Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Ronnie Day Project Production Blog - Episode 3

Here's the production blog for Episode 3 of The Ronnie Day Project.

Episode 3: Lived, Learned, Love and Lost

Let’s talk editing. While Episode 3 contains narrative elements and requires some continuity (the degree to which a film is self-consistent. For example, a scene where an actor is wearing a hat when seen from one camera angle and not from another would lack continuity) the entire second half does not. Much like Episode 1, where the combination of shots is meant to provide an overall sense of what is going on, the fight in Episode 3 gives us the opportunity to do the same. Since we’re not actually hearing the argument, the scene is very much open to interpretation as to how it will finally be put together.

One of the things I enjoy most about editing is when I get to work on scenes like this. I did much of the same in my short The Beautiful Lie. I had shot an enormous amount of flashback footage and it all had to be paired down to choice moments that would say everything I needed it to say in a couple seconds. That’s very true of music videos in general but this isn’t really a “general” music video. We’re telling a very strong, clear story here that contains plot points that we can’t just skip over or cut out. In terms of editing, Episode 2 was about maintaining the forward progression of the story while fitting an enormous amount of story material into three and half minutes. In this case it’s slightly different because the fight is the story point. So, it gives us a little more freedom to play.

Shooting the fight came at the end of a long first day of shooting. It was the second to last scene of the night. Rather than scripting out how the fight way going to go I let the actors run with it. Since we were never hearing their dialogue and I was gonna cut it all up anyway I figured this would be the best approach. We shot three takes at 48fps and the last one at 24fps. By the end of the last take Tiffany pushed herself to tears as Marcello walked out of the room.

Actors are always amazing to me. Too often “crying” is the easiest thing in the world for actors. We had several during our auditions that mentioned they could cry on cue. That might be okay for some people but to me that’s “acting” and I’m not a huge fan of it. However, when an actor finds himself or herself in a very real place and they can’t help but react in whatever way that might be (anger, tears, happiness), to me that’s the magic of acting. The thing is, I never asked Tiffany to cry. It just happened. I hope it’s because she found herself in a very real place and she couldn’t help it because then she’s no longer “acting.” You’re still getting the same result (crying) but the way you get there is entirely different. And I’m very amazed that actors allow themselves to go to places most people try to avoid.

For the fight scene we shot four takes, each three minutes long. The final edited sequence is only about 35 seconds long. That’s 12 minutes that needs to be edited down to 35 seconds. It really comes down to finding actions and facial expressions that not only fit well with the music but also paint the picture.

One of the things that was very appealing to me about shooting and editing this sequence was the ability to jump cut, change camera speeds, and go a little more abstract in it’s presentation than the other videos didn’t really allow. It’s very freeing to feel like you can cut to something that makes the strongest point rather than what should logically follow next. That’s when editing as a filmmaking tool really comes into play. You begin to rewrite as you edit instead of being cut and paste and that way you find new ways to tell your story. And that’s really what you should be doing as you pass through the various stages of production, each one being an adaptation of the previous version. Production is and adaptation of the script, editing is an adaptation of the production and so forth. Looking at it from this perspective it really frees you up to see the film as it is, rather than how you thought it was going to be.

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