Editing is hard

So I shot my latest short film (a drama titled De La Madre) back at the end of September. Since then I've been pecking away at editing and let me tell you.. man is it tough.

It was a multi cam shoot (two Digital Bolex D16 cinema cameras with Zeiss cinema zoom lenses) with audio recorded on a different device. So the first, and most tedious part, was just getting all the footage properly labeled, matched up, and in a directory layout that made sense. Footage and audio arranged by scene, shot, camera and take. Before you assemble the puzzle you need to find and arrange all the pieces.

Now I'm slowly pecking my way through selects and putting together an assembly edit- the first pass where you get the story laid out according to how it was written & shot. And guaranteed that first edit will be utter garbage! Ha, it's ALWAYS garbage at first. Things that make sense in the mind's eye on the page end up needing a lot of work once you get it on camera. I mean, it ought to make sense from a character motivation and logical stand point (if you took your time on the script- really took your time on it), but the pacing, the flow, the artistry of it- that part always needs so much work after the first cut. The left brain part functions, but the right brain part needs so much work.

But I'm still a long way off from that. The good news is that I've got two out of eight scenes already slotted in, so that's a good start. The tough news is that I've got six scenes that need to be done and it's slow going. 

Did I mention that editing is hard?

Fincher vs. Eastwood

If all choices lie on a continuum, then inevitably you have two examples that demarcate the extremes. Hold/Cold. Positive/Negative. Black/White. Experimental/Didactic. Fincher/Eastwood.

huh?

I'm speaking about two different approaches to directing actors. David Fincher is renowned for his ... enthusiasm for multitudinous takes. Clint Eastwood is known for reticence to do the same. Each one has their own way of justifying their choice.

Fincher likes to grind beyond the first thought, past the rehearsals, into the place where the actors aren't even consciously speaking their lines but just living out the moment beyond the point of thinking. 

Eastwood likes to keep the spontaneity of the first take. He believes in the power of the first moment, the fresh reaction of the actors to each other. 

In their own divergent ways each director is seeking the same thing- honesty. The place where life pokes through the artifice of movie making. Watch the results of both directors and I think you'll find they're both successful in getting what they want.

How can both guys be getting the same thing with seemingly mutually exclusive approaches?

I think they're both succeeding because they're both avoiding the same thing- the comfortable place. The place where the scene has been played often enough that the actors are comfortable in it. The place where the actors know their steps, their gestures, and their reactions. They're not negotiating the moment as the moment unfolds. At worst they'll be anticipating the moments, preparing for the next step in the machinery. Fincher wants to grind beyond the comfort, beyond the point of boredom, into the place where actors are not willing to do the same thing for the 50th time and they surprise each other with different choices. Eastwood gets them before they get comfortable, while they're still feeling things out, while they can still be awkward or genuinely surprised by each other. Each in their own way gets what they need- the honest reaction of people.

It's an old axiom that "Acting is reacting". These directors know this and work their systems to achieve it.

Bringing this around to my animation peeps- I think animators limit themselves if they seek to achieve merely the illusion of life. The best acting is not an illusion crafted in the comfortable space of time and certainty. On the contrary, the best acting is life itself, revealed in the unfolding reactions of the moment. 

The end of the Digital Bolex D16

The little Kickstarter hipster cinema camera that could is no more.

Well, it's not like all the D16's in the universe have vanished into thin air (thank goodness!), but they've stopped manufacturing them, and by the end of next week they'll stop selling them. I'll pour out a bottle of artisan fair trade sparkling water in their honor.

Lots of folks have already weighed in on the D16 camera over time, as well as its demise this week. I'm not interested in think-piecing my way through this.  As an owner and enthusiastic user of the D16 I'm just a wee bit sad for the folks who managed to make a go of it with this machine the last 4 years. I've started and shut down a business, so I know the bittersweet relief that comes with accepting the end has arrived. Stringing a business along on life support is an emotional sunk cost fallacy and I applaud their clear eyed understanding of the market.

However I'm not overly worried about using an out of production camera from a company that is easing into oblivion. I used to own and shoot the Sony F35 (a camera that Sony pretty much dead ended years before I owned it). If the time comes to move on to another camera I'll deal with it then. For now I'm far too enamored with the Super 16mm look and feel from the D16. It's a unique look, and when coupled with older cinema lenses is just too textured to leave behind. In a world of super sharp, ultra high res, clean sterile images there's always going to be room for something more textured, it's just gonna be a niche market. It's like 2d vs CG animation, but in cameras.

Using Professional Actors

This past week I met with an honest to goodness CSA casting director to discuss casting for my next short film project, titled DE LA MADRE.

I'm going for reals on this one. SAG-AFTRA New Media Contract, professional SAG actors, a casting director- the whole enchilada. No half enchiladas here, no sir. I enjoyed working with the cast on TRANSPOSE  (check it out on my Films page, yo). And while they were non-union actors they were quite good - especially when you consider that only Reilly had ever done narrative film work before. Sierra and Ian are busy & experienced stage actors, but that was their first real go at a film. But that was a good fit since it was also my first attempt to direct screen actors who weren't either friends or family. I've directed voice actors professionally a bunch of times, but screen acting is a very different ball game. So I figured it's good that all of us were feeling it out at the same time. And I learned a lot. Mostly about the joys of collaboration in the moment and the limitations of my knowledge of how to give actors good direction - a skill I've done a bunch of studying and practice to improve upon.

This next film I'm aiming to use experienced professional screen actors who know & expect pro level directing. Lord willing if all goes well we shoot in September. I'm excited for the challenge.