I posted that last update – the review of 2018, mainly because, no matter how embarrassing some of that baloney is, it throws some interest new light on what’s happened since or rather what was (and is) going on in the background on the filmmaking side and I thought it would be good for me to do a catch up on my creative goals.

Also, this is not an attack. This is a journal of my creative endeavours and I am just needing to explain what is going on and why it has happened. Please do not hold any ill will here. We’re all human, and all fallible and I for one and far from perfect.

And this is a cursed post. I’ve tried around 20 times to get this damn blog to post this text…

Firstly, I’m happy that my work on my creative goals is still going strong. This year:

  • I’ve completed three more online courses – working on at least one webinar, from two separate courses a day, for months on end. That’s five in total this year.
  • I finished writing MR CLEAN #3 in January.
  • I’ve been working on another experimental video for MEIPR. The first one is here. Yes I need to finish the other one.
  • I’ve edited an old and dumb comedy short that I shot back in 2008 – called ZOMBIE MINTS, which was shot [badly] on an iPhone 4S. I just need to get around to finishing sound editing / design, colour grading and having a score added. But I can finally look at this fun short and not be too disappointed by the events that ruined that fateful day of filming.
  • We’ve rebuilt the blog, after it died before Xmas. And I’ve begun the slog of trying to redesign it and repopulating lots of old content to the Blog.
  • I’ve started editing MR CLEAN #1.
  • I’ve written another short film with Darwin – SVEN-GUNNAR. Which we plan to shoot later in the year.

Fairly productive, when you consider my day job and workload etc, right? – Wait, did you say that you’re editing MR CLEAN #1, the very film that you shot in November? Erm… yes! As bonkers as it sounds, yes I am only now editing that film. But how can that be?

Here’s the lowdown / the original plan:

I’m not sure if we ever set it down formally, but it was kind of implicit that Darwin and I were sharing the workload on producing MR CLEAN #1. And we still are. However, when it came to editing, the informal plan was that Darwin would edit the film.

It made total sense because. I. am. not. a. finisher. Not when it comes to films. I mean it’s even a joke among my friends. [yes I’m talking about you, you f%ckers! lol] I have two short films still formally unreleased. And. I’ve just shot a third – but I shot it knowing that both Darwin and I were sharing the load. And Darwin is a finisher. He has made 4 short films. He’s finished them, despite having to battle with the films not matching up to his intentions. Despite the obstacles, he’s finished them. And I greatly respect that. So when I was burnt out after filming and in no way ready to even look at the footage, and he’s already planning the release and got a whole target timeline in his head for it all, it made perfect sense to let him take the footage and start editing. Awesome. Especially, as I was then tasked with writing MR CLEAN #2 and #3 – which I did. It took me through the end of November and the whole of December to get there and complete both sequels, but I finished writing them.

So what went wrong / changed?

While I was writing MR CLEAN #2 and #3, Darwin was editing up until Xmas. I last saw a very rough assembly edit of MR CLEAN #1 before Xmas, which he insisted on showing me in my studio, sitting watching it side by side. And after viewing it I told him that it was definitely not close to being ready. It featured none of the scenes in the studio. And in many ways it was just a random assembly of some scenes. They looked good, but it wasn’t a film / story. It was a collection of moments that did not tell a narrative. Obviously there are editorial choices to be made and we all work in different ways etc, but I was concerned, because to me a rough assembly edit still tells a narrative, even if there are difficulties or issues to resolve.

I asked Darwin if he was able to handle this, if he was happy to continue with the edit – because we were discussing the difference of the footage we have to the script we intended to shoot. And he said yes, and quite emphatically, that he was up to the task of reworking everything based on the film we shot. I was dubious, partly because I thought it was my problem and I alone should bear it, as I know the narrative and why it shifted – but told myself that this was down to a difference of opinion. We discussed what needed to be included in the film and how to get around one major difficulty of the film – the fact that the film we shot is not exactly the one we had on paper. And as Darwin reminded me, I still had some sequels to write and didn’t have the time to edit.

I explained to Darwin that it was a case of editing the film we scripted. Then editing the studio stuff which was originally just going to be voiceover audio and then joining the two parts together where it felt right to combine them. That was the only possible way to pull this off.

How does that happen? Why didn’t you stick to the script?

The script is the blue print for the film. But it’s not like a jet engine where every part has to be captured thusly. I see that as more of a framework as it communicates what you need to construct your story, but it can be used more as a guide than a rule book; and in the heat of the moment, when people’s creative juices are flowing, you need to be able to allow some improvisation. Especially when you find that certain scenes aren’t working in the real world and some creative problem solving is required.

Early on in the process, it was clear that we could make more of the Radio DJ character, that of Jess. In fact the entire trilogy hinges on her relationship with MR CLEAN. Without her in the film, it’s an ok short film with some good voiceover. But there are no legs to the story. With her, it becomes a much richer enterprise.

There are also moments when Darwin and some of the team came up with ideas for shots that we didn’t script, and yet they could he helpful, as B-roll or creative solutions to help enrich the narrative, so we shot those also.

But there are also moments where, when I review the footage, I see shots that were compromised by team members getting in the frame, or talking / making noise over audio, or shots that I didn’t get because I got interrupted mid shot with problems and was being harried and ushered from one location to the next, to keep to the schedule.

I knew that it was a risk, being the cinematographer as well as the director and screenwriter. And that becomes clear when I see the missed opportunities in the footage we have. But regardless, we do have the building blocks of a narrative to work with. But it is a collection of patches, waiting to be stitched into a colourful quilt.

This is not uncommon. It is often said that editing is the third part of the writing process. The first is the screenwriting phase. The second is the pre-production and production phases, where creative choices are made to address problems that arise. The third phase, the editing phase is often where a new narrative is constructed from the bones of the old. But it is not easy to do so. And it is not a straightforward and linear process. It requires time and experimentation and a sensitivity to the narrative.

Back to the story, I digress

Fresh from completing my parts of the deal, writing the sequels, and enjoying the editing of ZOMBIE MINTS during the Xmas break, I was keen to see how the film had progressed, since our last meeting to view the Rough Assembly Edit. Weirdly I suddenly had a lot more time on my hands and was feeling guilty about the edit and itchy to get going. Should I take it over? I reached out to Darwin.

After Xmas, Darwin was impossible to meet with, as he had a new job. Also his schedule means that he often working when I am not, or training or has family. So I chased him weekly, to find out how things were going or to view the cut so far, to check progress, but I wasn’t getting to see the film.

This basically played on my mind a lot. I’m a worrier, but I also want to be considerate to people’s situations and demands. I wanted my film. But it cannot come at the cost of someone’s health or well being. And some times things take time… but it’s clear when something is not right and time it slipping away, especially when someone isn’t communicating. And more time slips away before you know it. And all the time I was thinking that maybe I should just start doing my own edit. At least that way, although slower, I can control it…. and then my work gets in the way, with increased demands on my time and an ever increasing workload… no quiet spell lasts forever.

CUT TO three months later

…the middle of March. 4 months have passed, almost to the day since we finished the film. And repeated arrangements to meet have been cancelled and still I have no clear idea what is going on or what is happening with the edit. The date that I had earmarked for the Premiere has passed. The shoot for MR CLEAN #2 and #3 has been pushed back until September. Because who needs sequels when we don’t even have a first in the series? And I am seeing repeated posts about DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE being worked on and I’m conscious that we’ve missed the original planned premiere for that film and beginning to heavily doubt that any work is ongoing.

I finally pushed Darwin to show me the edit, as it stands for MR CLEAN #1. I know that there is a desire to continue editing and tweaking etc and I’ve already seen one deadline go by, missed, and no explanation was given by way of apology and know that this is the case. There’s also a desire for Darwin to sit with me and take me through the edit and discuss the cuts and by this time my patience is shot and I don’t care about any of that. All of that is just wasting more time. It’s white noise. It doesn’t help. I just want to see it. Show. Me. The. Film!

I set a deadline. I wanted to see the film by X, or I was starting to edit it myself. Pulling deadlines on people are something I really hate doing. But true to his word, on this occasion Darwin met the deadline. He sent me the rough cut to review. And when I grabbed a moment to watch it, I wasn’t surprised. Sadly I don’t have the previous cut, so I can’t compare it, but it looks pretty much like the same thing I saw around Xmas. I can’t see any significant evidence of progress and there is still no film there, just moments. The biggest indicator for the lack of progress is the complete lack of Studio footage, barring an inexplicable cut towards the end. This does not match what we agreed would be the way forward.

This is not an attack on Darwin. As I stated, he is my friend and we are in this together. But I can see what has happened. I can empathise with the situation that we are now in. And Why it may have happened. But still it’s a huge blow. And trust has been badly trodden on.

So where does that leave the film?

After a good healthy clearing of the air, a lengthy discussion and some trial and error re passing the files across to me to work with, here’s where we are:

  • Darwin doesn’t have the time to work on editing the film. He finally sees that this is the case, that he took on more than he could handle. And he’s apologised profusely.
  • We’ve tried using the XML file from his edit, and sadly there is a weird issue with the files he has edited on, that they are not recognised by my computer. I believe that this is due to how proxies are used, but without sitting at Darwin’s machine, I can’t begin to fix it.
  • Ultimately the XML file issue meant that every thing Darwin has edited needs to be scrapped. It is easier to start from the beginning. But now this means that we’ve got a long path to completing the edit.
  • I’ve since edited a rough assembly of the studio footage. The rest of the film is as yet untouched.

So I’m really sorry, for the entire cast and crew and all of those people who helped us make the film. But it will take me a while to get it done. But it will be done. And I want to focus on this.

You will all get your premiere. But I don’t know when. As. Soon. As.

You can be assured that despite his own lack of progress, Darwin is chasing me for progress on the edit, to try and help keep me going. And I’m doing my best to tolerate that, despite the cheek of it 🙂 . I see it as necessary to help me stay the course. I just hope that my job allows me to keep at it.

So far, I have chosen all the best bits from the studio footage. I took 23 mins of clips down to 17 mins, and I’ve already roughly thrown together a good 3 minute sequence from it, as a test to see if I have what I need. I do, although that all needs much more work. I will continue to edit that piece first, and then build the rest of the film it. And I already have a creative solution for how to try and play with time to reduce what otherwise may be an 8 minute film, to fit the shorter more desired short film duration I have in mind – if required. My brain is very much in this.

I hope that makes sense.

Again, Darwin and I are still friends, and still working together. But It is a huge shame that we have lost valuable time and momentum and we need to work on rebuilding communication and trust. But filmmaking is about collaboration and this is not my first rodeo. This is not the first film project that has fallen afoul of changing winds. And I will be stronger for it. The journey is worthwhile if I get a finished film out of it.

Thanks for reading this far… I hope the 20 failed posting attempts were worth it 😀