I’m very clear to me that my weakness as a director is my technical knowledge – ask me something about frame rates, ratio or format and I’ll turn to Isabelle my producer for a) understanding and b) reassurance that I’m choosing the right one. I know this is limiting some of my creative choices because I have to understand it first before understanding it what it means through the prism of the project.
Simon put me in touch with Dean Harding, whom he was editing Atlantis with. Dean and I met for a coffee and I am happy to say he reassured me of the process and dark art ahead. Within a week, an assembly edit had found its way into my inbox.
Assembly edits are strange beasts. They essentially take verbatim the script film and put it on screen. As a writer/director, I had to deliberately divorce the writer part of myself to keep the director part happy. Why? Honesty – heaven forefend but some of it just didn’t work.
Bottom line - You construct the final story out of the rushes you’ve got, you get the rushes by relying on the script. One thing that became very clear to us after watching that assembly edit was that the “heat” of the story was in the romance. Now the script and indeed the project had, in my writer/director mind, been geared towards female friendship and solidarity but up on the big screen it just didn’t quite work.
A deep breath taken, the cuts began
Over the process of about four weeks, we got the film from close to 11 minutes to just over 9 – which was roughly what I thought it was going to be.
This was after “locking” the film – then sending it to Chris Jones for his opinion and reopening the damn thing after a his fresh eyes found other ways to make it tighter. Arse ache though that was, the film is ultimately better for it.
Chris is great at giving straight between the eyes advice and although I didn’t take it all, the words left ringing in my ears were “Fix it now while it’s a small problem to unlock the film, rather that fixing it 6 months down the line when it’s not getting into festivals”. Ouch!
Where are we now? Well we’ve completed. We’ve locked. We have delivered. The film is now being submitted to film festivals and I am gingerly showing a few relatives and friends why I have been absent for the last year. It seems to be going down well – but the true test comes in getting entry to the festival we are applying to.
What I found in Dean during the editing process was that he was able to reassure me on the technical aspects of things without making me feel like an idiot for not knowing it. Also, he had a natural understanding of what worked and what didn’t, seeing things that I didn’t and correcting them. This in my book is a big plus.
I’m going to be working with Dean on the next short, and from an earlier point in the process too which again I think will help tighten up some of the technical quicksand in my mind.
And here’s a recommendation for all you filmmakers out there, if you are looking for a smart up and coming editor you could do a lot worse than hooking up with Dean Harding.