I was struck by what I can only describe as editor’s block today. I had already done my “radio edit,” laying out the VO and the interview bytes in script order, and had moved on to adding temp music and b-roll…fleshing out the cut into a rough cut. Finding the perfect music can be a bit of a task in itself, so that took a while. Not only something to fit the mood, but something that I haven’t used before, and something NO ONE ELSE used in another show (5 of us editors working on 5 episodes). And since this “temp” music actually is THE music that comes from our composer and WILL be used in the show…we have to pick carefully, and edit it well.
ANYWAY…I got the temp music laid in and was starting to flesh out the cut when I was…well…stuck. First stuck with…what to OPEN the act with. We had a good soundbyte that introduced the main doctor, but it is at some conference where he got an award and we were going to feature that conference so…what shot do I open with that doesn’t showcase the conference, but allows me to use the introduction, that I can then easily transition to the hospital to and continue my story.
Just as a reminder, I am working on a medical show based on a trauma center in Miami and focusing on 4 main doctors and a few of their colleagues.
SO…what to do? Well, I just started out with the announcer praising the main doctor and the doctor walking down the isle to applause…then cut to a shot of his name on his office door…a couple shots, wide to rack focus closeup. Then we get into the interview and…and…stuck. Stuck stuck stuck. Hmmm…now what? the frist two acts (this is Act 3) are all pretty much action action action as we go into the trauma bays and describe what the doctors do to help the patients that come in. But now we are getting into the doctors themselves…this is time to find out who they are, what drives them…why they do what they do. And I want shots that, well, I don’t have. Introspective shots. They didn’t get much…a few here and there, but the majority is him at a cemetery that I need for later, and him in…well, doing things that don’t really fit for what he is saying. And I listen to what he is saying over and over and…man, it is POWERFUL stuff. This guy has great quotes and says great things…I need to find some good stuff. The OTHER doctors have good stuff, but he insisted on not doing the generic stuff and shooting something specific, and that doesn’t work for what is said…gah! I spend a good 4 hours struggling and get all of about 1 minute edited.
Why is this so hard? Well, I decide the best thing to do is just listen to the cut and sort of meditate thru the cut…let it flow into my brain and try to gather form and let me recall what footage I have that might fit that and….
WAITAMINUTE. What? What was that? I play the cut back and…well…something is out of place. A few things. We have him talking about challenges of being a doctor, then a tease of his struggles…then…then. Well, a series of really GOOD quotes. I mean, GOOD ones…but they don’t fit. They are out of place. Because after them we go into how he is glad to have the opportunity to help people, then back to his family history. GAH…all out of whack…and a piece that doesn’t fit. Square peg in a circular hole. So I rearrange things a bit shuffling dialogue to keep the personal history and past together and then to the ability to help people…and I am left with something that doesn’t fit. GREAT quotes that are very powerful, but make no sense where they are.
So I have no choice. I have to cut them. I don’t TOSS them…I put them in the “trims bin” (old film term…place where you keep things for later) for later use as I know I want to use them. But I might not…you never know. Sure, they are great quotes, but will they make the story better? Will they improve the cut? Not at the moment….so away they go.
This is one of the more difficult things to do as an editor…lose good material. But it is all for the greater good. The final product will be better without it most times. It might be good, but it takes you out of the moment, disrupts your train of thought. And it will be distracting to the message you are trying to convey at that given moment…or any given moment if you can’t find a place for it. No matter how good that thought is, it doesn’t add to the story and make it better, so it has to go.
And this happens all the time on all sorts of productions, even feature films. You might spend a lot of time setting up a scene and a lot of money shooting it…but if it doesn’t work…it has to go. Don’t feel obligated to use the scene because it cost you a lot of time and money to get. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. It has to go. This is one reason to have an editor that is NOT the director…and a good reason an editor should NEVER go to the set. Because a director knows what was involved in getting that shot…how much money and manpower was added, they might feel compelled to keep the scene. But an editor comes in with a fresh eye…not knowing what was involved. So they will look at that simply as a story element, and if it doesn’t work…it gets cut. And the story might actually benefit from this.
One GREAT way to see this is to look at the deleted scenes on a DVD. Watch them and see if you can tell why they were cut from the film. And how cutting them made the film better. One of my favorite ones to point out is the director’s cut of ALIENS. There are big elaborate scenes where you see the colony…the people on the colony going about their lives…kids all over the place playing. And then you see Newt’s parents finding the ship, and finding the Alien eggs…and…well…too much. The movie is MUCH better when you with Ripley when she hears that there is a thriving terraforming (making the planet hospitible) colony on the planet they discovered the alien ship, and that she’d just better forget about it and go about her life. Then the next thing you know they come looking for her…the colony hasn’t been heard from in months…so she and the marines are dispatched into an UNKNOWN situation. That ADDS to the tension…that ADDS to the suspense. Seeing the colony and knowing who they are and what they found…distracts.
OK…enough typing these when it is late. I ramble way too much. Or, MORE of this because people seem to enjoy my ramblings. Well, I like rambling.