Monday, 21 July 2014

Bringing it all together: Editing


On its own it worked fine but as soon as you saw it in the context of the bigger film – it unbalanced the whole thing. The problem was it extended the style of montage too far into the film, so that the opening style of non-linear, montage conflicted with the linear style that was at the end of film.

This post comes from a highly regarded dissertation length reflection piece I wrote for the Planning and Making a Film module I undertook in the penultimate year of my BA (Hons). The module's practice was undertaken between October 2011 to June 2012 and it provided me with a hugely enriching experience. For a more detailed overview of the module and the projects I undertook as a part of it, see Planning and Making a Film: The student filmmaking experience.


The first edit that me and Tish assembled was a Workprint that followed the shooting script exactly. The resulting pace of the Workprint is as dead as a stone, or at least for the first 9 minutes.


This assembly workprint includes all of the deleted scenes

When we started editing past the 9 minute mark we noticed how much more interesting the editing process and the film itself was becoming. We reasoned this was happening because it was at this point in the script that the real story started. The last 6 minutes of the Workprint chronicle Amelia coming into direct conflict with her agoraphobia and, therefore, the last 6 minutes contained the main conflict of the story. Everything before that was just setup. 

When we moved onto Rough Cut 1 we agreed that it was in the first 9 minutes that we needed to do most of the deleting. Our aim was to build up to the final 6 minutes as quickly as possible. I argued that because Amelia's agoraphobia had its greatest visual manifestation as that of the front door.


Therefore, we should use this visual - the scene where the delivery note comes through - to start the film and establish the front door’s symbolism as the physical manifestation of Amelia’s agoraphobia and opposition right from the get-go. 


The point of the workprint was just to bring all of the material together as the script indicated, it was only when moved onto to Rough Cut 1 that the real magic of the editing started - hence why this is Rough Cut 1.

Furthermore, following on from a passage I had read in the editing section of The Filmmaker's Handbook: "Hitchcock insisted that what is said on the sound track should contrast with what is seen. Cutaways may be chosen to provide and interesting counterpoint to the spoken dialogue.” Accordingly, I suggested we should place the second phone conversation over the visual images of the delivery note being posted through and of Amelia being wary of the door.


It would demonstrate how she would like to feel: “Oh, yeah, no, everything’s fine,” but visually show you the contrasting truth of her situation of not being “fine.” By doing this, within the first minute, we have set up her inner conflict; you do not know exactly what it is but you do know it’s there! I think this is definitely a better way to begin the film, in comparison to the Workprint, as this opening gets things off to a running start and propels the audience into the story. 

Again, following the Handbook in that: "you can begin the sequence after most of the setup has already taken place, doing away with unneeded exposition”; after constructing the new opening we deleted two phone conversations, one with Richard and one with the Mother, and re-ordered the scenes accordingly. We now placed the scene where she searches through the kitchen after the first attempt she has at leaving the house.



By the time we got to Rough Cut 4 we had already had the peer review session in which Adam C. had suggested that we try to extend the montage opening over into the second phone conversation (1.00 – 1.48). We briefly toyed with this idea by taking the dialogue of the phone conversation and placing is over the scene that takes place after it (1:48 – 2:35). Again, as with the opening, it sort of worked in contrasting what Amelia needed - the paracetamol - and not being physically able to get it - retreating back from the front door. 

On its own it worked fine but as soon as you saw it in the context of the bigger film – it unbalanced the whole thing. The problem was it extended the style of montage too far into the film, so that the opening style of non-linear, montage conflicted with the linear style that was at the end of film. As the whole ending sequence (Amelia talking to Richard through the door) was what me and Tish deemed “the heart” of the film, ultimately, we decided to maintain that style of linear storytelling. Therefore, we reverted back to ‘Richard on the phone’ and ‘Amelia trying to leave’ as two separate scenes.


One of the strengths of working with Tish is we would argue and I don’t mean this in a negative way, because I found it incredibly useful. By arguing over a point we would present both the positives and negatives of it. Then, eventually, we would see things clearer from both our points of view and one of us would say: “Actually, you’re right. Let’s do that.” 

This probably accounts for why we spent so much of that two month period in the Gatehouse because we would dwell on individual aspects of the film that much longer. Hopefully, this extra consideration to the choices we have made in the Final Cut reflects the amount time and effort we have invested. 

You can witness the full 2 month evolution of the edit in the following playlist that collects together the formation of the workprint, each of the rough cuts and the eventual resulting final cut...



Next: Plugging the Gaps: Pick-ups

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