Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cutting the Director's Cut


This past Tuesday, I saw the first rough cut of the film -- the Editor's cut. There is a saying in Hollywood that goes:
The best day of a director's life is the final day of the film shoot. The worst day of a director's life is watching the first rough cut.
I watched the director's cut... and it was not the worst day of my life. There were certain scenes I was terrified of -- I thought they would go over too long, lose momentum, lack emotional impact -- and they were near perfect.

Many other scenes "needed work" as executives often say in development -- the story and hard work is there, it's just a matter of building and sculpting moments to heighten the peaks and valleys of the emotional experience and characters' arcs.

This past Thursday was the first day of the Director's Cut. I sat in with Beth and in the course of 7 short hours, we were able to make a solid, strong rough cut of scenes 1-7 -- from the beginning to Angela seeing Scott at the bar.

There's some mental strain on my part... I'm so used to translating the story in terms of talking to actors and crew members, using action verbs, "as ifs," shot sizes, light quality, and colors valuable to the story... now that we have the whole thing in front of us, we can have thesis statements for the film's emotional experience, the emotional experience of each scene (e.g. from lonely to furious determination), and then take it down to the minutia of each moment, each shot, how long it should last, what do we cut to next...

And it's been going very well. I'm terrified of Doug in the first scenes, I feel awful about what happened to Frank, I feel so bad for how lonely and depressed Angela is, but in the next scene, watching her march after Scott, I know she's going to kill him...

It's all coming together. Tonight, I will be going over the footage and preparing to find new, invigorating ways to cut the film to best tell the story.

After I sort laundry, do dishes, respond to a flurry of emails, and read papers for my other classes.

I'd like to say that the everyday, mundane chores of my daily life do not mean much to the glories of editing "Another Life." But then I'd be lying. It's only in our most grounded and human moments that we discover true emotional experiences that make good cinema.

Arrivederci, my friends. Until next cut.

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