Editing Stuck

It’s June somethingth… 2014, and I have been working as a film/video editor, on my own work or others, for about 3 years now. A little less.

When I started editing 8 for Vegas, I had no idea what I was doing, but found it so rewarding to figure out the puzzle of each episode.

As time moved on, I found that editing, and solving the problems that come with pace and humor and beats, has been one of the three most rewarding parts of the production process. Writing and shooting are the other two, but everything else that comes along with the three stages of production fall into line very closely.

I edit The Thing with writer/director Marc Palmieri. Our process is usually thus: He watches the footage, sends me file names to transcode. We get together and drink and put together a rough cut. He sits with the rough for a couple of days, tightens it up, and we do it all over again. Sometimes remotely, sometimes face to face. If there’s a third meeting, it’s mainly for drinking and hanging out. Then I fix audio and color correct and we send episodes out there, and then worry about the next one.

Editing Stuck has been an exercise in learning about just how bad I am about procrastination, and low self esteem. It took a long time to get my shit together to edit the rough cut. I dreaded every moment of it, and not for a single good reason. Not that it has to be a ‘good’ reason, mind you. The thing that’s bothering you at the time always seems like a good reason, and insurmountable.

That’s not an excuse, you know. Truth be told, making a feature is an exercise in what you don’t know. My initial thought was that editing myself would be as easy as editing 5AM was. It’s not even close.

Multiply the amount of time on screen by a factor of about 13… putting aside the clones. I’m not only supposed to be a character that people like, but I’m also supposed to be convincing. Taking myself out of the equation wasn’t even a possibility, because of inexperience.

So I would sit in front of my computer, unemployed, time going by so absurdly quickly, and I would do a minute here, a minute there, hoping to get to a moment in the film that I would look forward to.

Now, keep in mind. I think the script is one of my best. I think we got fantastic performances out of all of our actors. It’s shot well. It sounds good.

But there’s this guy in it, and I can’t look at his face for another second.

Every once in a while I would upload a scene so Julie and Lynn could take a look at it. Just to show them I was making progress.

My initial deadline for finishing the rough cut was May 1st. Roughly two months after we stopped filming.

I blew that deadline like a cheap suit. Or, I don’t know, like, uhhh… two dollar hooker.

I can’t even imagine what a two dollar hooker would look like these days.

But, yeah. I blew that deadline. By a month. I kept telling Julie and Lynn I was working on it, but I was basically wallowing here at home trying to get inspired.

And so one day I’m sitting here and I lose out on a gig and I said “How am I supposed to get people to take me seriously?”

Now, that’s irony, you know, cause Final Cut was open and I was eating another goddamned rice cake with peanut butter, which is pretty much all I can afford for lunch these days, and I’m sick to fucking death of them, and there’s my movie sitting there.

I meet up with Lynn and Julie at the Untitled Zombie Project screening and they give me a deadline of June 15th and I said fuck that. June 1st. I’ll have the rough done then.

And I did, which is pretty miraculous, if I do say so myself, in my past/present state of mind.

I send it off to them and I get encouraging notes and thoughts.

I can’t bear to look at it, though, which is too funny. I mean, I just spent three months with it, and basically watched it, but it’s got sound problems and color problems, and I’m so used to correcting issues as they come, not the way a feature is cut together.

So, I get their notes and, over the past five days I’ve done a second cut. Which is great. I get to upload it tonight and send it to them and we’ll see where we’re at.

From there, it’s more tightening. It’s fixing some audio levels, so that we’re not culling audio during the sound design stage. Picking some music.

I think we’re about two, two and a half months from being picture locked. Maybe a bit sooner, if we’re lucky. But that’s not bad, all things considered.

It’s been an interesting process, I’ll tell you what. I have a lot of support on the back end here, and I’m very grateful for it. I just have to stop beating myself up over nothing. Which is another process.

At some point I have to paint the poster. I have a great idea in mind, have to take some photos, break out the paints and paper and give it a try. I think it’ll be really nice, once it’s done.

Thanks so much for all of your support and patience. The project is definitely getting there, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

All the best,

John

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