Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Cutting Room

Today I visited Nils and Jeff Kushner (the editor) in the cutting room of I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell. It was quite the experience. 

Walking in the room, immediately on the left is a gigantic HDTV with full speaker sound screen where you can in effect watch any take, watch any assembly or if you wish, watch the whole damn movie. It's an impressive way to take in the film, especially when looking for specific beats or tones in a scene. It's also a far cry from the way I'm used to editing movies, behind the scenes stuff, whatever. Most editors stare at two monitors with headphones crouched in a dark corner. 

Jeff has three quality monitors, not including the HDTV. However, the sheer amount of footage that Jeff has to sift through is incredible. I saw three of four different sequences (completely surreal to see sets I was living and breathing in Louisiana on screen). It makes the work that Suki and the lighting department did all the more incredible. 

The conversations between Nils and Jeff were particularly instructive to myself as a filmmaker. One little conversation, one 3 second edit completely changes the meaning of a scene. It's not ever as simple as a click here or a click there. Listening to them was a lesson that isn't ever taught in film school. Watching scenes completely change after Jeff's whirring fingers go to work was inspiring. It's no joke that editing is a 10-7 job. One scene can take weeks on end to get "right." And in this film, there is absolutely no room for error given the territory Tucker and Nils want to explore. 

But why exactly was I there? A couple reasons, one of which I'll keep to myself, but the other I'm happy to share. There is a particular sequence in the film that actually required me to sit and recut some of the film. That's right, the lowly assistant was sitting at an AVID station sifting through footage. Now, before someone freaks out and emails Tucker a million "YOUR MOVIE IS TERRIBLE THE ASSISTANT IS EDITING LOL!" allow me to issue a quick note. What I was editing was not essential to the well being of the film. It's important, it will be on-screen, but if I did my job right, you won't notice it a bit. 

So there's that and I couldn't be more GRATEFUL for the invitation to contribute my editing skills and a few thoughts about the scenes I took in. Jeff and Nils work in a way that is very organic and very open- if you have something to contribute (and you aren't a functioning imbecile, they are open to listen). 

To wrap up: I liked a lot of what I saw. I think one key scene needs some work, but it's getting there. Interestingly enough, two of the funniest jokes I reacted to were not in the script. One was a hilarious goof, the other was a "miracle of editing" joke. 

I'll see the whole film soon. I can't wait. 


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