It Is Not “What It Is”

Got home from work [as a TV news cameraman] a bit late and didn’t get out to the studio to edit until nearly 8.30.  Only expected to put in an hour or so and advance the film another 30 or 45 seconds.

About an hour later was starting to get tired, but the scene was really feeling good.  And I kept going back to other takes of the scene and finding different line deliveries and would experiment putting those into the scene in the place of what I’d started with and it just kept getting better.  This was terrific fuel.

Let’s try the next line.  Need a reverse reaction from Bonnie.  Oh, that’s interesting.  Now back on Lori–

I shot a number of single close-ups on this scene.  Mostly I shoot more over-the-shoulders, but the singles tended to isolate the characters in their own space and world more and I feel there is nothing more dramatically compelling then a good close-up of an actor doing or saying something profound.  It connects you with their eyes.

So I kept going.

On an average editing session I will get about a minute a day cut.

Last night I couldn’t stop and stayed up later than I should have really — till 12.30AM.

But I got FIVE MINUTES cut!!!!

The film now has over ONE HOUR + TWENTY MINUTES of edited scenes on the timeline.

Since late December I’ve seen the film grow from 40 minutes to over 80.

I expect a first full cut to run around 120 and a final to be around 95.

Finally, I feel the film is progressing.

And I’m really starting to fall in love with it.  I am getting so excited to show it to a group and get their reaction.

I CALLED THIS PAGE “IT IS NOT ‘WHAT IT IS’” because so often I hear people refer to their films with the preface or post script, “It is what it is.”

That annoys me to no end.

It comes across as an apology.  Or an excuse.

– That’s the best I could do — It’s not my fault — I’m done with it — It could be better, but… whatever –

I feel that a film, or whatever it is that is your passion has to show that passion and commitment.

A film is the very best you can make it.  And if it takes a long time to make it the best then you take the time.  Treat it like a great bottle of wine.

I’m reminded of when John Cassavetes was making Faces. He wanted lots of different perspectives and had lots of different people editing different bits.  Cassavetes cameraman and co-producer took a look at this assembly and said it was a mess and took over, re-cutting the film from scratch.  It took six months of shooting and two years of editing.  People around Hollywood were joking about “John and his home movie that he’s never going to finish.”  But when the film was finished it was almost immediately recognized as something new.  Something groundbreaking.  Perhaps, even a classic.

Not every film can be a Faces, but everything we do demands that level of Respect.  To be the absolute best that it can be.