17 August 2009

The Boom

Since my last post, we have shot everything we need for our Project Twenty1 film, and Chris and I have been busy editing for the past few days. We have a rough visual cut complete, and now we need to add in the voiceover, music, and credits, all while tinkering with the sound and image to make everything perfect. We are definitely taking this to the very edges of our ten minute time limit. Once it's complete, we'll mail in our finished copy to the good folks at Project Twenty1 (the deadline is Saturday afternoon, but we hope to send it on Friday), who will take it, judge it, and screen it for the entire world at the festival in October. Unfortunately, we won't be able to share the film with you until then, but we hope to create some cool promotional stuff to pimp it to the fans - trailers, posters, behind the scenes footage...that is, if we can find anything where I'm not feverishly cursing behind the camera. I doubt it.

For those of us working in the unique milieu of microcinema, we always hear stories, or have some ourselves, of the projects that never saw the light of day. There are the people who are all talk, of course, those with big dreams who like being described as filmmakers but lack the dedication to actually make a film. Sometimes they may get around to writing some ideas onto paper, or perhaps even complete/commission/find an actual script; but by and large, nothing ever happens. More troubling, however, are the people who do get around to shooting footage, even to the point of completing the film, and then don't do anything with it. I've often heard actors complain about all the work they put into a film, only to have the producers abandon the project at some point and never finish it. If they're lucky, the actors will get some footage to put on their reel.

Why do people give up on all the progress they've made midway through the process? I think it's mainly because editing is so fucking hard, a fact drilled into me every time I do it. When writing, you've got a blank screen and the freedom to throw whatever crazy shit you come up with onto the page. It can be lonely and solitary, but you've got momentum on your side: I'm going to make this happen. Then you shoot the film, and while that can be arduous, you've got other people helping you out; the cast and crew, if they believe in you and the script, or at least tolerate your dumbassedness, can create magic. After that, you're on your own. It's you, the footage, and your computer, and you need to breathe life into the haphazard images you somehow captured.

You start cutting things together, and two things can happen. The first is that everything aligns, you grow happy and satisfied, and you use that energy and strength to plow through the hard parts. The second is that nothing goes together, and you realize you have a lot of worthless footage. Suddenly, the improvisatory shooting style that was so revolutionary when you were filming is now riddled with continuity errors, and the script's abrupt changes in tone don't mesh so well onscreen. So rather than reshoot, which is quite vexing when you have no money, or try to make something worthwhile out of what you have, you give up. The shame and embarrassment of failure trump the passion you felt for the project at the beginning, and it becomes a neglected stepchild, quickly brushed off with a few half-assed excuses whenever it comes up in conversation.

Even when you do have all the footage you need, and it all goes together well (as is the case for our film, thank Christ), editing is more tedious than the other parts of the process, and it turns a lot of people off. Staring at a screen for hours at a time, attempting to match up an arm swing in one cut with the arm swing in another cut, can be soul-crushing for those without the temperment for it. Editing is certainly a creative art, and it can be quite fun, but you have to be extremely precise with it in a way that you don't have to be when writing and shooting (though your film would be much better if you were). Any faults in the footage, no matter how small, glaringly stand out and mock you for your complete lack of competence, and you have to cut around these or try to minimize them so they're not so apparent. The footage taunts you, and you end up creating a second film in your head, the film you would have made if you'd done everything right.

I am eternally grateful to be working with Chris, who's taken the time to, you know, learn how to use an editing program and its bottomless tools and facets, and who has the patience and ingenuity to edit together a coherent and compelling film. I mostly just sit there and offer my thoughts and insights, while he does the actual brutal part of the job. Even when I'm being a stubborn dick and insisting that my opinion, no matter how asisine and ill-thought out, is one hundred percent fact, he tolerates my bullshit, even when he stands his ground.

Once we're done with the film, I'll have time to watch movies again, and plan to embark on a veritable orgy of cinema, overdosing on theaters, DVDs, and DVRs. The list of films I still need to watch and rewatch is long, and maybe I'll even be able to write about a few of them here.

1 comment:

  1. It's been an extreme pleasure working with Justin. TUMBLER - the boom is our third project that we've worked on and I an safely and very happily say that each film we do gets better and better.

    The editing can be brutal, yes, but it has always been a team effort in moving towards a final product.

    Justin, you need to give yourself more credit! I am in control of the actual timeline, but it's our colaborative ideas that make our films what they are. The bullshit you speak of is needed to sift through and find what works (you know this ha-ha).

    All in all, it's been a joy to have someone to work with that is just as committed to the projects as myself. I thank you!!

    ...on to the next project...