Thursday, October 1, 2009

3rd Cut Begins!

It began not with a bang, but a whimper. More like a cough.

Beth, the editor, is sick today. So we had to call it a half day and focus our efforts on cutting the re-imagined Scene 1: Angela drinking away her war memories.

This scene used to be Scene 3, so Beth and I spent some time asking questions about how to establish the space, introduce Angela, and finding the right pacing so as not to disorient or confuse the audience -- but to make them engage and identify with Angela immediately.

Not an easy task.

We tried starting in Iraq, watching Tom and Angela laugh over a game of poker, then going to Angela remembering Tom in an alley, marching into her apartment, getting a drink, remembering Tom again... and it just felt too long.

And it made us care less about Tom the second time. Not good.

The real challenge here was in the flexibility of the footage. We wanted to introduce Angela in her space, intercut between flashbacks and Angela drinking and reacting, and then watch her drink herself to sleep.

But most of the footage was designed to show Angela at a distance, watching her drink, interact with her apartment, and gaze at her picture of Tom. So we tried killing our darlings and used just the footage that kept Angela on the bed.

And it was working for us. But not quite.

Beth picked up on the idea of intercutting the flashbacks with Angela drinking even more (in the 2nd cut, the flashbacks were more like watching Angela remember entire scenes). Once we found the right takes of Angela's reactions to the flashbacks and constructed an arc to her performance, then it really started to sing. We were really feeling engaged with Angela and her relationship to Tom.

But sound design had a big part to play. The enormous shift in environment -- from ghetto L.A. to war-torn Baghdad -- is missing since we haven't built these atmospheric sound backgrounds. Also, as we shifted the music around, we noticed how we become less/more engaged with Angela. Weird...

So Beth tweaked and tightened, and we left with a damn good cut of the new Scene 1 with strong ideas on how to put in sound backgrounds and music before we move on.

Ten minutes later, as I was driving away, it hit me like lighting.

I figured out a new, invigorating way to cut the scene using footage that I totally forgot we had! I conjured up a way to start with Angela and Tom playing poker in Iraq, then going back to Angela, and continue the flashback/apartment intercutting from there -- in a way that will engage us with Angela even more!

Wednesday, we're back at Scene 1 and moving on to Scene 2!

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