Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fifth Anniversary Faux Pas Film Shoot

Fifth Anniversary Faux Pas (thoughts and challenges)

This movie brought some specific editing challenges. First, I am in new editor. I haven't had that much experience doing this kind of thing. And therefore I am certain I am making novice mistakes. One of the issues, I believe, is that I am a musician. I'm used to thinking in terms of sound and how to balance sound and how to arrange music in such a way that it will both be pleasing and inspiring.

However now, as a filmmaker, I have to begin to think visually. Instead of simply listening for the right sound and arrangement of music, I have to think about shots. I have to think about how to tell a story using visual elements rather than telling the story by telling the story, if you see what I mean. Now, instead of thinking which instrument should be featured, or how to phrase the song, I think about points of view, and angles. I think about how to show on screen whatever it is I am trying to convey. It is a completely different way of looking at the world.

The previous three movies in this project were told on a more intimate scale. The first centered on a barber and his client, the second around a psychic and her mother, and the third around a geek and the love of his life. Each one was told in a very small, specific environment. We didn't travel far. The sets were: a barber’s chair, the interior of car and the stacks of books at the library.

This fourth one brought a unique challenge. We needed to convey the sense that our characters had just traveled from somewhere and that a part of the story had just occurred elsewhere (namely a strip club or two). There are tricks to do that when making movies. These tricks utilize suggestions. For example putting the car into park and putting on the handbrake suggested that the car had just been moving and the characters had just come to a stop. The way the story began, with Charlie parking the car haphazardly in the driveway, and Tom completely passed out in the passenger seat told us the tale immediately about what might have gone on the night before. The morning sunlight and the morning sounds all contributed to the same atmosphere. The bright morning the harsh yet beautiful sunlight and the lipstick on Tom's cheek again told us the tale in a much more efficient way than someone describing the scene could have done. Mere words would've taken a lot longer to tell the tale.

The next creative challenge this movie presented was the fact that we have two very specific points of view or maybe even three very specific points of view that we need to convey. The first, of course, was Charlie’s color commentary on his friend’s rather desperate situation. To Charlie, it's all a game. And his color commentary shows us just how much of a game he thinks it is. Tom, on the other hand, is married, living in a house in the suburbs, and is generally a good guy. He has likely found himself in trouble, with his buddy Charlie, many times. And then there's Nancy. Her point of view is of course a very powerful one. Karen Beriss’s challenge as Nancy was to convey everything without uttering one word. She did that beautifully. She showed us Nancy’s anger and disappointment and her livid state of mind when she opened the door and refused her husband entry to the home.

Matthew Pauli, as Charlie, had a different challenge. He had to convey everything his character felt, said, and did and had done, without moving. His face, voice, hands and what little we could see of his body, never moved beyond the driver’s seat of the car. Yet, he conveyed everything about Charlie with a flick of an eye or an impish grin as well as the perfect way he did the play-by-play action of the movie. Like a sports commentator, he described everything as it happened.

This brings to mind yet another editing challenge in this movie. We were lucky enough to get three incredibly talented physical actors and comedians to star in this movie. But because the words were conveying the story as it was happening, the editing process needed to both honor the words and the actors saying the words and the actual physical action that the words were describing. Tom's walk of shame, his complete and utter state of drunken devastation, and his physical fall when he realized the full extent of his wife's ire, wall had to be highlighted while at the same time being announced to us so perfectly by Charlie.

This kind of slice and dice editing is new to me. As a musician, I play songs from beginning through the middle and to the end. Songs and music tend to go forward in a linear fashion even if they are not composed linearly. When you hear them, you hear them from beginning. And when you record them, like for CD, the same thing happens. You generally have a master track, something like a drum track, and you add layers of music on top of that one master track. The trouble with movies is that the one master track, even if it's there, will only take away from being able to see the other visual elements that need to be presented at the same time. You can’t have both the master and other shots on the screen at the same time. It simply doesn’t work that way. You must keep the master, but the shots you choose as you edit the film will almost always be different. Instead, you focus on points of view and different angles. There are different shots and close-ups to take even as you edit piecemeal all of the different shots that you need to put into the film. In movies, the master appears to be much more of a guide of the sequence of the movie, but it is not used in the actual movie as such, unless a shot from the master makes sense in the edit.

The good thing about having really good actors to do the roles is that you have really good actors playing the roles. They did their job and other stuff and they're incredibly good and physical acting. The roles in this movie called for a large amount of concentrated physical acting in a very small amount of time. Remember, we needed to tell a story a full story with the beginning a middle and an end, in just slightly over a minute. So many things had to be conveyed incredibly quickly. Our narrator, the drunken impish, yet you can’t help but kind of like him Charlie, gave us a wonderful peek into his world. He also gave us a peek into the world that Tom is about to start living. And it was not a good world.
Rich Potter, as a wonderful physical comedian, gave us Tom’s struggle both as someone who is now incredibly hung over, and someone who has committed a pretty large mistake. Now he knows it, and he is going to have to live with it. His physical acting here was wonderful. It conveyed both his state of inebriation, and also his incredible disappointment and sorrow in his own behavior. Karen Beriss, who had no words in the whole movie, still had to convey Tom's wife's anger and she did an incredible job with physical acting just little bits of the amount of ire that was going to be coming Tom's way. Nancy is a woman who is likely not used to disappointment. She is however one who is about to take some kind of vengeance. It almost makes me want to make the next 5 min. of this movie.

So, when I talk about the fact that I had to splice in the physical actions of the other characters with the narration given to us so wonderfully by Charlie, I am basically saying that it was a very challenging task to do both sides justice. I have to marry the description of what was happening, with the actual actions that were taking place. Both sides had to be represented equally. And I tried to do that as I edited. Having incredibly wonderful actors doing the roles, made it both easier and harder to do the editing justice. I had an embarrassment of riches as I tried to choose just the right shots and just the right words to edit everything into one cohesive whole.

Luckily, everyone who is participating in this project has been incredibly generous with their time and the resources as well as talent and has made this an incredible pleasure to do. The movies that we are making are special. They tell big stories in tiny amounts of time. A universe might exist in the minute to minute and a half that we make these movies. You will see some of them in the coming weeks and months.

Another challenge was it that we filmed outside. Life is different, when you live near an airport. Every once in a while, as in every five minutes or so, an airplane flies overhead. If you are shooting outside, you just can't use that entire shot. There really is no way to disguise the sound of the plane going overhead. So, a number of the takes that would have been terrific were simply unusable because Southwest Airlines or one of the others was taking off or landing.

This is just one of the special challenges when you're making movies on a nonexistent budget. Luckily, again, the actors were terrific about doing things over and over again until we got just the shop we needed. Another challenge for me personally, was the fact that this time for this movie, we had a guest director. Dayle Hodge, the guest director, did a great job. He had thought everything through and had a solid plan on which shots he wanted. He knew this movie inside and out and was able to get the shots he wanted beautifully.

However, he works differently than I do. And I had to put on a different hat. As an editor, you see the raw footage and you try to piecemeal it together. You try to put it in the movie the way the director and envisions it. However, the producer of the movie also has a major role to play. The producer may not have the creative vision of the movie, however, the producer does have a more practical vision of the movie.

Because I'm wearing a number of hats in this project, I end up making decisions that are sometimes creative and sometimes practical. For this movie I wore several hats. I was the writer, the producer and I was the editor. Because the director was a different person, I had to work within his vision for how things would be filmed and still edit the movie in a way that I as an editor could make sense of. And then, as a producer I have to remember the practical aspects of making the movie have a solid beginning middle and end. And I need to make the movie something that viewers would enjoy over and over again.

There are many jobs involved in making a movie. Many tasks need to be completed. This project has been lucky enough to have dedicated souls were willing to do all sorts of jobs to make things happen. For my part, I am trying to tell the stories that I saw in my head when I wrote this original tales in a way that is visually exciting and fun. This is just the point of these movies. Many more will come. I have a feeling we all learn a lot more about how to do this wonderful, magical thing called moviemaking.

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