Thursday, November 19, 2009

5th Cut Finished!

This morning, Beth and I watched the film, discussed a few things, tried a few things... and then we were done before lunch.

I love days like these.

After reviewing the cut, we found that the only problem areas were the transitions between the flashbacks and the present. We put in just a little more time after the flashbacks, resting longer with Angela's reaction in the present... and the rest just flowed. Also, we finessed some of the music and sound in key scenes and slightly modified the beginning scene-let, just to bring up the level of emotion that much more.

We also covered some essential business: ideas for the pick-ups, preparations for screenings and meetings, and some initial plans for the transition from winter break to picture lock on January 10th.

Run time? 15min57sec!

I will be on Thanksgiving break next week, but this weekend we'll be having a test screening, and over Thanksgiving break, we'll lock our sound crew and prep for pick-ups. So stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

5th Cut Almost Done!

So over the weekend, Beth, my editor, incorporated all of our outlined notes into a rough cut. I met with her yesterday... and after 4 hours of work, we have a new cut.

Are we that good? Really?

So the overall idea for the new cut was to develop a new structure of interspersing the Angela's flashbacks to her traumatic war experiences throughout to put Angela's moral dilemma in context with her survivor's guilt, bringing us closer in line with her mental and emotional experience.

The majority of our work was smoothing out the transitions between the flashbacks and the present-day scenes, putting in temp ADR lines of dialogue that make these new juxtapositions really resonate, putting in some new material, and then revising some dirtier edit points in the balcony and final scenes. And then Beth found some fantastic ways to trim down some overlong scenes without taking out any story or much dialogue really.

We were kind of amazed that after all our work, we watched the whole film through, and we were pretty damn pleased with it. So we decided to step away, get some fresh perspective on this intermediate cut, review it on our own, and meet again on Thursday with new notes to revise and put finishing touched on the 5th cut.

Oh yeah, and the run time now is 15min56sec!

Maybe we just are that good.

I'm also keeping VERY busy preparing for pick-ups and meeting with sound designers. But stay tuned as we finish the 5th Cut on Thursday and have a cut screening this weekend!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Screenings and Meetings and Mentors, Oh My!

This past Sunday, my editor Beth and I screened the 4th Cut for a very small audience...

We got some very hard notes. Very hard. It's always difficult to hear people you deeply respect as fellow filmmakers tear your film apart.

Screening your film is like standing naked amongst a room of strangers and hear them tell you exactly what parts of your anatomy they hate and want to change.

So I spent the past few days doing a lot of soul-searching... re-connecting with the core of the film, what it means to me and its intended audience... conceiving plans for shooting pick-ups... trying to find the right way to improve the film and ultimately make a movie that people will enjoy watching...

So after developing some elaborate plans for pick-ups and re-editing techniques, I met with Beth's editing mentor, Norm... and he brought us back down to Earth.

We do NOT need to drastically re-edit the film

We do NOT need to drastically re-shoot the film.

A long conversation with Norm helped us figure out a new structure for the flashbacks -- every time we see Angela on the verge of making a critical decision, we cut back to another piece of her experience in Iraq -- that will engage us more with Angela, make us sympathize and understand her all the more, and pull us into the emotion of the film.

There are some essential tweaks to the first scene to shape the tone, but most importantly, to make Angela's dilemma more clear and accessible. We also need to smooth out some transitions and add some temp sound design to enhance the emotion in some scenes.

And a One Day Shoot pick-up of Angela outside her door.

And that's it. Great notes from great mentors are SO great.

Beth and I had a State of the Cut meeting after all the notes sessions, and after a strangely short discussion, we found that we had just put together a pretty cohesive outline for the 5th Cut's new structure.

Beth will take the weekend to cut the film to this new outline. So stay tuned for Monday, when we'll get back to cutting together!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

4th Cut Finished!

Today, my editor Beth and I finished the 4th Cut! Hooray!

I came to Beth's editing suite this morning to a happy surprise -- she had already started work on Scene #15: Angela and Scott share their war experiences over dinner. She cut out 20 minutes, trimming the fat of the scene... and it works really well. Each moment feels just right and the scene just flows right along.

Then there was the always the dreaded climax, Scene #16: Angela pulls a gun on Scott. I came in expecting major surgery on this scene... and it didn't need it. I was just over-stressed from the thought of pick-ups and over-analyzing the scene. Beth found a great solution: she trimmed down the lingering moments on Scott, so there was an even amount of time on both Scott and Angela, and a natural pacing and organic suspense took over the scene. With this faster rhythm, the ending with Angela staring down Scott at her feet in near silence had us at the edge of our seats -- and with the small tweak of focusing on Angela's close-up when she pulls the trigger... shocking... powerful... We put the wide shot over the top of the scene to orient the audience, shaped a few edit points, and it was done!

Scene #17: Angela runs into Kaylie. Didn't touch it. Perfect.

Now Scene #18: Angela smashes her apartment needed some significant changes. A lot of the footage in this scene rhymed with footage we cut out of the film -- footage mostly on Angela's back, packing, falling apart, drinking, smashing the glass, throwing pots and pans, throwing papers, tearing apart all the pictures on the walls... and it was just too much. The scene felt too long and overstayed its welcome. Beth and I tried a lot of stuff, and a lot of stuff didn't work... but then we found a way to cut from Kaylie to Angela in the kitchen drinking, then smashing up her kitchen, and a powerful new close up of Angela stopping in her tracks and staring at the picture of Tom... we left the rest of the scene as is with a new piece of the final close up at the end... and damn, what a riveting ending...

We re-mixed some sound, shaped some cuts, and that was it!

Oh yeah, and the new and improved run time is 16min33sec -- we cut out 2 minutes and 45 seconds since the last cut! BAM!

Stay tuned for a long week of screenings and notes! Posting soon!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

4th Cut Almost Done!

What a session! 14 out of 19 scenes finished!

Yesterday, my editor Beth and I picked up where we left off at the Scene #5: Angela meets Scott. We took one more pass over it, Beth doing all the hard work cleaning up edits and shaping cuts. Trying to incorporate a note to linger on Angela longer, we added a few more frames of Angela listening to Scott's pick-up monologue... and she gives this evocative, emotional glance to him...

Every. Single. Frame. Counts.

On to Scene#6: Angela stalks Scott at home... major restructuring here. We re-shaped the scene to focus it from Angela's point of view. We dropped the classic intercutting suspense structure and just went from Angela leaving her car, marching up to Scott's window, seeing him inside, getting her gun out -- the machine-like speed with which she prepares to kill him is so much more real and suspenseful. Plus, the sound of a gun cocking at the window really works!

And for Scene#7: Scott sees Angela outside Kaylie's room... we cut it. Instead, we ended the scene on Angela's face, staring longingly at the heartwarming scene between . Not only an emotionally effective cut, but it brings us deeper into line with experience of Angela's dilemma: she can't do this, but she has to.

Then for Scene #8: Angela prepares to kill Scott. This scene wasn't working. With this new organic structure, we felt emotionally sucked into Angela's experience: following him, liking him, going ahead with anyway, seeing him with his daughter, then unable to do it...

But then we don't have anything that pushes Angela back into trying to kill Scott. We need some reminder of Doug's hold on Angela's life. A story beat that shakes Angela to her core, lets her know that Doug could kill her right now if he wanted to...

It's just not in the footage. So we have to do pick-ups.

That's right. Pick-ups. More on that later.

As for Scene #9: Angela and Scott connect over war experiences... we could barely touch a frame of their conversation. It was near perfect. We tightened a few moments in the beginning that felt overlong, cut out an extraneous line of dialogue, but this scene is working so well... my heart wells up every time I see it.

Scene #10: Angela starts to fall for Scott over drinks. This started to feel like, "Hey Audience! Here's the love montage!" And that's probably because the music fades in strong right at the top of the scene. We tried hearing the start of the conversation, watching Scott gush over Kaylie, how it plays on Angela's face, and then fading out Scott's dialogue and gently bringing in the music... just magical.

Moving on! Scene #11: Scott asks Angela out on a date. Near perfect. Just some shaping and trimming here to boil the scene down to a size that matches the pacing of the other shortened scenes... god, I'd go out with Scott if he asked me like that!

Now Scene #12: Angela prepares for the date has some major structural changes. Instead of talking to Scott on the phone, she's talking to Doug -- telling him that she will be going over to Scott's house tonight and "getting it done."

Then, when Angela finishes her make-up in the bathroom -- HERE is when she flashes back to Tom's death in Iraq. We tried so many different ways about it: what pieces of the flashback to use, what sound design to use as an audio flashback... but when we found the right pieces of the performance of Angela in the present alone in the bathroom, synced up with gunfire and shouting, and bringing us right into the moment Tom dies in Angela's arms... really powerful. Wow.

Scene #13: Doug threatens Angela. Again, near perfect. This just needed some trimming.

Scene #14: Scott invites Angela in for dinner with Doug outside. We cut out all the flashbacks here and put them into Scene #12. This is *so* much more effective as we get a real sense of Angela's terror and conflict, that she's stuck inside here with this loving, caring father who is prosecuting Doug as a district attorney, and she can't leave until she kills him. We feel that here, and throwing in flashbacks is just too much for one scene... Some shaping, trimming, and we we're done!

Stay tuned as I meet up wtih more sound designers during the week and we finish the 4th cut by Friday!

Monday, November 2, 2009

We Have A Composer!

Good news!

After a rigorous search, over 300 submissions, and extensive interviews, we are happy to bring John Jennings Boyd aboard as our Composer! Please feel free to check out his website at:

This week, we'll close in on locking a sound team and the 4th Cut! Posting soon!