As I awoke Sunday morning, and sat in front of my computer, a note that I had written the night before stared me in the eye. “Good morning. Now, EDIT THE MOVIE!” After a week of 15+ hour days shooting the footage for the movie, it had finally come to this stage, one that would make any person a hermit for as long as it took to complete the movie. Did you know that the editing process is what makes the filmmaking process unique among other mediums of art? It’s in the editing process that the actual movie comes alive, by meticulously piecing each sequence together to create a story that the eyes can read. Because of how much effort it takes to put pieces of video takes together, the work was split among the two editors, Jakub and I.
The editing process itself was no different than any other endeavor I had taken in the past when I made my other movies and videos. However, this movie being only my second narrative piece, every camera angle shot and every word spoken was crucial, in order to understand the entirety of the story. I think this is one of the harder aspects of filmmaking: to tell a story by only using dialogue and visuals. And it is up to the editor with the help of the director to piece these two things together to not only create a film with depth, but an entertaining one that keeps the audience from drooling all over their popcorn within the first ten minutes of the movie.
Because I had only worked with mostly cinema vérité styles, it was challenging to have the audience in mind when creating each scene. Would they understand why I used this shot and not the other one? Do they get the entire message that this scene needs to convey? Is this sequence expendable? Questions like these circled around me throughout this process. If anything, I wanted to create a movie that wasn’t excessive, as SANKOFA or The Oxen’s Eye was. Though I praise many of the technical uses of flashbacks and the storyline itself, there were sequences that could have been cut and the movie would’ve still made sense.
It was time to throw off the director’s hat and get into character as a recluse. For the entire day, a first where I was able to work from the comfort of my room by myself, I sat in front of the computer pondering what would make most sense to the audience, while at the same time processing all of the audio so that the volume levels are relatively the same throughout each shot, and correcting and white balancing the color in each of the footage. Each scene took at least a couple of hours to piece together, because of all the varied camera angles we had. Synchronizing all of the dialogue with the video footage took even longer. The sun literally passed me by. During one of my many short breaks, while watching the sun’s light creep behind the horizon in the silence of my room, I realized what I also needed to consider. A very crucial part of any movie: a soundtrack.
It’s not as if I had forgotten about it. I just hadn’t gotten to that stage of the process. I usually saved the soundtrack for way later in the process because adding music is in itself a long and important process and it cannot be taken lightly. To filmmakers like us, conveying the story in the right manner is most essential; however, for viewers, the soundtrack is 50% of the movie experience. The music sets the mood for whatever scene is taking place and having music allows for the possibility of giving meaning to the absence of music. Imagine what Psycho would’ve been like without its witty use of sound to create the suspenseful atmosphere that it had. With this epiphany, I straight away go to my personal favorite resource for copyright-free music at Newgrounds.com, where I found music for the DEVIL’S GARDEN SCENE and other possibilities to be added to the soundtrack. Of course, these were saved for later after each sequence was put together in a cohesive manner.
And so, at the end of the day (already hours into Day 11), shutting my laptop off, I took off the editor’s façade and retreated to bed with the first draft of four scenes behind my back, feeling ever so exhausted…and bereft of societal contact. There are 350-some people on campus, one even living 5 steps across from me, and I have never felt so alone. The fact that my life was on pause again (as it is with every moviemaking undertaking) became very clear as I slipped under the covers of my bed and stared out the window. Day 2 of not seeing my suitemate had gone by; day 4 of not interacting with anyone outside of the learning cluster had bled into another day; day 6 of throwing another take-out box into my overflowing trash can had left another chore to be put off; day 10 of the moviemaking process had ended. “The end bears rewards. It’s almost over,” I silently whispered to myself. It was the only thing that kept me together, kept me moving forward.