If you want to view a throwback to the DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE Premiere from earliest this year in May, play the video below and you might just catch a glance of me suddenly being interviewed… as well as Darwin, and see some of the cast too:
We’re all flawed… Very much me. Very much whatever I produce. But isn’t that what makes us unique?
I think if anyone ever consciously creates anything it usually doesn’t match what the original idea was, once executed. Even a child. I doubt anyone truly conceived the thing that has become me. It’s all one happy accident – a combination of numerous random factors and lots of added road miles and chemicals.
It’s very rare that the film you set out to make is the one you release. It’s no surprise that the editing process is often described as the third stage of the writing process – you write the film, you rewrite it in pre production and during the actual shoot (problem solving and adapting to reality) and then you rework and refine it in the edit, based on what you actually shot. Often compromise is heaped upon compromise and small changes reset the whole, as a result of the effect of collaboration with others.
This film is definitely not what I set out to make at the start. In fact it is bigger and more ambitious. Plotwise, it was a fun way to make a simple short, which could give Darwin and I something to do. Technologically, it would be a useful test of the Gh5 camera I purchased. Scopewise, it was simple – shoot it at home, mostly in a controlled environment and with a limited crew. We didn’t know anyone. We wanted to establish ourselves in Sweden as filmmakers and build a small network of likeminded collaborators. As with many endeavours, our desires overtake our ability in some ways and soon the plot became more ambitious, making the radio DJ and Studio a much more significant part of the film. Then I thought “why not throw in some FX in to the mix?”. This all impacted the Scope, the duration and the budget and the time to get it all done.
The shoot was chaotic at times, but mostly went well for our first shoot working together, despite cinematographers not showing up and not having enough people. With enthusiasm we shot stuff we hadn’t planned on getting. Brief moments became much longer scenes. And we also didn’t get stuff we planned to shoot – partly due to losing control at a few brief but significant moments. All of this added to the complexity of the edit task and once it grew beyond the script it became much tougher to reshape. But it’s all in the past now…
For my part, I inherited the edit, 4 months after having shot the film and having to start it from scratch, due to cross-compatibility issues with files across Premiere and FCP X. Mainly because I refuse to keep paying monthly fees for a buggy sluggish editing programme. Darwin had realised that our estimated 3 week edit timeline was unrealistic and then he’d begun to doubt and move on to other things and it was clear he was not moving forward with it. But I then had to pay the price of a blank slate and try and make up for lost time, when I took it all over. And in that time, the 6.5 months that followed, I had to first identify every shot I liked, then get that timeline down from 33 minutes of footage that told the story I wanted to tell, to the 6.45 mins of finished film that I have now. Constantly trimming and rearranging clip orders and trimming some more. – While also having a day job, writing a new script and shooting that film this summer…
Throughout, I’ve doubted myself constantly. Am I making the right choices? why didn’t I shoot X? How can I weave a narrative from this? Have I weaved a worthy narrative from this? Am I going insane? I must be insane to try and do this for an October 31st premiere? etc. And will anyone even care?
I’d like to think that there are less flaws with each successive project that I work on. That’s definitely what I aspire to – to improve upon everything I do. I think in many respects, this is my best film yet. But despite this, I am well aware of every flaw. How could I not be, after seeing the same shot hundreds of times and each one in a gamut of variations? And all while knowing what my original vision was for each tiny moment.
Essentially, I guess you could say that I am now in the Fine Cut stage. Which means that we have locked picture. We are now working on sound mixing and scoring and colour grading the film for its premiere screening. Is this merely like rolling a turd in sparkle and trying to make it something better than it is? I hope not. I hope the film is well received when the cast and crew see it. I hope that it doesn’t get a drudging by the critics and viewers and I hope that festivals treat it kindly. I hope for all of these things. But even if it gets a kicking from all quarters, I know that I am proud that I have seen it through this far and also will hopefully soon do so to the very end. And that is what I set out to do. I needed to finish this film. I have much more to make. And getting this film done is key to boosting my confidence to tackle more ambitious projects. It’s not perfect, but what films are? I will love it, despite its flaws. I will love it because of its flaws…
So far only a select few have seen the film in its current state. Darwin has suggested edits that have helped (especially one that revealed a continuity error) and others that sought to make the film more linear, until it then highlighted other shots we never got, that would have made that plan work. But it did highlight the fact that two shots I’d considered getting since the original shoot, were still needed to provide a more pleasing ending. As soon as Darwin came back from the US, we got the crew together again to do a fun pickup shoot and snag those shots in true guerrilla style (pics below).
The Composer (Flora) and Sound Mixer (Luca) obviously need that locked cut / edit in order to help them achieve their roles. The VFX Designer (Albin) needs them to work his magic etc. The only question for me is will I have to colour grade again or can I get some much needed professional eyes on this? Oh and the bonus question is always – will we get it done in time? The timeline is ridiculously tight. I am well aware of that. And it’s all my fault. If I had been quicker, the pressure would definitely be on me and not on others. I apologise profusely. But sh*t happens. But let’s hope that something marvellous happens under that pressure and things come together. And let’s hope that no one is broken because of the pressure of this deadline.
And regarding speed. How can you rush your way through an edit, where you essentially don’t know what the final point needs to look like – because the story you shot is more complex than the one you wrote? You can’t. Not really. And not when you have a job that has overly ambitious deadlines you also need to hit. Because. Wages… and then factor in a laptop needing a completely new keyboard and having to go away for two weeks, and software updates breaking the software – which took time to fix – and crashes, not just for me but also while Albin is rendering VFX. oh and having to edit a trailer you never knew you were expected to produce – because who puts trailers together for short films? – apparently it is a thing now. Lesson learned. All of this slows things down.
But there is always value in this process. You learn. All through the doing and failing, you learn and you improve. The lessons learned on this film helped make SVEN GUNNAR a much smoother shoot and edit I am sure. And, the way I feel about this short, is that the effort I have put in is akin to that of what working on a feature must be like. So why not tackle something bigger and more ambitious in the future? it certainly hasn’t put me off – although in the darker periods I’m sure I felt very differently about the struggle I was going through. …
In fact yes, there have been some very dark times. There has been sickness and stress, tears and self-recrimination and illness. There has also been laughter too, sometimes giddy and hysterical or drunken. And the metre has swung from abject loneliness to feeling like I belong to a tight-knit group of co-located professionals and also wondering why no one gives a shit about this epic one-man struggle of creation? Who will see anything other than a flawed, odd, film just shy of the 7-minute mark?
In the scheme of things, does any of this matter? No. Do I matter? No. You are always the only one that cares about your own movie. No one else will ever love it as much as you. And in this time of short attention spans and scrolling timelines, who can get anyone to really care anymore? So why do it? God knows. I only know that despite all the pain, it is a damn sight more interesting than the rest of my life and at the end of it I’ll have something to show to mark the time. And thanks for all the fish…
If you want to learn more about the film editing process, to understand why I’ve taken so damn long, READ MORE.
And as always, if you read all of this, thank you. But why? What makes you tick? What flaws do you obsess about?
And let me know if you want to watch this film when it’s finally done? And tune in after the 31st to find out if we made our premiere and if so, in what form?