Monday, July 29, 2013

Layover: The Editing Process - Part 1

An interesting fact for anyone who wants to upload it to the Layover page on, this is the first film I've directed where I wasn't also the editor. It's been a long time coming. I've often said that the reason I've never worked with an editor before is that I haven't found one as good as me who also works for my price: free. That is, until now. The time has come (thankfully) to promote from within and Will Torbett, a longtime assistant editor of mine, got the job. 

As happy as I'm sure he was, little did he know the world of pain he would be soon entering. That said, he sucked it up like a man, doubled down on his French language and set to work. And last Monday he delivered the first assembly of Layover in to my waiting hands.

As I sat down to watch I was reminded of the text from an LA Times Roundtable I read a few years back. Several nominated directors were sharing their experiences and they came to the topic of an assembly cut:

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 always try to remind myself of this as I'm working on projects, that it's really no different an experience for me than it is for the best directors working in the business. It's a tough thing to watch because you're not watching the version in the movie that you've had in your head this whole time...or even the version you think you shot. You're looking at A version and that's it.

Now, I was really expecting the worse (not because of anything having to do with Will, this feeling isn't because of the editor) but at the end of the day, I saw a lot of potential in it. It was really nice to have been able to step away from that assembly process where I probably would have been maddeningly pulling my hair out. Especially because the way we shot this just did not allow for a lot of careful consideration of each shot. We really just locked and loaded and got what we got.

The other thing I've kept in mind is that I've noticed, as I myself have gone through assembly and editing my own films, is that they are a puzzle. Despite all the coverage  for some reason, there's only 1-3 ways my films can be cut together. They're really meant to be seen as a puzzle in the editing stage and it's about finding the right cut, the right take, the right piece of music to make it all come together. So, it's just about getting to that point.

Besides all the mistakes I made as a director, all the cuts that aren't quite there, the scenes that appear to be a disaster, what I saw in there was a pretty good overall story, a journey, a character arc (I was all in French without subtitles, so I could be making this up). I saw something really interesting and I saw a lot of stuff to work with. Now it's time to do just that.

I'm thankful to have found a partner at this stage of the game.

We've managed to generate a lot of interest in our little film, from managers, agents, producers, actors, sales agents and more in the last couple weeks, based on nothing more than a four minute showreel I cut together (which I will not debut publicly since it's pretty much the plot of the film in four minutes). Now we just want to make sure we live up to those expectations. I think we can get there.

In the next couple weeks, you're going to see a lot more news about Layover and a few other projects coming your way -- including the official trailer for Layover sometime in the next couple weeks. So stay tuned and keep checking back.

In the meantime, here are a few of the first official images from Layover. Let me know what you think of the stills!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Welcome to Sanditon - Episode 27

A couple weeks ago I was very fortunate to direct 8 episodes of 'Welcome to Sanditon' the new series from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries creators Bernie Su and Hank Green. Executive Produced and written by Jay Bushman and Margaret Dunlap, the series follows Gigi Darcy to the fictional town of Sanditon where she's beta testing a new communication app from Pemberley Digital called "Domino."

In order to learn the ropes of this format, I was the Director of Photography on the first six episodes of the series, which were directed by Bernie, and then took over as the director for the next 10. You can read Bernie's thoughts on passing the torch on his Tumblr here.

I've had an interest in this format for a while now and have been very impressed with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. 40 million views for a year long series ain't bad. 

Sanditon was designed to serve as a mini-series before they launch the next book (which I hope to be a part of) and minimize downtime between series. It's certainly more experimental than Lizzie was or the next book and it's been educational and fun to be a part of the production process. William Wolffe, director of photography on my feature Layover, came on board as the DP for my episodes and they look great.

I'll keep posting the episodes as they are released every Monday on the Pemberley Digital YouTube Channel. Meanwhile, below you can see previous episodes, including the ones I photographed, listed in episode order.