Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Interacting


Yesterday, the editor Beth and I started out in the late afternoon to cut the even more dreaded dinner scene: Scott opens up to Angela about his war trauma and encourages Angela to open up to him.

Why so dreaded? Again, not the footage. In fact, the footage was FANTASTIC. Perhaps some of the best footage in the film.

Amazing performances.

Rob Evans as Scott in this scene is at the top of his game, tender and heartbreaking at the same time as he relives his dark past to try to inspire Angela to hope. We watch Rob go from making genial first date chatter to confronting his inner most demons with the chops of an A-list movie star.

Tracy Coogan as Angela was just as fantastic, but her performance was a deeply moving in its subtlety. As Rob carries most of the dialogue, watching Tracy is like watching an example of a professional actress being present in the moment -- she hangs on every word Rob says, and with the slightest movement of her eyes or her lips parting, we feel the truth of her character washing over us.

Again, why so dreaded?

The challenge was in cutting it all together. Let me explain: in the first cut, Beth very religiously cut back and forth from Scott saying his lines to Angela's reactions... and somehow, all of that resonant energy in the seperate takes on Rob and Tracy... just vanished.

It looked like Scott and Angela were talking *at* each other. The connection wasn't there.

I had an idea: from the footage, we see them truly listening to each other, heart and soul, and we can cut this together to create moments where we see them falling for each other.

Great! We started cutting it on instinct. Going with our favorite pieces of each take. Shuffling them around. Using only the frames that worked for that particular moment in the scene (every frame counts, remember?).

We stepped back, watched it and the scene improved... only for Rob's performance. We instantly felt conntected to Scott, experienced a full emotional arc for him, and saw him connecting and falling for Angela.

But Angela still wasn't connecting to him -- even though she does in the footage! Filmmaking is so weird.

This is what it came down to: Beth and I workshopped each beat of Angela's emotional arc in this scene -- What do we want her to be feeling when she says this line? What do we want her reaction to be here? We came up with an emotional map of exactly what Angela is feeling/thinking for each beat in the scene.

Then we studied the takes of Angela with the sound off. Over and over and over again. We stopped on every imperceptible nod, blink of the eyes, tilt of the head -- any shift in movement or emotion -- and figured out where it fit into Angela's arc of the scene.

We cut that in... the scene improved. A lot. But there was STILL something missing. We had to step away. We paced. Got a drink of water. Tried talking about other things.

We came up with the idea that what if we focused on Angela over some of Scott's best lines. But his performances were so good to watch! But we tried it...

And it worked. It REALLY worked. Using the dialogue as sound bridges to long takes of Angela listening and Scott talking set this beautiful pacing, watching how each moment resonates in the other person, builds in emotion, motivates the next moment...

At last, Angela and Scott were interacting.

After all 4-5 long hours of headache-inducing work, we tried to cut the climactic balcony scene, but our brains were just fried. We gave each other our homework to do -- develop written-down emotional maps and game plans for cutting the scene -- before Thursday.

Stay tuned for Thursday -- when we finish the 2nd cut!

Oh yeah, and I went to an event called Comic Book Sunday this weekend and traded business cards with several film producers interested in my action feature script, Furious Angels.

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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