Thursday, 26 August 2010

Short Film Diary - Week 17...

I know, not quite the end of the week, but I'm away at the weekend. And I need time to recover from trying to edit the musical sequence.

You know I said I thought it was going to be a bit of a nightmare? I didn't actually believe that. I thought it would be tricky, but we'd get through it. And maybe it would even be easier than I thought it would be. Maybe I have previously untapped Bob Fosse powers and it would all fall into place as a perfect example of my unique film-making vision.

It didn't. I don't. It was a nightmare. It is still a nightmare - we haven't finished. Although there is at least a completed sequence, just one that doesn't quite work yet.

So most of the issues we've had with the editing have stemmed from problems we had while filming, documented here and here. To summarise, on the first day we filmed we had great weather and everyone was on top form. But it was also one of the hottest days of the year and we had problems keeping the general public out of our shots. Eventually it got so bad we had to stop. Also the CD player broke and the camera battery ran out. We had just about managed to get a wide shot, a couple of mediums (but only for the first few lines of the song because that's where the music would cut out) and a reverse, but that was it.

The second attempt was four weeks later, which was problem one (although surprisingly a lot more of the movements match up than I expected, because the actors and dancers are awesome). But the real problem was the weather. It was cloudy and erratic so the light was constantly changing. And it was incredibly windy. I didn't realise how much of a problem that would turn out to be at the time.

So Tuesday night we went through all the footage which took a good few hours. We found an almost perfect take of one of the wide shots, but for some inexplicable reason there's no beginning - it starts about 30 seconds into the song. The other takes have their moments. The stuff we shot on the second day looks wildly different, but we decided that perhaps with some colour correction it will work. When we finished on Tuesday I still thought it wouldn't be too hard to edit. After all, the song is only 2 minutes long. How difficult could it be?

Last night I left work at 5pm, we started editing at 5.30pm and finished at 11.30pm. As I said, the sequence is complete - there is stuff happening for the whole two minutes of the song. For a minute and a half it's almost perfect. Then it all goes a bit weird.

See, there's another problem. We never filmed the end of the sequence. We rehearsed it, it would have worked great, but we couldn't film it. The idea was to move from the seafront down to Hove Lagoon where we'd planned a brief scene to end the sequence as the song finishes. Unfortunately I hadn't accounted for wind surfers on Hove Lagoon. Who are there pretty much every weekend from very early in the morning and tend to dump all their stuff exactly where we wanted to film. It was never going to work so I didn't bother trying to film it.

Instead, I had Brother Tim choreograph some extra bits for the end of the sequence so we could link it all up. And we filmed these extra bits, but they a) don't really match the rest of the sequence and b) aren't quite long enough to get us to the end of the song. That's another problem.

In theory we have more than enough footage to edit with. We have cutaways and close-ups and I have all kinds of tricks planned that will definitely make it work. Except I hadn't quite accounted for the fact that the footage has to be in sync with the song.

For 1 minute 30 seconds of it's 2 minutes duration, it's actually a fairly precisely timed dance number, plus it has an actor in the centre of all the various shots singing along to the song. So you can't, for example, take a moment from 30 seconds into take 1, cut to a different angle, then cut back to the same angle in a different take. Because as good as our actors and dancers are, it's impossible to get the timing and positions exactly the same in each take. Especially with the limited amount of time we had to rehearse. So when you sync up the second shot with the song, the movements don't match. Sync up the movements and the song doesn't match. Cue lots of agonising moments where we kept trying various different takes and amending the cuts by single frames at a time in case they somehow could trick the eye into looking like they worked.

Sometimes it would work. Sometimes we'd cut from a reverse back to a different take of the wide and it would fit perfectly. And we would celebrate and cheer and feel very pleased with ourselves. Then seconds later some random passer-by would walk into the shot, because the only take that we could cut the last scene together with is one of the bad ones.

I tried to get around this by using one wide shot as a base and cutting in various close-ups from the second day of filming. That's when we find out that the footage from the second day really doesn't cut together with the footage from the first day. And the biggest problem is the wind. You can't go from an image that's perfectly calm to one where people's clothes and hair are blowing about all over the place and there's an extremely rough sea in the background. It looks weird, takes you out of the sequence. And we don't have enough footage from either day to use just one of them.

So far we've mostly focused on the Day One footage using only the wide shots, the reverse shots and a couple of mediums for the opening. Every time we hit a moment where some kind of action occurred I tried to cut in one of the shots from Day Two, but they never worked. It's not quite as I imagined it and there are a lot of shots of random people we may have to try to paint out (Darren keeps saying this is possible - I am hoping he is right). But on the plus side the wide shot is good and it allows the dancers to really show off the work they put into the scene.

Then we get to the end of the scene and this is where it starts to fall apart. We didn't have 30 seconds of Day One footage so we cut in some random dancing shots with the wide shot to pad it out. And it kind of works. If the shots matched it would work fine. It's just so different from the rest of the sequence it looks wrong. It looks like a mistake.

And that's where I left it. I've got some ideas of how to sort it out, but I won't go into that until next week. It's like a cliffhanger...

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