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Editor’s Journal – March 17, 2008

cobb-menuSorry the journal has been quiet for awhile. I was waiting for the day that I could start off the entry by saying, “yay! I finally conquered the beast of a scene that is scene 53.” I have been working on it for several days now and at the end of each day of going in a new direction with the scene, I would think to myself, ok great, now that that version is out of the way, tomorrow I can come in and knock it out of the park. But the next day I would come in find myself in a new direction that still wasn’t working.

Scene 53 is the scene where Gabe is at Andrew’s house playing cards and finally getting that insight into Gabe that the audience needs. There are five takes of the scene. 3 of the takes are 15 minutes long, 1 of the takes is 30 minutes long, and the remaining take didn’t get very far due to airplane noise. There is two camera coverage of the scene, but not in the traditional sense where camera A is on actor X only and camera B is on actor Y only. In this scene both cameras are floating between the two actors in the rhythm that each of the individual camera operators were feeling.

So my first day with this scene I tried to watch and make my selects with my regular method for a two camera scene. Watch the A camera, then the B camera, then synch them together and make the two cameras work together individually for each take. But given the amount of footage and the improv nature of the scene my mind went to mush trying to soak in and select all of the footage. And also given Zak’s schedule and the amount of footage, I wasn’t able to sit down with Zak and use our new method of watching down all of the footage together before I started to cut.

So my first version of the scene I tried to incorporate from all of the takes, using the best performance, or improvised line from each scene that best got the idea across. But after watching that version with Zak you could feel the disjointedness between the takes ( I guess being overwhelmed by the amount of improvised footage I forgot the lesson I had already learned, find the baseline take and only add into that main take from other takes when it feels right). So Zak told me that he felt most confident with the 30 min take, good old take 4, and that I should only work with take 4, and that I might find I don’t need to go to any other takes. So I started to work with take 4 exclusively. I got it cut down to 15 mins, then 12 mins, by simply cutting out the lines I knew I would not use, or cutting out the duplication or triplication of an idea and keeping the strongest and most natural delivery and flow of that idea.

At this point I was basically cutting for dialogue only, trying to get the scene to work with what was said only, because in the shortening of the scene when cutting from line A to line D the picture of line A had a CU of Gabe and a wider shot of Gabe, cutting to line D of a CU of Gabe and a wider shot of Gabe. I was comfortable working in this method thinking that I could go and mine the necessary reaction shot of Andrew from another take, to get the picture to work later. Also knowing that footage of Amber re-decorating Gabe’s apartment would be intercut with the scene.

So it was at about the 11 min cut of the scene where i went off in a direction that i shouldn’t of gone to that soon. I started to introduce the Amber footage to get what I thought would be the proper pacing of the scenes together. And at this point I was using the Amber footage to cut to so that when I came back to Gabe and Andrew they could be jumped ahead to a different point of their conversation. After watching this version with Zak, he felt that after a point of cutting back and forth between the two, the viewer starts to anticipate the intercutting, and that it wasn’t quite working. So I did another version where I left more dialogue of Gabe and Andrew under the picture of Amber decorating. But Zak wasn’t feeling that either. He wanted to connect all of Gabe and Andrew’s dialogue as one coherent and complete conversation with no gaps.

Eventually I got to a 6 min fully connected conversation between Gabe and Andrew and I had stripped away all of the Amber footage. After watching this with Zak today and seeing that it still didn’t feel right I felt almost entirely defeated. We were going to go back to the 30 min take and basically start from scratch.

For a brief moment, I felt that the last 10 days had been an entire waste of time. The only thing that kept me from breaking down completely was the chapter that I had recently re-read from “In the Blink of an Eye.” Walter Murch described the editor’s role as that of the listener in a dreamer-listener scenario. The gist is this (although Murch says it way better, read his book), sometimes when you wake up from a dream, you can’t remember all of the details. But there were experiments done where it was found that by the dreamer working with a listener, the listener could challenge the memory of the dreamer, there by coaxing out the full details of the dream. So basically all of my previous cuts of Scene 53 have been bait, different ways to challenge and coax out the version of the dream that Zak and the story need.

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