Editing Lori Foxworth and Kelly Nixon’s Scene

These are frames from a crucial scene in Nightbeats that I just finished editing.  It was a four-page scene shot over several hours on an extremely warm August evening, shot in several continuous takes with a handheld JVC GY-HD110U camera.

In the scene the two actors, Lori Foxworth, as a junkie stripper now living out of her car, and Kelly Nixon, as a much younger runaway from the midwest also living by her wits out of her car, cross paths.

It was staged like a scene from a play in that from the time we started rolling on a take we went all the way through to the end of the scene each time — for seven minutes — with no breaks for different angles.  Instead, the camera followed the actors in various degrees of close-ups somewhat documentary-style.

It was a mesmerizing scene to film, as a director and cinematographer, because the actors came so prepared that all my job consisted of was keeping them lit, framed and in focus.  We came away with 75 minutes of footage which I have spent the past ten days editing into a powerful 8 1/2 minutes.

I started out just stitching sequences together of how I thought the scene would work.  But as I was putting the scene together in chronological order from the beginning I found that my nice sequences looked good and worked technically, but did not have the emotional punch that I was looking for.  Just as when I was writing the script and reworking the scenes on the page to make them work, I was going back and reworking the scenes as shots to get that emotional presence that the actors were giving.  I found myself holding longer on shots, staying with close-ups and letting most of the looser medium shots go.  When it was finished, at least as it looks now in the first assembly process, it reminds me of John Cassavetes’ Faces, if I may be so bold as making that comparison.  Both the actors were working from the internal method process.

In the past I’ve approached editing a scene by first cutting out all the weak elements.  With this project and these actors my biggest challenge is to find a place where I can cut away because each actor has been giving such raw, honest – and rare – performances.

I think the scene and these frame extracts convey their intensity.