This weekend I was flipping through the (digital) LATimes and saw this Envelope Roundtable: Directors on Directing. I'm always a huge fan of reading about a director's process but in light of the fact that I'm in the early stages of editing Dig this particular section was incredibly insightful:
LATimes: You're all here because your films have been incredibly successful. But I wonder if you actually learn more in failure. Are the more telling learning experiences from something that doesn't work?
Ben Affleck: I feel like all filming for me, directing, is about failure. Every day I go home, "Oh, my God."
Ethan Coen: Yeah, that's terrible, isn't it?
Darren Aronofsky: It's the worst.
Coen: And you kick yourself all the way home — that stuff you could and should have done.
Aronofsky: I think it's a myth that you [get] exactly what you have in mind. You're in three dimensions with weather, atmosphere, technology that has limitations, time that has limitations. And you don't want to control an actor to that extent because it'll just suck the life out of 'em. It's a constant form of improv and you just sort of roll with it.
Tom Hooper: I think it's an extraordinary thing when you watch your first assembly [of the roughly edited movie], the film always has become something slightly different from what you thought…
Aronofsky: The worst day of my life, every time.
Affleck: Way worst.
LATimes: In what way?
Aronofsky: When you watch an assemblage, you just know you're getting drunk that night. It's just a miserable experience. Because you realize you have so much work [to do on it].
Lisa Cholodenko: And you have no idea if it'll ever be there.
Aronofsky: And you really thought you did better work. You thought you did better stuff. And it has nothing to do with the editor. It just takes time and time to refine, because you're so far away from that final mix where you're really putting on that final sanding, the final shellac.
Coen: It's always funny because we cut our own movies and I feel exactly the same way.
I have felt exactly the same way on pretty much every film (and music video) I've directed and edited. And I was very much feeling this way recently while working on Dig. Since I'm editing the picture myself, I have a front row view of all the shitty work I did as a director. Ha ha. I'm seeing all the problems, all the mistakes, all the things I thought I did and didn't and all the things I wish I did. And of course, as I'm seeing all this, I'm saying to myself, "Man, I wish I was in the position of the others directors, where this doesn't happen." But it does happen, to everyone.
This process, what I call the "very depressing first two weeks of editing" happens to me on every project. The problem, more than anything, is a psychological one. I have in my head the work I did as a director, but I'm viewing the work I actually did from an editor's point of view. That is, I can't fully take either position. I can't, as an editor, say "It is what it is, I'll just have to deal with it," (which is the position I had on Dark Prophecy) because I'm still seeing it as a director and kicking myself for all the things I didn't do or could have done better. I'm still wearing two hats.
Slowly, after some very depressing days, the director's hat goes away and I fully commit as an editor, allowing me to make harder choices, and see the picture for what it is, not what I wish it was.
Every director faces compromises.
What about you? Have you shot something thinking it was amazing at the time and then gotten into editing and begun to see all the mistakes you've made? How do you deal with compromise?