Thursday, October 8, 2009

Two Days, Third Cut Almost Done

Yesterday and today, my editor Beth and I cut for 12 hours.

We cut 13 out of 18 scenes.

All in two days. Editing is going so well.

Here's the so-called "edit list" of everything we wanted to improve with the pacing and overall quality of the film in this upcoming cut:
  • Scene#1: Angela drinks away war memories. Restructure to begin with Iraq Poker Scene with Angela and Tom, smash cut to Angela looking at Tom's picture in her apartment, then intercut Angela drinking with her flashbacks of Tom.
  • Scene #2: Angela begs Frank to let her in. Feels too long.
  • Scene #3: Doug forces Angela to kill Scott. Make the poker game clearer, make Doug's entrance more organic, get a clearer sense of Frank, draw us into Angela's fear.
  • Scene #4: Angela follows Scott. Didn't touch it. Perfect.
  • Scene #5: Angela meets Scott. Draw us closer into Angela's nervousness sitting next to Scott, heighten the romantic tension, a little long.
  • Scene #6: Angela stalks Scott at his home. Feels too long, needs more suspense. Craft a better arc for Scott from depressed to elated, and a better arc for Angela from ready to kill him to shock at Kaylie's entrance.
  • Scene #7: Scott sees Angela outside Kaylie's room. Raise the suspense of Scott protecting Kaylie, like a bomb went off.
  • Scene #8: Angela prepares to kill Scott. Didn't touch it.
  • Scene #9: Scott and Angela connect over Iraq experiences. Make Angela coming up the steps and getting seen by Scott more suspenseful and the ending feels too long.
  • Scene #10: Angela starts to fall for Scott. Didn't touch it.
  • Scene #11: Scott asks Angela on a date. Shape to show the scene from Angela's POV and build a stronger arc from liking Scott to thinking about calling him.
  • Scene #12: Angela prepares for date. Didn't touch it.
  • Scene #13: Doug threatens Angela at Scott's house. Too long.
And over two days... we did just that. All of it. And so, so well.

And we watched all of it today. Beth and I got chills watching it.

My task as a director is to effectively communicate, and I'm having serious difficulty communicating to you how we accomplished all of this over two days. I can only offer up one possible explanation:

Every single frame counts. Every single shot counts.

When it felt too long, we trimmed it down to the most essential frames, cut it for suspense, and threw out extraneous shots. When a performance or scene arc felt a little off for that moment, we tried a different take or different pieces of the same take until the scene improved. And so many scenes that felt too short, after we started trimming, felt just right.

And Beth is the master of tweaking it till it works.

There was some wizardry in restructuring the first scene -- starting in Iraq, with Angela smiling and having fun with Tom, then smash cutting to Angela present day in her lonely apartment was the strongest opening we came up with. Luckily, I rolled long on a wide shot of Angela to the point where she picked up the picture of Tom -- and we were able to cut around so much of that footage to just used Angela looking at Tom's picture and then going to drinking and avoiding the bad memories... it just started to sing...

Beth and I will edit Monday and Thursday next week.

And we might finish Cut #3 a week early! See you then!

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