Saturday, September 19, 2009

Flashing Back

Today, my editor Beth and I cut the dreaded Scene 19 -- Angela remembers her war buddy Tom dying while she's on a date with Scott. Why so dreaded? Well, in this one 2-page scene:
  • Angela just saw Doug -- she must kill Scott tonight
  • Scott reveals the babysitter canceled so the date's at his house
  • Angela blushes at Scott complimenting her (she likes him!)
  • Angela sees Scott has a file on Doug's criminal record
  • Angela overhears Scott talking to his adorable daughter
  • Angela flashes back to Tom dying in Iraq
  • Scott asks Angela if she wants to talk about her war trauma
As you can see, there's A LOT going through Angela's head. And each of these beats are important to the story.

To be honest, I was secretly planning on cutting this entire scene.

When I first looked at the footage, I was embarrassed. The cinematography was great, the performances were perfect -- but I was rushed that night, I combined a lot of shots, and I was certain that I had made an unusable mess with some hastily chosen angles.

That's where Beth comes in.

We had some trouble getting Angela in the front door -- again my gap in the footage -- but after the placement of the sound Angela's high heels walking in and some careful use of intercutting, the whole beginning of the scene worked seamlessly. We see all these beats washing over Angela's face and we could watch the story play out.

Then the flashbacks.

I had invented this creative rule that all the transitions between Angela on the date and Angela in Iraq would be sound cues -- sounds of Scott cooking that could resemble the sounds of gunfire, etc. But because of the lack of footage, we couldn't sync each of these moments up exactly.

Beth stepped back and looked at the four most important moments of the flashback: Tom falling over, Tom bleeding, Angela pinned down by gunfire, Angela shooting the insurgent and going over to Tom's side -- only to watch him die.

Once we identified those four pieces, we found the right sound transitions between the scenes, like Scott slamming a fridge door and Tom's helmet hitting the ground. But Beth found better transitions elsewhere -- Tom shouting over Angela's reactions on the date and then Angela In Iraq answering in Voice Over, an audio memory playing over Angela on the date and leading us right back into the final flashback.

It sounds confusing. Believe me, it got confusing. But after shaping a few cuts, dropping a few redundant shots, and tightening things up, Beth made this scene sing.

We banged out scenes 17 and 18 -- Angela preparing for the date and then seeing Doug outside Scott's house -- after a few minor tweaks. And we were done only after 4 or so hours of editing.

In fact, we finished early.

Word to the wise: Don't edit your own stuff. Hire a kickass editor. Better yet, hire Beth.

Stay tuned for Monday, when we'll cut the thrilling climax scenes!

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