March 17, 2002

Editing: When I went to

Editing: When I went to bed last night, I thought the village montage was nearly done. But watching it this morning, I wasn't satisfied at all, so I recut the whole thing. Now, at least the raw material for a strong montage of village residents is in place. Most of the afternoon was spent stumbling over the crater. There were strong dialogue scenes with the caretaker and emotional scenes at the crater itself, but no real logical way to sequence them. AND, since the guy didn't set out looking for a crater, there's basically no context for the audience; what's this got to do with anything? why is this guy there, seeing as how no one's ever mentioned it before? and so on.


Well, a really simple, straightforward solution presented itself, and I've been flying through the scene for the last hour; everything seems to fall right into place. The audience should get information about the crater (and in a powerful way) and the guy's reaction to it is actually set up and enhanced by the way it's cut. Or at least it will/should be, once it really gets cut. That leaves only Thiepval for tomorrow morning. Nearly on schedule.


Not to turn this into a Soderbergh shrine or anything, but I'm sorry, I was at Sundance in 1989 (and managing the foreign film program at my university); I've been influenced. On Avid's site, Soderbergh talks about editing his films, including Ocean's Eleven and Traffic. A "radical" change editor Stephen Morrione made to one scene in Traffic illustrates the potential power of editing. [scroll down to "Half a Step Ahead"]. I felt that tonight. (Although so far, the closest I've gotten to Traffic is scoring one of the promo t-shirts that's wrapped like a brick of cocaine.)


Tonight, I've been editing to TCM's showing of All Quiet on the Western Front, the 1930 war/anti-war classic, directed by Lewis Milestone. Milestone was a lion of filmmaking, starting way back in the silent era (remember, sound movies only really came out three years before AQOTWF) and continuing into the sixties. His second to last film? The original Rat Pack version of Ocean's Eleven. Hey, I don't make this stuff up; it just happens.

Editing: Met with Jonah today to review the rough cut. As it stands, there are really only the two last scenes remaining to do, and I'm going to finish them tonight and Saturday (repeat after me: "loooozah"). Sure enough, Jonah showed me some quick/instant tricks that made things sing: slowing down a cut by even 10% to smooth it out, subtle enlargement of the image to crop out vignetting, and rapidly executed cuts and changes in the rhythm of scenes that made them work better than before. Once I get the rough cut to him Sunday, he'll have quite a bit of liberty to fashion the whole thing.


One thing that I was unsure about was how to really make jump cuts well, a technique I wanted to use, especially in the town sequence, where the man finds out about the town's role in the war as he asks several people for directions. Then tonight, as I was capturing a few remaining clips, I turned on The Sundance Channel, and Steven Soderbergh's film, The Limey was on. Terence Stamp had a scene where he's telling it like it is to some DEA agent or something sitting at a desk. The monologue/diatribe was such a massive series of jump cuts, executed so well, that it was a shot in the arm. The cuts set a rhythm in the speech, subtly causing the viewer to stay on edge, waiting to see what the next cut is going to be. Even though every one is of Stamp, in the near center of the frame, the cuts keep the viewer's attention pinned to the speech, whereas a long, single cut--or intercutting with an unmoving/nonspeaking agent--could cause viewers' minds to wander. Interesting. Here's a Google cache of an EditorsNet.com interview with Sarah Flack, the editor on The Limey. About halfway down, she talks about this exact scene. Very interesting.

Editing: Finished the gas station scene and the third conversation in the car. that means I've got it blocked out to scene 35, which is more than halfway through. Three major scenes remain: the village of Albert; the crater at La Boisselle; and the memorial in Thiepval.


It's going a lot faster, though, when I can actually edit. Unfortunately, I lost time today because the townhouse across the street had two (2) jackhammers going in tandem, almost non-stop for four hours. I'd been prepared for the Sex and the City shoot that's been going on next door since 7AM (the ol' slip a dvd to Sarah Jessica Parker routine, you know), but not the jackhammers. Hmmm, wonder if it's like those leafblowing extortionists I've heard about who stalk production locations in LA...[does no link mean it's an urban legend?]


Music: Not an urban legend, but a legend nonetheless. Bjork's concert in Stuttgart on 11 September took place only a couple of hours after the attacks in NYC (do the time zone math). She went ahead with it, and from all accounts, it was an extremely emotional, moving experience. Turns out she performed a song by Meredith Monk, "Gotham Lullaby," which I'd found on another concert album. Ladies and gentlemen, we may have found our Bjork selection for the soundtrack...

Editing: Finished the third sequence this afternoon, the 2nd conversation between the couple. It went much faster than the other one. Rewatched the first one, which I know now is at least 1 min. too long. That's good, because while I was/am determined to beat the 1 minute/page rule of thumb (after writing a 22-page script for a 15-minute movie, whaddya gonna do?), right now it's almost exactly 1 min/pg. Damn you, years of experience in the filmmaking industry...


And I worry that having Baraka on in the background while editing will only make everything twice as long. (It's one looong, meditative scene or hypontic pan/zoom after another, with wall-to-wall mystical music.) Ah, Sundance giveth and The Sundance Channel taketh away.

Editing: Finished a second sequence, the first conversation 1:41 in the car and in NYC. The dialogue scene has roughly four times as many cuts, with four layered video/audio tracks as the airport scene, even though it's less than half as long. Then I wasted several hours trying to connect my mac and pc via infrared so I could upload the quicktime drafts. If I had an hour for every hour I wasted on tech stuff, I'd, well, I'd break even, time-wise.

Editing: Built my first sequence in Final Cut Pro today, 3:45 at the airport (the opening scenes of the movie). I must say, it's too long, and there are some cheats in it, but I kind of like it. If I could get my infrared working on the Powerbook, I'd post the draft version. But as I'm finding out (the hard way), what I don't know about Mac connectivity can fill several books (and costs me precious time).


Exposure and lighting from cut to cut is a huge factor, or at least it's very distracting to me right now. I'm hoping we'll be able to finesse some of it away with color balancing and other post effects. In the mean time, I'm just trying to assure at least some kind of complementarity, if not actual continuity, in the light of abutting cuts.


Music: Once again, SoMa FM proves a great editing companion. This morning they streamed LTJ Bukem's Inward Journey, a drum-and-bass CD set that has a couple of really chill, contemplative tracks on it. What I didn't know about ambient, jungle, and drum-and-bass could fill... etc., etc.


What else happened today: My friends' newly renamed memorial to the World Trade Center went live tonight. We watched from the Hudson River as the switch was thrown. From our first angle, the two beams overlapped almost perfectly. From other points, though, including Canal and Greenwich Streets, 6th Avenue & West 4th, and other stops on my way home, the beam were perfectly delineated. John et al had paid special attention to the proportional spacing and the crisp edge between the towers, and the lights communicate that amazingly well. In fact, I just found Gustavo's comments on Slate: "...in effect, we're not rebuilding the towers themselves, but the void between them."


And while there was a sense of sadness building up before the lighting, I surprise myself by how comforting it is to see something again in the skyline. That something there--again, still--could be an unexpected solace for people who worried that only the buildings themselves are being remembered.

March 11, 2002

"Please join me in a

"Please join me in a moment of silence. The second plane has just struck the second tower." -NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg


Is remembering reliving?

Is it inspiration or masochism to watch a movie like Robert Altman's brilliantly acted (and interwoven) Short Cuts while editing your first short? Whichever, it's a little late now, since the credits are running.


Problems getting the firewire hub to work meant I've had to log and capture all the footage in 10Gb batches, filling up the G4's hard drive and then swapping the camera for the external drive. And since I only learned of Final Cut's "Move Media" command today, I've been dragging all the media files to corresponding folders on the big drive. THIS means having to relink each media file through FCP, since the file location and path has changed. Extra needless work, lots of it. But I'm gaining a familiarity with the footage and the software that'll speed along decisions over the next few days as we assemble the first sequences.


Rough schedule for the week:

  • Build sequences for the first half of the movie, including the airport, phone conversations, early driving scenes, and the gas station stop.
  • Purge a lot of media that doesn't have a chance of making it into these sequences. Fill this disk space with more options for the middle and end sequences (the encounters in town, visit to the crater and the memorial).
  • By Thursday Assemble rough sequences and alternatives for these scenes, creating the first complete cut of the movie.
  • Go over these sequences with Jonah, doing real edits
  • Weekend: Status check and review full cut with Connie Walsh, another video artist and editor, with whom I met Saturday.
  • Also on tap: Meet with graphic designer for poster/photo, DVD, tape and press kit design.

    In the mean time, Elliot Gould is trying to fool his cat by putting cheap cat food into the expensive can in The Long Goodbye. Sorry, but four hours of Altman a night is my limit.

  • March 8, 2002

    Log log log log. It's

    Log log log log. It's not making for much weblog weblog weblog weblog, though. After 1) a powerbook, 2) an external drive, 3) a new charger/AC cable for the camera, 4) a new Firewire connector for same, 5) a Firewire hub, 6) Final Cut Pro software, and 7) the FCP for Idiots manual, I've been logging in and capturing media (i.e., video and audio) at an increasingly rapid pace.


    As of this evening, half the tapes have been done, taking up slightly less than half the space on my new hard drive. I'm much more selective of what gets captured from the third tape on, I notice; even though I log nearly every shot, I'm only taking the ones I really want to try using (emphasis on the really). That means there's a huge pile of driving shots from the first tape I did that won't get used. Live and learn. While the Mac captures video, I search for music on my PC. Thomas Tallis' 40-part motet, Spem in Alium, is a candidate now; I wrote about it around the genesis of the project, and it was on exibit in NYC in November, when the script takes place.


    Meeting with an editor/artist friend tomorrow to discuss next steps. Will keep the posting posted. Meeting with a branding friend Monday to discuss press kits, posters, video/DVD's, website, etc.

    Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

    Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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