it and ended up with a new cut of the film. But I didn't release it. Why?

That's a big question. So big, it needs another blog post. But on the plus side, it's probably my last one on the project!