OK…I haven’t posted anything in a while (although I have a LOT to say) because I am busy. And I mean…BUSY. I am working on three projects at once: 1) Discovery Channel show (day job that pays the bills), 2) Short film that I am color correcting and prepping the audio for a mix, and 3) A short film by the same director that I am editing.
On the Discovery show, I am entering editing territory I am not too familiar with. CHARACTER driven show…they want to focus on the doctors and their motivations…how life in the trauma center affects them and how they deal with death. Different from the process shows I am used to cutting. This isn’t TOO unfamiliar…I have done this before. But I have done it with constant help from a producer or writer…someone to either write a script, or sit with me and figure out what goes where and assemble the show. A creative collaboration. Someone who has seen ALL the footage…who was on the shoot, and knows it. Because I haven’t seen it all (shame, but that would have taken 5 weeks of solid watching, and I didn’t have that much time…yes, it is that much footage), so I look at certain things and am given direction on what to look at or look for, and we talk things over and lay out the show.
That is not what I am getting lately. We did have a writer, but he wrote traditional surgery stuff…stuff the network doesn’t want…and he had to leave the show for health reasons. Then I had another producer, but she was overwhelmed. Doing all of the busy work on the show, and assisting on two more, so her attention was divided and unfortunately she could offer little guidance. Typically I should have a Producer and then an Associate Producer…the producer collaborating with the story and the AP doing all the busy work. I didn’t get that until the week before I left for Amsterdam. I got full time attention in the bay and we cranked out a good show.
But, not the show the network wanted. MORE on the docs, LESS on the mechanics of dealing with patients. More here, less here. And when I returned my producer was gone…as was half the staff. Shooting was over…it was all post now. And my producer had another project…so…I then had my EP who helped during the last week before I left. Now I return and his attention was divided on three shows (as it should be as EP), getting one ready for online, another fine cut, another rough cut. So I was left to my own devices to figure out how to reorganize the show, and how to get more character into it. I had become a producer/writer/editor.
I edited Act 1 four different ways in 4 days. None of which worked out. Then the weekend…and then tackling it again on Monday. 6th day I get something that looks good…but then I see the rough cut of the first act of the second hour of the show and see where it is going…and it is BRILLIANT. The other editor knocked it out of the park. BANG ON what they wanted. Her and HER PRODUCER did a great job. For the two weeks I was gone the other editor was assigned a producer/writer who helped figure out the voice and theme of the show…and they just nailed it. But now he is done and off to another project. So the other editor and the EP flush out the remaining Acts. All good….all GREAT.
So…OK then…my cut is very lackluster in comparison. What to do to…make it better? What to do? I stare at the scene cards…re-arrange them. Then tackle the cut on the system…play it. Shake my head and re-arrange the cards again. Stare at them. Pound my head on the wall. I simply do not have what I need to have to process this. So I start watching interviews…FULL interviews. Pulling selects that I thought were good statements. Exec Producer popped head in to ask progress. SLOW…but getting there. He tosses out ideas that I decide to tackle to clear my head. 2 work, 4 don’t. But, the two are good. So I look at the cards again…think think think…how do I…
INSPIRATION! I break up Act 1 so I build tension…start to know a character, lead that into a trauma…a tense one…then I end the act halfway thru. Open the next act with more on the doctor…more reason why he does what he does…finish on great statement that leads BACK into trauma bay. Wrap it up…good ending statements. But then…how do I intro the NEXT doctor? I gotta make it smooth. The show has to flow…can’t be small individual story “pods” that I then slam together with a fancy quick flashy transition (what I am used to doing on process shows). I have to flow from one character to the next…a stream…not a bunch of puddles. Man, what is happening to my mind…puddles?
OH…it must be the lack of sleep. Because while I am doing all of this, I still have those TWO OTHER PROJECTS I AM WORKING ON TOO! Sleep? Well…yeah…kinda.
Side Project one is semi on hold. I had to work on it for a day…color correcting a few shots from different scenes so I can talk to the director about what I wanted to do and convery, and get her input as to what she thought and what changes she’d like to do. Ok, that wasn’t bad.
But that is something I need to backburner for now. She (the director) just finished shooting a majority of her SECOND film, and she wanted a rough cut so they could see if they needed reshoots, and see how to film a few key scenes. So I tackle this….and initially I am given a WEEK to do this. OK…this is a short film…targetted at 30 min. When I worked on a 30 min kids show, we had a week to do the rough cut…but I was able to work 9 hours a day. Now? I only have 3-4. Why?
Well, I work all day on the paying gig…then home for dinner, play with the kids…get them to bed. Dishes to be done. Quick chat with the wife about affairs of the day…start work at 9 PM or 9:39 PM…work untl 1 AM or so. Go to bed. WAKE UP AT 6 AM TO GET THE KIDS READY FOR SCHOOL! That’s right…5 hours sleep. Maybe four if I didn’t get to sleep right away. This happens for a week. I am DEAD ON MY FEET…er…in my edit chair. NO WONDER I can’t think straight in the edit bay…can’t get Act 1 to work. Mentally wiped…physically sleepy.
Call from Short Film Producer…can we see it? Nope…I only edited 3 scenes out of 9. I may need another week, and even then I won’t be done. Because there is SO MUCH FOOTAGE. Shot DVCPRO HD on the HVX-200. I finally figured out tonight how much footage I am wading thru…NINE HOURS. Why nine hours? Well, this film utilized TWO HVX-200 cameras…Multicamera shoot. So EVERY scene was shot with two angles. Footage doubled. And another reason I have so much footage? I am looking at EVERY TAKE. Not only was this ultra low budget…so they didn’t have all the key crew…but when the did have the key crew (Script Supervisor in this case), they didn’t do key things…like say “that take was no good…try again. Ok, that was good, print that. OH…Genuis! Print that!” On a narrative TV series shot on film, they wouldn’t print every take. Some takes were OBVIOUSLY bad. So they didn’t even have the editor look at them. HERE? I see EVERYTHING. And there is no indication in the script notes as to what was good, what wasn’t. Key time saving technique. Also, the script supervisor pages weren’t formatted properly…lines indicating what character was on camera for what take. So I have to search and search to find it.
I get calls all week on when can they see the cut? I tell them (producer, actor, director) that I will be lucky to be halfway thru. My day job comes first…family still needs to see me. And who doesn’t need a LITTLE sleep. OK, they’ll watch what I have on the weekend. During our many conversations I realize something…no one on the crew has even SEEN the footage! Not one second. NO WONDER they are clammoring to see a cut. They haven’t seen ANYTHING. OK. We’ll watch what I have, then I’ll give the director the drive they gave me with all the footage back to her. I copied over everything to my main RAID drives. SO she can look at what she has. But the producer, saying “in all your wonderful free time (ta ha ha) can I burn DVDs of the dailies for her? Ooookay. Good thing I have a capture card and DVD recorder so I don’t have to go through AUTHORING everything. But…time time time…
This is when I figure out that I have 9 hours and 20 mins. Stringing out the dailies for output. LAND SAKES ALIVE! How long will this take me? I can’t keep this schedule up…
And all the while I am working on two different edit systems. Avid for the day job, FCP for the side projects. So I have to mentally shift gears and get my head in gear to work with each system. Another mental juggling act.
GAH! It is 2:45 AM…why am I NOT in bed? stupid stupid stupid…